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Walden Two (Hackett Classics)

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A reprint of the 1976 Macmillan edition. This fictional outline of a modern utopia has been a center of controversy ever since its publication in 1948. Set in the United States, it pictures a society in which human problems are solved by a scientific technology of human conduct.


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A reprint of the 1976 Macmillan edition. This fictional outline of a modern utopia has been a center of controversy ever since its publication in 1948. Set in the United States, it pictures a society in which human problems are solved by a scientific technology of human conduct.

30 review for Walden Two (Hackett Classics)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    I have to say that I find it funny how often the user reviews call Walden Two "boring." I get as bored reading a philosophical treatise as the next person, but Walden Two is actually easy and engaging to read. It's even funny in the little ways the narrator mocks the hero Fraser as well as the daft intellectual Castle. Skinner has this great way of describing when conversation is awkward, or when people misunderstand each other in little ways, or when a person's ego is showing. I mean, ok, it's I have to say that I find it funny how often the user reviews call Walden Two "boring." I get as bored reading a philosophical treatise as the next person, but Walden Two is actually easy and engaging to read. It's even funny in the little ways the narrator mocks the hero Fraser as well as the daft intellectual Castle. Skinner has this great way of describing when conversation is awkward, or when people misunderstand each other in little ways, or when a person's ego is showing. I mean, ok, it's not exactly a rollicking romp of a book - it's a conversational back -and-forth that celebrates living in a way that uses pragmatic and scientifically-grounded solutions to the problems of living in a society instead of adhering to a set of principles that are unlikely to result in a life that produces maximum happiness and satisfaction. Yes, Skinner's book advocates for behaviorist approaches to fixing society's problems, and it's got some air crib usage in it, if that's what you signed up for. I recommend it. And, you know, if you were bored reading it, it's too bad you don't live in Walden Two, where you could just say, "This is boring to me," and everyone would be totally cool with that.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    Walden Two contains no plot, clumsy writing, and characters that serve as nothing more than mouthpieces for B.F. Skinner, our author. That being said, if you want an intellectual exploration of a Utopian world ruled by behaviorism, this book may be for you. Skinner proposes many thought-provoking questions in Walden Two: what if we strove to eliminate class differences so that everyone could work in equal measure? What if we used positive reinforcement to reward people for their good behaviors i Walden Two contains no plot, clumsy writing, and characters that serve as nothing more than mouthpieces for B.F. Skinner, our author. That being said, if you want an intellectual exploration of a Utopian world ruled by behaviorism, this book may be for you. Skinner proposes many thought-provoking questions in Walden Two: what if we strove to eliminate class differences so that everyone could work in equal measure? What if we used positive reinforcement to reward people for their good behaviors instead of punishing them for their bad ones? What if we trained everyone in our society to let scientific principles guide their actions? I think about these questions and the shortcomings of arguments about "free will" all the time. Yes, a woman may feel empowered and independent when she puts on makeup, but until she can walk into a job interview without makeup and have an equal shot at the position as a man would, is it truly free will? Or is it conforming to standards of appearance put forth by the patriarchy? Or both? Similarly, people who complain about firearm restrictions say that those laws would infringe upon their free will. But is it really free will if their behaviors and attachments surrounding guns are governed by a society that encourages aggression and toxic masculinity? Walden Two may not address all of these issues related to our society today, but the intellectual rigor of its contents calls on readers to connect its ideas to how we function in the contemporary world, unruly and awful president-elects and all. Overall, a decent read unless you want plot or character development. Walden Two is an intellectual treatise disguised as a novel. Once you know that, feel free to take it or leave it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kaitlyn

