Pre-empirical Considerations for a Behavioral Science

Huk, Jerome E. (Ph.D., 1973)

Thesis directed by Professor O. J. Harvey

This study was a logical-philosophical investigation of the pre- empirical rationale within which the methodology of behavioral sciences is rooted. The investigation, conducted by a combination of analytic philosophy and a neo-Socratic dialectic, attempted to articulate the logical relationships between conceptualization and experimentation. Traditional approaches were then re-evaluated in terms of the advances made by linguistics, philosophy, and the physical sciences, since psychology's break with them. These included the pragmatic approach to language and concepts, post-Wittgensteinian alternatives to logical positivism, Einstein's Theory of Relativity, and the parametric analysis of conceptual phase spaces. An attempt was then made to find solutions that would not preclude the emergence of psychology as a "science," as opposed to the current "technology" of behavior. The reconsideration of what experiments can and cannot do led to the suggestion that generalization is an empirical rather than analytical question (since assumptions cannot be empirically validated) and that the current experimental designs be used to test range of applicability rather than truth values of conceptualization. The development of a Socratic-analytic technique of beginning by generating logical questions, rather than simply making assertions at the outset, was proposed as a possible candidate for systematic formulations of the pre-empirical dilemmas that would not violate the analytic-synthetic dichotomy. Findings suggested the replacement of S-R with an IA (Intentional Action) formulation of behavior, the need for a "configural" model of causality that incorporates context, and the need for integrating the relativistic view of the observer into the methodology. The assumptions implicit in the current logical positivist and nomological net approaches were found to be not only unwarranted but unnecessary.

As such the above study is not a survey of literature in any current area of psychology or philosophy but rather an attempt at reformulation by the integration (not simply borrowing) of interdisciplinary advances that have not generally been recognized as related. It is hoped that the presentation of such an analysis would provide a sounder perspective for future investigations in the behavioral sciences. [139 pp.]