Start: January 2, 2021
Ghost in the Machine by Arthur Koestler, first published 1967.
*Dedication page: “To the Fellows and Staff 1964-5 at the Centre for Advanced Study in the Behavioural Sciences”
*Check mention of Koestler attending conference in Brave New World Revisited by Aldous Huxley.
xi. He refers to the human mind having a “pathology” because there is a “streak of insanity” which runs through our history. He uses the example of cathedrals decorated with gargoyles to make us believe “the world is full of monsters.” A better example of human pathology would be the actions of an actual monster such as Alexander the Great who starved cities into submission (see Art of War by Machiavelli).
His premise is that there is a “built-in error or deficiency which predisposes” us towards “self-destruction.”
My comment: Contrary to what he is going to recommend–that his elite technocratic friends start to work on “fixing” the “error” of evolution (or creation)–I think there is a trait in us which has become too obvious in 2020 which allows us to be seduced, manipulated and domesticated too easily so that we end up turning on those who are demonized as the “enemy” for example. Is someone qualified to “fix” that? The people domesticating us have already been at work “fixing” us for a long time perhaps so maybe they broke something a long time ago.
p. xii. He refers to the goal of achieving a “diagnosis of the predicament of man.”
His major point is that “one cannot hope to arrive at a diagnosis of the predicament of man so long as one’s image of man is that of a conditioned reflex-automaton produced by chance mutations.” He refers to heretical scientists who have questioned the orthodox evolutionary theory such as Sir Alister Hardy and W. H. Thorpe.
In other words, he is going to assume that the human being is more than a biological machine. We get the sense he is acknowledging that the human has a spiritual element and is therefore a tougher nut to crack.
He says the mechanistic 19th century view needs to be replaced by a “broader conception of the living organism” (p. xiii).
He refers to an institution called the ‘Think-Tank’–or the “Centre for Advanced Study in the Behavioural Sciences in Stanford, California” for which he received a Fellowship. A this “hill-top campus” 50 of them from various disciplines were free to focus on research and interdisciplinary discussion for a year.
He refers to his earlier books, including The Act of Creation which dealt with some of the subjects in more detail.
He acknowledges certain academics for their input, including to mention a few, Prof. Sir Alister Hardy (Oxford), Prof. Ludwig v. Bertalanffy (Univ. of Alberta), Prof. Karl Pribram (Stanford Univ.), and Prof. Paul Weiss (Rockefeller Institute), etc. (p. xiv).
Part One: ORDER
I. THE POVERTY OF PSYCHOLOGY
p. 3 “four pillars of unwisdom”
pseudo-science of Behaviourism
John Broadus Watson: abandon consciousness
words “consciousness” “mind” “purpose” “imagination” etc. were purged
became dominant school
conditioned-reflex instead of mind
Systems of Clark Hull and B. F. Skinner built on this.
In his book Science and Human Behaviour,” Skinner tells the reader that ‘mind’ and ‘ideas’ don’t exist.
Behaviourists devote themselves to studying rats.
He ridicules them because this is consistent with the limitations they have placed themselves under. Any primate is too complex for them to study under their terms.
Training a rat to press the lever for a piece of food is called “operant conditioning.”
My comment: Note that behaviourism has been and is still being applied more and more to human beingsy–in my view because the spiritual, conscious side of our minds has been gradually suppressed by outside influences. As we become more like rats, behaviourist methods become more predictable with humans.
p. 9 The way he describes this experimental science is hilarious.
He mentions “Skinner boxes.”
The “attempt to reduce the complex activities of man” to the level of rats produced almost nothing of value.
Next he talks about “The De-Humanisation of Man” (which hasn’t ended).
Skinner’s other book is Behaviour of Organisms.
Making a man hungry makes him more likely to go to the restaurant. LOL.
Koestler ridicules Skinner just by quoting him and his pronouncements of “monumental triviality.”
He dismantles the nonsensical terminology. The rat/human “response” is to a “stimulus” still in the future, so an “operant response” of pressing the lever is not even a response but an act initiated by the rat/pigeon/human. Organisms are supposed to be controlled by the environment with stimulus and response.
He explains that the law of conditioning is a tautology.
p. 13, 14
How is creativity possible?
He characterizes behaviourists as driven to “deny” the “existence of properties which account for the humanity of man.”
He quotes Judson Herrick saying that there is no such thing as a “simple reflex” “in any living body.”
S-R psychology is stimulus-response psychology.
Instead of an “anthromorphic” view of animals, now we have the “ratomorphic” view of man.
Skinner refers to education as “behavioural engineering” whose goal is “to predict and to control human activity.”
Gestalt theory appeared to be a rival to Behaviorism at one point.
Koestler calls behaviourism “flat-earth” psychology and says we can’t arrive at a “diagnosis of man’s predicament” by using a system which “denies the existence of mind.”
To be continued
II. THE CHAIN OF WORDS AND THE TREE OF LANGUAGE