International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy

Volume 9 Num. 1 - March 2009


The four causes of behavior: Aristotle and Skinner

Volume 9 Num. 1 - March 2009 - Pages 45-57


Marino P?rez ?lvarez


This article deals with an application of Aristotle?s four causes, the material, the formal,
the efficient, and the final causes. Based on an initial systematic application, a new
application is proposed in which some previously unconsidered aspects of Aristotle are
developed. According to this new application, the material cause would be found in the
organism as a whole (and not just in neurobiological substrates), the formal cause would
be the prior model on which a certain cause is based (and not an internal representation
or a formal analogy of behavior), the efficient cause would be conceived as an agent (and
not only an antecedent event), and the final cause would be the teleological function of
the behavior. The main implications of this review of the four causes are consolidation
of the analysis of behavior on the molar plane of an organism (with no ?neuroscientific?
reductionisms), establishment of the notion of the person as the origin of behavior (without
resorting to the mechanicism of ?private events?), and the possible consideration of a
radically human behaviorism that would place behavior at the center of the historicalcultural
context (not as dependent on laboratory analysis of animal behavior).

Key words:

efficient cause, final cause, formal cause, material cause, teleological behaviorism, antecedent event, private event, person.

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