Positive Change In World Through Manipulation of Behavior in B.F Skinner's Waldo Two
B.F. Skinner, in his novel Walden Two, presents many arguments about how
he foresees a positive change in the world through manipulation of behavior on
the personal level. Sigmund Freud, in his works, specifically Civilization and
Its Discontents, presents his view of human nature and what is innately
problematic about it. Both Freud and Skinner agree that human behavior is the
result of outside factors that severely hinder the concept of free will.
Skinner believes that humans, in the correct environment, can live happily,
while Freud understands that humans are destined to live in "some degree of
anguish or discontent."
Skinner uses the ideal setting of Walden Two to illustrate his ideas of
how human behavior should be "formed." Much of Skinner's argument on how to
eliminate what he knows as problematic rests on his prescription of dismissing
the notion of individual freedom. Skinner does not only say that the concept
of individual freedom is a farce. He takes it a step further and states that
the search for it is where society has gone wrong. He wants no part in the
quest for individual freedom. If we give up this illusion, says Skinner, we
can condition everyone to act in acceptable ways.
Skinner has a specific prescription for creating this utopian society.
He declares that all that is necessary is to change the conditions which
surround man. "Give me the specifications, and I'll give you the man" is his
simple yet remarkable message. He claims that by controlling what a person's
environment is, it is possible to craft a man to behave in any way. Skinner
wants to use this notion to create a world without pain and suffering. In
Walden Two, he systematically describes what conditions are necessary to create
a world of happiness.
Skinner proposes that to create his perfect society, one needs only to
come up with the characteristics of what man should be. Since he can then
create any man, he will fill the world with these perfectly-conditioned people
and all will be perfect. Although many of his insights are problematic at the
root level, some of what Skinner proposes is material which should not just be
Freud has a much different concept of human existence. He, too, says
that people are "formed" out of experiences and pre-existent conditions.
However, Freud believes that the biggest factor in...