    This book has two target audiences, really, and the quality varies strongly depending on where you fall. As a fiction reader, this book falls short in so many, many ways. Characters are merely loudspeakers for the author, going so far as to be named after him. Most characters, while having distinct viewpoints and personalities, are one-dimensional. There is no discernible plot whatsoever. And I mean none. The plot is the same as a virtual tour on an apartment website. As this is a novel of a utop This book has two target audiences, really, and the quality varies strongly depending on where you fall. As a fiction reader, this book falls short in so many, many ways. Characters are merely loudspeakers for the author, going so far as to be named after him. Most characters, while having distinct viewpoints and personalities, are one-dimensional. There is no discernible plot whatsoever. And I mean none. The plot is the same as a virtual tour on an apartment website. As this is a novel of a utopia, the flavor is bland. Everything is perfect for the residents of Walden Two. You almost resent them. I was bored, despite the brisk pace. As a behavior analyst, this novel is almost pornographic. This novel is Skinner's dreamworld, a perfect application of successful behavior analysis to a voluntary community of a variety of educated persons. Its moving. Its beautiful. It is almost overwhelmingly optimistic and positive. It even supplies research ideas. If you are a behavior analyst, you've probably read this already. If you are someone with a passing interest in aba and an open mind, give it a whirl. For anyone else, please, stay away. For your own sake.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    'My main problem is that it's just one big argument.' Jim said as we crested the hill. 'The characters just go back and forth debating the merits of Walden Two's behaviorist society. So while there are basic story elements; characters, setting and so forth, it's not much of a novel.' 'Would you rather Skinner wrote an essay; An Outline for Utopia, or something like that?' Kara replied as she joined us on top of the hill. 'Would that have been more amusing or persuasive?' 'Oh, no no.' Jim said an 'My main problem is that it's just one big argument.' Jim said as we crested the hill. 'The characters just go back and forth debating the merits of Walden Two's behaviorist society. So while there are basic story elements; characters, setting and so forth, it's not much of a novel.' 'Would you rather Skinner wrote an essay; An Outline for Utopia, or something like that?' Kara replied as she joined us on top of the hill. 'Would that have been more amusing or persuasive?' 'Oh, no no.' Jim said and laughed. 'Walden Two is certainly readable; we all breezed through it in a couple days. The problem is the debate can't go anywhere. I... could go on for a bit on this.' Kara smiled but wasn't about to grant Jim leave to dominate the conversation. As usual I felt a little more permissive. 'Proceed with your screed.' I said. 'Well, so most of the debate centers on Frazier versus Castle right? Frazier represents Skinner's behaviorist model-' 'And perhaps Skinner himself.' I added. 'Yes, perhaps.' Jim said 'Anyway, Castle represents more conventional philosophical thought and he's constantly searching for holes in the Walden Two model; ethical issues, potential future problems and whatnot. He says things like “Don't you run into problems with human ambition? Isn't it unethical to condition children from such an early age? Does such extreme egalitarianism stifle genius?” That sort of thing.' Jim paused for breath. I glanced at Kara, who wore a look of patience. Jim continued: 'And these are worthwhile questions, but Skinner wins the argument every time; he always holds the hammer. Walden Two, in the book, works flawlessly; everyone is happy, productive and creatively engaged. You can't complain “but what about potential problems x, y and z” when everything you witness runs so perfectly. Castle's criticisms come of as petty and blind.' 'Well, Skinner clearly believes in these ideas...' I said uncertainly, more to inject a little conversation than as a counterpoint. 'Sure. Sure.' Jim said. 'But you can't just say “look at how well my ideas work in fantasy land. Don't you want to see them applied to the real world?” That's not persuasive; that's assuming your argument.' Jim put his hands on his hips and stared toward the sunset. It was mid-fall and quite cool. A visible shiver ran through Kara and she turned to head back toward the university. I joined her and Jim jogged to catch up after spending several seconds gazing towards the horizon. 'I think,' Kara said, starting slowly to soften her rebuttal 'that Skinner's message lies not so much in the efficacy of his fictionalized results, but in the train of logic that led there. Take, for instance, the painstakingly Socratic method by which he explains the time-saving benefits of Walden Two's work-scheduling; how eight-hour days could be cut to four-hour days through basic theories about motivation and efficiency.' 'Well, yes.' Jim replied 'Skinner argued that part thoroughly. And I must admit that the prospect of a 20-hour work week tempts me fiercely. But none of Skinner's other arguments are as rigorously logical and he usually leaps past the nuts-and-bolts planning and that's the trickiest part. We never even meet the planning committee that runs the place much less witness it in operation.' 