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2017 - Volume 38, Number 1, Winter 2017

John B. Watson’s Classical S–R Behaviorism
J. Moore, University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee

John Broadus Watson was born in rural South Carolina in 1878 and died in New York City in 1958. In between, he held academic positions at the University of Chicago and Johns Hopkins University, where he excelled as a researcher and scholar, and executive positions at J. Walter Thompson and William Esty advertising companies, where he excelled as a businessperson. He was married twice, with two children from each marriage. As did B. F. Skinner, Watson advanced the possibility that a genuine science of behavior could benefit human welfare if that science was based on naturalistic principles instead of mentalistic social-cultural assumptions. However, Watson emphasized antecedent, mechanical causation, whereas Skinner emphasized contingencies and consequences. As a result, Watson’s classical S–R behaviorism differs greatly from Skinner’s behavior analysis, and Watson’s approach falls well short of being a comprehensive behavioral orientation.

Correspondence should be addressed to J. Moore, Ph. D., Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53201. Email:

Self-belief and Agency
Nick Zangwill, University of Hull

I argue for the view that we all believe that we exist from the fact that the belief is a presupposition of some of our mental life. We cannot argue from perceptual experience, but we can argue from action. I defend an essentially active (or perhaps “existentialist”) view of the self, and I argue that acting (but not perceiving) presupposes the belief that I exist.

Correspondence should be addressed to Nick Zangwill, Ph.D., Philosophy Department, University of Hull, Kingston-upon-Hull, HU6 7RX, United Kingdom. Email:

A Philosophical and Rhetorical Theory of BDSM
Timo Airaksinen, University of Helsinki

In this paper I try to explain in what sense one can be said to enjoy pain and also sexualize the experience. This illuminates the core of the set of activities called BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, masochism) and S/M (sadomasochism). In any organized, socially defined, and consensual S/M play the (submissive) bottom desires some higher cognitive goals; to reach them he or she needs experienced pain. The pain is here a kind of hardship condition that is needed for reaching the desired goal, or sexualized pleasure. I compare this situation with that of heroic action where the agent aims at glory via some conquered hardship conditions. In these examples the needed hardship conditions are desirable only in a conditional sense. The life of the (dominant) top can be analysed in similar terms. The top’s condition is ambiguous: she needs to serve the bottom although she is supposed to be the sadist who hurts the bottom; these two goals may be mutually incompatible. My solution is to say that the top wants to hurt the bottom but, to be successful, she needs to serve the bottom. Next, I discuss the sexual nature of BDSM and conclude that not all of its forms are sexual in nature. Finally, I show how such linguistic tropes as metaphor and metonymy can be used to further analyse the main points of this paper.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Timo Airaksinen, Ph.D., Department of Politics and Economics/Moral and Social Philosophy, University of Helsinki, PL 24, FI-00014 University of Helsinki, Finland. Email:

Moral Nihilism and its Implications
Marc Krellenstein, Northeastern University

Philosophers have identified a number of principles that characterize morality and underlie moral judgments. However, philosophy has failed to establish any widely agreed-upon justification for these judgments, and an “error theory” that views moral judgments as without justification has not been successfully refuted. Evolutionary psychologists have had success in explaining the likely origins and mechanisms of morality but have also not established any justification for adopting particular values. As a result, we are left with moral nihilism — the absence of any unarguable values or behaviors we must or should adopt. The philosophical and psychological implications of this nihilism suggest accepting shared, non-absolute values as “good enough”; a revised, humbler view of moral and other value judgments; and the possible acceptance of the hard truth of a value nihilism.

Correspondence should be addressed to Marc Krellenstein, 360 Huntington Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115. Email:

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