Socrates (469-339 BCE), Plato (427-347 BCE), and Aristotle (385-322 BCE) are often spoken of together due to the unique relationship they shared. Aristotle was the student of Plato, who was intern the student of Socrates, and it is their developments in philosophy, a precursor to modern psychology, that begin to lay the seeds for what would one day develop into behaviorism. Socrates began by teaching the need to examine in order to know truth, and contributed greatly in the development of ethics. From here Plato, a Rationalist, expands by stating that one must turn from sensation, and focus on reasoning. By the time Aristotle comes into his own, he has become an Empiricist, a key element in what would become behaviorism. He is also acknowledged by many to be the first scientist, a distinction that carries an obvious influence for scientists even today.
Galen (129-217 ACE), himself a physician and philosopher influenced by Hippocrates, went on to become known as possibly the greatest pundit of medical knowledge of his time, and for centuries following. It is important to remember that for all of his work in the medical field, Galen also considered himself a philosopher, and through his work in this area and many others, is linked to behaviorism today, as is Hippocrates, his teacher of sorts.
Descartes (1596-1650) was taken with Plato’s rationalism, as well as his views on dualism. The idea that the mind and body interacted with one anoth...
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...y. His development of the law of effect led to an expansion of behavioral theory in the sciences. Thorndike’s operant conditioning, along with Pavlovian processes, have informed the vast majority of behaviorist theory into the twenty-first century.
Of these behaviorists, Watson (1870-1958) is viewed as the father, for it was he that established the psychological school of behaviorism. His interest tilted strongly toward observable behavior, and the idea that such behavior was fed by past experience.
On Watson’s heels came Skinner (1906-1990) who, like Watson before him, established his own school of psychology called experimental analysis of behavior. Within the psychological community, he is considered one of the great pioneering minds of behaviorism, along with Pavlov and Watson. In 2002 Skinner was named the most influential psychologist of the twentieth century.
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