Date of Award

Spring 1983

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


The primary aim of this work is to show that the widespread belief that the major behaviorists drew importantly upon logical positivist philosophy of science in formulating their approach to psychology is ill-founded. Detailed historical analysis of the work of the neobehaviorists Edward C. Tolman, Clark L. Hull, and B. F. Skinner leads to the following conclusions: (1) each did have significant contact with proponents of logical positivism; but (2) their sympathies with logical positivism were quite limited and were restricted to those aspects of logical positivism which they had already arrived at independently; (3) the methods which they are alleged to have imported from logical positivism were actually derived from their own indigenous conceptions of knowledge; and (4) each major neobehaviorist developed and embraced a behavioral epistemology which, far from resting on logical positivist assumptions, actually conflicted squarely with the anti-psychologism that was a cornerstone of logical positivism. It is suggested that the myth of an alliance between behaviorism and logical positivism arose from the incautious interpretations of philosophical reconstructions as historical conclusions. This and other historiographical issues are discussed in the concluding chapter, where it is argued that the anti-psychologism of the logical positivists is an unnecessary impediment to a fuller understanding of the phenomenon of knowledge.