'True.' Kara said. 'But you wouldn't fault a Science-fiction writer for not inventing inter-galactic transportation or designing a functional space-ship. Take the insightful parts of Walden Two for what they're worth and don't dock Skinner so hard for not reinventing society. Take his description of an egalitarian community that treats men and women as equals in work, care-giving and authority. Take the notion that we'd all be happier if we could let go of our acquisitiveness. Take the notion that, while talent matters, we all work best when we develop everyone's skills and de-emphasize "genius." These are the sorts of things our society hasn't fully come to grips with yet, but the more we learn the more wisdom we find in this line of thought. And he was writing about this in the forties.' 'What stuck out to me,' I interjected 'was when he talked about the multitude of unused books most universities have.' I pointed towards our own university's library; six stories high and glimmering white. 'I think that sucker could be half the size and nobody would even notice.' We all laughed. It felt good to produce a useful point and relieve tension at the same time. Jim was still smiling when he said 'I appreciated the part when he described the value of physical work for even the most scholarly individuals; I often feel primed to write after some light exercise. Ghandi was big on that idea.' 'Carl Sagan too.' Kara replied. 'Oh yes.' Jim said. 'But not everything Skinner talks about makes sense. Take that part about his advanced teacups with the bucket-like handles. What was that about? Sure, teacups normally emphasize style over function, but why not just a simple plastic cup? If you carried your cup around using a handle, not only would you look like a fool, but you'd have to switch hands every time you wanted to take a drink. They'd break easier too. Completely impractical.' We all laughed again, and Kara added. 'Are we agreed then? Walden Two is a readable novel and Skinner makes several insightful points.' 'Just keep him away from the tea!' I said. Edited 2/2/2019

  5. 4 out of 5

    Morgan Blackledge

    Great book. Not a great novel. But rather a highly thought provoking Socratic dialogue with an agenda to introduce the reader to evidence based, experimentally derived public policy creation and the behavioral engineering world view. It’s important to remember, the book was first published in 1948. So yes, much of it is dated. But it’s brash, atheistic, rational, highly pragmatic, dialectical approach would be ahead of its time if it were written in 2019. Skinner is perhaps the most misunderstood Great book. Not a great novel. But rather a highly thought provoking Socratic dialogue with an agenda to introduce the reader to evidence based, experimentally derived public policy creation and the behavioral engineering world view. It’s important to remember, the book was first published in 1948. So yes, much of it is dated. But it’s brash, atheistic, rational, highly pragmatic, dialectical approach would be ahead of its time if it were written in 2019. Skinner is perhaps the most misunderstood and wrongly maligned Psychologist ever. But in the age of internet based, algorithmic behavioral tracking, behavioral forecasting and behavioral modification, ignore Skinner at your own peril. As our economy and culture at large become increasingly informational, Skinner’s paradigm becomes all the more relevant. And as AI and other forms of automation evolve, and continue to make human labor less necessary, than we may find ourselves having a second or third look at the types of policies and engineered environments Skinner proposes in this book. Any literal interpretation or implementation of the ideas in Walden Two would be absurd in 2019. But the pragmatic methodology Skinner expounds deserves serious consideration, particularly after the disastrous spectacle of political failure we endured in 2018. The era of governance via know it all ‘genius’ alpha male strongmen who govern via guts and nuts needs to die. We clearly need a rational, scientific, less hierarchical, more level and more inclusive approach to government. Walden Two is a valuable conversational aperitif that edges us in the direction of the latter, and protects us from the last drowning, desperate gasp of the former. Four Stars (not five) because it’s a comically bad book in many regards. But it’s redeeming features, not to mention its audacity and originality far out pace it’s obvious shortcomings.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Avery

