Behaviorism: Walden Two by B.F. Skinner

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Behaviorism: Walden Two by B.F. Skinner

Castle closed the book deliberately and set it aside. He had purposefully waited half a decade to read Walden Two after its initial publication, because, years after parting from Frazier and his despotic utopia, he could not shake the perturbation the community inspired. But, eight years later, he had grown even more frustrated with himself at his apparent inability to look at the situation calmly. In a fit of willfulness, he had pulled the unopened volume from its top shelf, and now he was hoping that that had been a good idea. His daily temperament, to say the least, had suffered from his continual aggravation. Something had to be done about this.

As an experiment, he guessed, Walden Two was a success. He himself had seen the happy community and clearly remembered the horrid time he had had debunking it. It was certainly harder to criticize Walden Two than it was to debunk democracy and the outside society; Frazier had made sure to drive that point home. The inhabitants were clearly at peace, and he was struck by the story Burris told of the woman who sat in a chair, enjoying her rest and carefully not looking at her own garden. He hadn’t known that Burris’s doubts were so strong that he had to make his own observations. Castle’s mostly academic mind approved heartily.

He supposed the woman was happy. She was obviously too old to be a second-generation Walden Two inmate, and so had not been subtly forced to be unselfish and content. She willingly subscribed to the Code and accepted the rules that told her not to gossip, to refrain from gratitude, and not to admire her own flowers. She led a placid, comfortable life and he supposed that most elderly people, havin...

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...ything was automatically on the same level of constant happiness.

Walden Two was memorable as a community, not for its individuals. Its people were a mass of subjects, and Frazier did not admit that there were people who could not be made to conform. Schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s were medical problems that could not be ignored and they threw the idea of “nurture, not nature” on which Frazier’s concepts rested, entirely off-balance. Behaviorism could not control every single aspect of life; that would be like trying to teach someone with no right arm to knit using his hands. And Castle knew that if he could resent being treated as part of a unit instead of a unique individual, millions of others would, too.

Feeling a savage flood of perhaps incomplete triumph, Castle practically threw the book back onto its shelf. He, for one, refused to give in to Frazier.

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