Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 71(2) May 2021

Book Review

Behaviorism: The Quandary of a Psychology without a Soul

By Samuel Bendeck Sotillos The Institute of Traditional Psychology

Reviewed by Dr Pravin Thevasathan

Behaviourism Book CoverBehaviorism is psychology without a soul where human beings are reduced to mere material things that can be manipulated on by the environment. Basically, there is no difference between human and animal behavior and therefore animal studies can tell us all we need to know about human behavior. The behaviorists take great pride in telling us that their psychology is scientific because it is based on empirical observations.

In actual fact, as the author of this book superbly demonstrates, behaviorism falls into the category of materialistic scientism.  Indeed, as the author rightly reminds us, all psychology without foundations in metaphysics is soulless. In their desire to make psychology a science, all they have done is to turn it into the pseudo-religion of scientism. Scientism claims that it alone can be the arbiter of all truth. However, having done away with metaphysics, it cannot lay claim to this as it is limited to sensory experiences alone. The behaviorists have no time for the Freudian unconscious. But it also rejects all forms of consciousness as this too belongs to the age of magic and superstition, as they see it. What use is there for free-will, human dignity and introspection in behaviorism?

Behaviorism thrived in a culture that denied the existence of the soul. The author quotes from the Sixth International Congress of Philosophy that took place at Harvard University in 1926: "The is of very little importance." The spirit of William James, who said "the soul-theory is a complete superfluity" lives on in much that is modern psychology.

Behaviorism is an "anomaly within a anomaly" because it not only rejects the soul but it also rejects the very faculty it seeks to study: the human psyche! This new psychology turns out not to be new at all: it is the old materialist science. The behaviorists were largely atheists. They were also remarkably unethical, presumably because ethics would not have made any sense to their understanding of what it means to be human. John B. Watson hated all forms of religion. He was infamously involved with his student (and mistress) on experimenting with "Little Albert," a nine-month old baby who was conditioned to develop a fear of rats. For Watson, evolutionism spelled the end of religion. The author makes use of an excellent quote: "Psychology, having first lost its soul to Darwin, now loses its mind to Watson."

As the author ably demonstrates in this beautifully crafted work, behaviorism has had an irrevocable impact on the way the human psyche has been understood in the last hundred years, which continues to have grave consequences not only on the individual but the entire human collectivity, as behavioristic psychology along with Freudian psychoanalysis provide the foundations for modern psychology. This work powerfully demon­strates that without undergoing a profound analysis of this problematic structure upon which all of contemporary psychology is constructed, psychology and mental health will remain in crisis and continue to be a parody of what the "science of the soul" is meant to be.