    Walden Two by B.F. Skinner is one of those books that you, at the same time, love and hate. Personally, I thought that the idea was a ridiculously interesting concept in and of itself, and Skinner made a valiant attempt to implement it in a fictional novel, but ended up with a pile of literary shit powdered with intellectual diamond dust. I’m sure that both parts of my analogy can easily be explained; Skinner is a Psychologist and not a creative writer. I have to say, I think I liked the book bu Walden Two by B.F. Skinner is one of those books that you, at the same time, love and hate. Personally, I thought that the idea was a ridiculously interesting concept in and of itself, and Skinner made a valiant attempt to implement it in a fictional novel, but ended up with a pile of literary shit powdered with intellectual diamond dust. I’m sure that both parts of my analogy can easily be explained; Skinner is a Psychologist and not a creative writer. I have to say, I think I liked the book but the story telling was extremely formulaic, bland and just outright boring most of the time. I still want to finish it but don't know if I can bring myself to do it. The story, which was written shortly after World War II, follows a college professor, and a group of unlikely companions, in modern (1950’s) America who end up touring a small rural commune for two weeks. Skinner illustrates his controversial utopian society in which a planned economy, social engineering, arts, leisure, and community loyalty are stressed, and democracy and the value of a full workday among other things are rejected. The problem I had with the characters is that the 3 characters that had the majority of dialogue were too polarized; there was the protagonist (Prof. Burris) who started out as indifferent and slowly became partial to Walden two, and then there was Prof. Castle, who’s role throughout the whole book was to challenge Frazier and Burris, and who frequently accompanied Burris, and then there was Frazier, the leader and founder of Walden Two, who emulated Skinner. The book isn’t entirely without merit though, the actual commune was insanely well thought out. Through a point system for jobs rather than currency, and a series of other improvements of efficiency for numerous tasks, and social engineering, members only work an average of 4 hours a day, and the community focuses on arts, while maintaining self dependency. Although I still never finished the book, because of it’s bland writing style, slow pace, and formulaic, predictable nature, I would still recommend it as at least worthwhile even if it doesn’t have any other redeeming qualities. I still want to finish it myself, but don’t know if I will, unless of course I have to for school.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    I don't much like B.F. Skinner's radical behaviorism, but I enjoyed his novel, Walden Two, assigned by Professor Alan Jones for his seminar, "Utopia and Society", at Grinnell College. My appreciation may have been exaggerated by having just read More's Utopia and Zamyatin's We, neither of which were easy reading, More because of my ignorance of his times, Zamyatin because of the turgidity of the translation. Compared to them, Skinner was a breeze, his book a pleasure. Behaviorism began in Germany I don't much like B.F. Skinner's radical behaviorism, but I enjoyed his novel, Walden Two, assigned by Professor Alan Jones for his seminar, "Utopia and Society", at Grinnell College. My appreciation may have been exaggerated by having just read More's Utopia and Zamyatin's We, neither of which were easy reading, More because of my ignorance of his times, Zamyatin because of the turgidity of the translation. Compared to them, Skinner was a breeze, his book a pleasure. Behaviorism began in Germany as a movement in psychology which eschewed occult inner states for testable, objective factors. Originally, this included medical reference to the human organism and, specifically, to neurology. Skinner went a step further, confining himself to gross, public behaviors. This made more sense, of course, in his time when neuroscience was in its infancy. The problem people have with Skinner is that we all live out of our inner states, the volitional part of which involves the moral dimension of our lives, our choices and decisions. Skinner seems to take that away and, with it, our worth, substituting the spectre of social manipulation and conditioning. That certainly is reason to approach him and his ilk with caution. The point of this critique is less that they are wrong, scientifically speaking, but that they might be right enough to significantly succeed. But the critique goes deeper than this. There is, in fact, no occult inner life. The personal ego is a fiction. Everything we experience, whether or not primarily referred to public phenomena under ideal observational conditions, is public in the sense that its meaning and signification is accessible by reference to our shared languages, broadly defined to include all forms of semiotic and symbolic expression. The self, the ego, is a linguistic construct with primary reference, in our culture at least, to individual human bodies. If there is such a thing as a truly private, personal experience unmediated by public languages, we cannot express it--indeed, we cannot even know it. This is not to say that there is nothing more or less private, just that even our most private experiences gain whatever meaning they have by reference to the public phenomena of language. One might keep a secret forever, but one could also tell of it and others can understand. The issue, then, is the manipulation of persons, preferencing ideal observational conditions and the creation of these conditions at the expense of human autonomy and volition.