This paper will discuss the aspects of B. F. Skinner’s book Walden Two and the implications toward determinism or free will implied through his characterizations and ideologies. The debate in this paper will present the dichotomy of free will and determinism and will end with support on the side of free will. Definitions for either ideal will be discussed in the paper as well as a presentation of Walden Two being a parody of Plato’s Republic which in turn will also give a succinct definition as to whether or not the book was written in a free will aspect or that pertaining to determinism.
The connections between Skinner’s concepts of free will and determinism are rampant throughout the text, and the fashion by which the book exemplifies Plato’s Republic is striking in its context. Plato’s Republic exerts diatribes and discussion between his protagonists match exactly those ideologies presented in altercative fashion in Skinner’s text. Points are present in Skinner’s Walden Two through the debates or seeming debates between the protagonists. The underlying idea behind each writing is that of discovering and reinforcing utopia.
Although at times Skinner’s work hinges upon the concepts of determinism as in the statement, “…in the long run man is determined by the state” (257) there is also the dialectical approach which would state that the society or the state in this reference would first have to be formed by the collective of free wills in order for a system of codes to be first instated. The viable principles of this code remark on the importance of salubrious living which is also dominated by general tolerance (148).
The subject of utopia evolves in his work through the process of avoiding interpersonal conflict; therefore the free will which so dominates the literature cannot in this utopian state dominate the free will of other societal members and in this paradox is found several conundrums. The ideologies present in Walden Two exert themselves on experimental psychology and behaviorism. This means that Walden Two is an experiment in lieu of understanding behavior as a function of environmental histories of experiencing consequences.
These experiences delve into the facet of Walden Two’s society being presented as a utopia due to their practice of scientific social planning and the way in which they condition their children (as mentioned prior in the codes). Walden Two is structured after Thoreau’s Walden (as well as Plato’s Republic) which basis life after a lifestyle in which war is not supported and the fostering of competition is not founded which therefore leads inextricably to social strife being ousted.
Also, Skinner presents a society by which minimal consumption is found and a rich social relationships, personal happiness, and a satisfying work and leisure life is deliberately introduced into each area of society through the codes cited in the paper formerly. Free will then becomes a factor in this utopian society due to its infrastructure. Skinner highlights throughout Frazier’s diatribes that the technology of behavior is what makes a society more palatable to the members which inherit and live in that society.
Therefore, the autonomous agent is not the driving force of such a society but rather the driving force becomes the original character design of Walden Two. In Skinner’s society free will is further determined through infrastructure by way of Walden Two giving credit to the individual for work accomplished by their own actions. Thus, the society is based on the originating force of a paradigm or code or action and this is where the definition of free will may be found throughout the context of the text.
The actions of the characters in the society are not deterministically grounded but instead, the environment and genetic potentials of freedom cause the society to be based on reality whereby reality in this sense is determined by the individual and not by the society or methods of actions found through the environment in which free will becomes an impetus of determinism. The Experimental Analysis of Behavior and Applied Behavior Analysis are techniques intrinsic in human affairs as defined by Skinner.
In support of the notion of free will, Skinner writes, “I have only one important characteristic, I’m stubborn. I’ve had only one idea in my life—a true idee fixe, the idea of having my own way” (271). The idea of determinism is that free will is a characteristic that is nonexistent because factors in a person’s environment do not allow for the paradigm of choice to have any relevance in decisions, desires, wants, or overall personal satisfaction or other emotions characterized through free will (jealousy, love, ego, possessiveness, etc. ).
Frazier however points out to Castle that “determinism doesn’t entail that behavior is always predictable any more than it implies that the weather is always predictable” (391). Society and social as well as psychological behavior are products which hinge upon causal laws which means that we can’t have free will; but counter to this argument it is presented in the body of text that free will is defined through choices that are predictable in advance which is truly counter to the core definition of free will in which determinism of events and actions cannot be measured through prescience or any other advanced indicators.
Frazier argues that free will and therefore free choices would be unpredictable, but contrasting this belief, Frazier states, ““For the last several thousand days, I’ve chosen of my own free will not to dye my hair orange. Therefore, it is very probable that tomorrow, I will choose of my own free will not to dye my hair orange. ” (391). This is not a strong counter argument to determinism and by this omission, it is proven that free will is the factor involved in Skinner’s Walden Two, because Frazier’s own volition in the above argument truly states that he thinks free will is only based on unpredictability.
The basis of the argument in Walden Two that is in support of determinism is that if determinism is true then free will by opposition cannot be true, however, in this circular argument there exists fallacies for, Skinner is assuming that there cannot co-habit a society in which both determinism and free will cannot become hegemony; however, this cannot be a reputable argument since its basis is only found in the fact that one cannot be true simultaneously.
Castle argues in favor of free will through the basis of experience. Both Castle and Frazier argue that a person’s behavior can be controlled or restricted through the enforcement of force or physical restraint. Through such enforcement however, the propelling of enforcement further leads to the person being forced upon to react by way of such force promoting animosity and feel unfree which furthers the concept of free will in the fact of a reaction to force.
Although Skinner does not promote force as a form of punishment in Walden Two there is a definite cause in the restriction of force which leads the reader to believe that free will is trying to be staunched in the society and therefore enforcement cannot be used because it simply incites free will. Instead, Skinner basis his utopia on the process of positive reinforcement. This means members of Walden Two are given items they like or the items they like are taken away from them if they have acted negatively.
Thus, positive reinforcement is not determined to be the same as punishment and therefore, the society can be relatively defined as staunching free will which means that the society is in recognition of free will, yet, free will in the society persists because Walden Two designs its infrastructure after scotching free will, at least in the instance of positive reinforcement.
Walden Two is furthered designed to bring forth a utopian society by way of defining behavior as being determined through past history of positive reinforcement, as well as the presence of environment. Frazier says “it’s not control that’s lacking when one feels ‘free,’ but the objectionable control of force. ” In the very best society, people will feel free because its rulers use the science of “reinforcement theory” or operant conditioning to elicit desirable behavior without the use of force.
Frazier: “Now that we know how positive reinforcement works…we can be more successful in our cultural design. ” (p. 394). Thus, although the concept of positive reinforcement highlights behaviorism, the act of reinforcement is further aiding in the development of free will simply by recognizing that free will is inherent and as an inherent quality measures must be taken in order to counteract free will, in the view of positive reinforcement in Walden Two.
The concept of past history being of importance to behaviorism in both free will and determinism, Stace states, “If a man’s actions were wholly determined by chains of causes stretching back into the remote past, so that they could be predicted beforehand by a mind which knew all the causes, it was assumed that they could not in that case be free. This implies that a certain definition of actions done from free will was assumed, namely that they are actions not wholly determined by causes or predictable beforehand. Let us shorten this by saying that free will was defined as meaning indeterminism.
This is the incorrect definition which has led to the denial of free will. As soon as we see what the true definition is we shall find that the question whether the world is deterministic…or in a measure indeterministic …is wholly irrelevant to the problem” (Stace 1952: 860). Thus, the managers have free will over the utopian society in Walden Two because the citizenry are instructed to go to the managers with any problems and to have them sort out the problems, which means that the managers, the controllers of this utopian society are based after free will in order to determine justice, or even to determine positive reinforcement.
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