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    One time, I threw this book out a window. That should probably tell you how much I detest it. It was required reading for a class, and I fully acknowledge that this "review" is basically just venting the resentment and bafflement that still lingers. Part of my ire is that Walden Two is presented as a novel (albeit blandly written with no care for depth of characters, emotions, or plot), and man, do I as a reader detest poorly-written fiction that's ultimately trying to argue something. (Well-writ One time, I threw this book out a window. That should probably tell you how much I detest it. It was required reading for a class, and I fully acknowledge that this "review" is basically just venting the resentment and bafflement that still lingers. Part of my ire is that Walden Two is presented as a novel (albeit blandly written with no care for depth of characters, emotions, or plot), and man, do I as a reader detest poorly-written fiction that's ultimately trying to argue something. (Well-written fiction that tries to argue something? I fully approve! Check out Derrick Bell's Faces From the Bottom of the Well for a golden example.) Storytelling-as-a-way-of-teaching-or-explaining is an ancient tradition. I'm all for it! But you have to have a good story for it to work. There's no story here, so it just felt useless and manipulative to me to have Skinner present his argument in a story form. Not being able to point out the flaws in his arguments (and having to witness straw man arguments representing the opposition) made this a frustrating read. Being that I was a woman of color reading this in the year 2003, so much about this book felt irrelevant to the world I live in. You know, the world where women are not just men with ovaries, where I wouldn't trust a privileged white man in power to assure me that everyone is equal because race is irrelevant, and where heteronormativity is toxic and actively critiqued. Just in regard to reproductive issues: oh, after giving birth to four children, a 23-year-old woman still enjoys both youthful "body and spirit"? OH REALLY? A woman's body doesn't change irrevocably with pregnancy? That having given birth multiple times might not have changed how she relates sexually to her partner, or how she relates to her own body? Pregnancy complications don't affect a woman mentally? Sure, some of this might be culturally conditioned, but most of it, I suspect not. Two cheers for Skinner for being able to imagine a community where no child goes unloved or hungry, where people are more than commodities or workers. I want a world like that too. But Walden Two is just flimsy, and yeah, I value democracy and individualism and have not been convinced that those values are the root of catastrophic failure in our society.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Laurent

    Though I usually wait a few days before reviewing a book to properly let it steep in my murky mind, I could not wait to get my hands inky with Walden Two. B.F. Skinner, a figure somewhat reminiscent of the incredibly talented and wonderfully intelligent Aldous Huxley, was a pioneer of Behaviourism: the position that all human behaviour is shaped and defined by a certain set of sociopolitical, economic, cultural and genetic factors. We could consider the science of behaviour the final blow to the Though I usually wait a few days before reviewing a book to properly let it steep in my murky mind, I could not wait to get my hands inky with Walden Two. B.F. Skinner, a figure somewhat reminiscent of the incredibly talented and wonderfully intelligent Aldous Huxley, was a pioneer of Behaviourism: the position that all human behaviour is shaped and defined by a certain set of sociopolitical, economic, cultural and genetic factors. We could consider the science of behaviour the final blow to the postulations of the likes of Hobbes and Locke regarding our state of nature — the assertion: there is no state of nature, merely a conditioned behaviour. The novel ultimately upholds, as well behaviourism, determinism. I am almost ashamed to say that I have not yet touched Skinner's academic works, yet I believe Walden Two to be a synthesis of sorts, of his research, the final compression of the behaviourist view into Skinner's hopes regarding its application and influence. Walden Two depicts a society governed by these behaviourist principles — not a brave new world imagined by the likes of Orwell, Huxley and Bradbury — but a utopia encompassing the 'Good Life' sought after by philosophers as far back as Seneca. I will not go into lengthy details of its functioning except to say this: Skinner manages to masterfully challenge the widespread belief in democracy and instead offers the image of a 'good' despot, an invisible dictator whose power decreases the more he exercises it. This is but one of the myriad interesting ideas included in this account of what I can only take to be Skinner's dreams of a new, more functional take on Thoreau's social experiment, the original Walden. We are all accustomed to dystopia, but over to you, discover for yourself a utopia that will leave you immersed in reflection long into the early hours of the morning.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    My psychology professor informed us that Skinner at first intended to be a writer. I think the world is blessed in many ways that he changed his mind. My review of the novel (one star) is due to judging it as a work of literature, which is how he wrote it. It sucks. What he should have done was put forth a pamphlet of about 30 pages called "The Walden Two Manifesto" and described the construction, regulation, behavioral principals, etc, that make up the community. Lots of very interesting, progr My psychology professor informed us that Skinner at first intended to be a writer. I think the world is blessed in many ways that he changed his mind. My review of the novel (one star) is due to judging it as a work of literature, which is how he wrote it. It sucks. What he should have done was put forth a pamphlet of about 30 pages called "The Walden Two Manifesto" and described the construction, regulation, behavioral principals, etc, that make up the community. Lots of very interesting, progressive, creative, and - best of all - feasible ideas. He thought he could make a demonstration of the feasibility through literary exposition, and failed miserably. There's actually a decent amount we could learn from his ideas, if only they weren't trapped inside atrocious writing.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Stroemquist

    DNF @ 25 % A horrible experience. I started out wondering why the professor (not going back to look up his name) was so hostile and testy towards Frazier, the architect behind the meant-to-be utopia, Walden Two. Some pages later, I wanted to punch him in the face myself. You realise pretty early on that this is not a novel at all, but merely a framework for an odd philosophy, delivered as dialogue, and in the most patronising and self-righteous way. When I started having more than one objection, DNF @ 25 % A horrible experience. I started out wondering why the professor (not going back to look up his name) was so hostile and testy towards Frazier, the architect behind the meant-to-be utopia, Walden Two. Some pages later, I wanted to punch him in the face myself. You realise pretty early on that this is not a novel at all, but merely a framework for an odd philosophy, delivered as dialogue, and in the most patronising and self-righteous way. When I started having more than one objection, reservation or question per sentence, I knew this work and I had to go separate ways.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    2.0 to 2.5 stars. Better as a review of Skinner's scientific theories than as an actual novel, this "utopian" novel deals with an experimental community based on solving problems via application of the scientific method. It has been a while since I read this and I may re-read this at some point to see if my opinion has changed. 2.0 to 2.5 stars. Better as a review of Skinner's scientific theories than as an actual novel, this "utopian" novel deals with an experimental community based on solving problems via application of the scientific method. It has been a while since I read this and I may re-read this at some point to see if my opinion has changed.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    Brave New World, except low-key and it's presented as a good thing. That would be the short version. The long version: There's no literary merit to this work. I would guess that a full eighty percent of the book are various dialogues about the superiority of the eponymous community. In the typical scene, some feature of Walden Two is introduced, some character raises objections to it, and then another character corrects him. The writing reminded me very much of Time Will Run Back, which was more Brave New World, except low-key and it's presented as a good thing. That would be the short version. The long version: There's no literary merit to this work. I would guess that a full eighty percent of the book are various dialogues about the superiority of the eponymous community. In the typical scene, some feature of Walden Two is introduced, some character raises objections to it, and then another character corrects him. The writing reminded me very much of Time Will Run Back, which was more clumsily executed, but which at least had the occasional semblance of action, including one or two genuinely tense scenes. Both novels submit the narrative completely to their respective philosophies. There is nothing wrong with platonic dialogues per se, I've read my share of such works and I've generally enjoyed them. There are two problems with how Skinner executes the idea, however. The minor problem, although it is only minor in comparison, is that he still seems committed to writing a classical novel. For the duration of any dialogue, the narrative is effectively frozen, and as the novel is extremely dialogue-heavy, that means it is frozen almost constantly. The plot moves forward at a snail's pace. The major problem is his argumentation. Skinner neither knows his opponents nor was he intelligent enough to come up with their objections himself. One character, who is introduced early on as a scholastic philosopher and who is the main spokesperson for every opinion Skinner regards as wrong, fails to bring up objections that anyone faintly acquainted with scholasticism would find painfully obvious. He never questions the central metaphysical, ethical and epistemic assumptions behind Walden Two. He never, for example, challenges Skinners radical empiricism by pointing out that causality implies finality, which in turn implies essentialism, or at least a kind of Providence. Nor does he challenge the ultimately utilitarian purpose of Walden Two by making a convincing or at least an authentic case that the good is not that which feels nice, but that which is fulfilling. Instead of such big questions, we are treated to inquiries on whether or not it is child abuse to put a child in front of a hot bowl of soup and tell it to wait five minutes, as a test of willpower. That's what the scholastic philosopher argued, that it's child abuse to tell a kid that no, it can't eat the soup now. (That sounds more like the romantic than the scholastic tradition, as do our "scholastic philosophers" panegyrics to democracy; truly, a many-faceted character.) Or, we are told that fashion trends in Walden Two are synchronized with the durability of clothing, which sounds like a nice idea. Or that tea is served in large glasses, so the waiters have to run around less. Also, nice, although I couldn't care less. Furthermore, did you know large rooms are only good for those shallow, noisy partygoers? (Tell that to anyone who ever visited mass in a baroque church.) There are, I think, two grand ideas among this swamp of petty trivialities. The first concerns free will, although it's so boring I forgot most of it, except that Skinner again ignores compatibilitism and the link between human nature and human freedom, as almost all modern philosophers do. The second concerns the fundamentals of how a perfect society should be organized, namely along rationalistic, collectivistic and scientific lines. The fundamentals, as I said, are never fundamentally questioned, although they do get a lot of platitudes thrown at them, which are skillfully defended with so many so-what's. In Walden Two, children are raised in common, no one has any favorites, everyone works out of an unspecific love for "society", and of course capital is not allocated with the market process, but with the power of love and ignorance of the calculation-problem, by benevolent planners who are conditioned from birth to be good people. Everyone is equal, no one is superior or inferior to another, and all that. I think Rawls would love the place. Furthermore, and more importantly, every social problem is solved not by recourse to tradition, but to scientific inquiry, and with scientific methods, specifically with the conditioning methods that Skinner researched throughout his life. True to form, Skinner looks down on the "wisdom of the elders" and he thinks history is a fun hobby at best. I was on the fence on whether to give this book two stars, because at least Skinner insisted his system would be perfectly voluntary, which should have delighted my libertarian heart. At the end, I decided against it. The freedom of Walden Two is freedom without substance, the freedom to live a happy, mediocre, inoffensive, socially-liberal-but-not-scandalous existence, without God, without meaningful human attachments, with no excess in anything, and nothing to be proud of, as everything you are and everything you do belongs to the loving community. What on earth do these people need freedom for? To pick their favorite sort of ice cream? I know that's what some people think freedom is all about, and I also know explaining to them why they're wrong is like explaining to a child why chocolate is not the greatest thing in the world. As for me, I'd rather live with a pack of wild dogs than in Walden Two. At least dogs howl for their dead, Walden Two probably collectively sighs about the loss of 0,1% of the community and then enjoys the Soylent Green.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jessaka

    I remember liking this book in college and had to read it for a class I took. After reading it we had to write a term paper on what we considered a utopian society. Back in the early 70s I was interested in communes, but I doubt if any lasted due to problems within the commune. All I remember about this book is that the people changed their jobs from one day to the next so they wouldn't become bored. I remember liking this book in college and had to read it for a class I took. After reading it we had to write a term paper on what we considered a utopian society. Back in the early 70s I was interested in communes, but I doubt if any lasted due to problems within the commune. All I remember about this book is that the people changed their jobs from one day to the next so they wouldn't become bored.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jan Priddy

    "We are only just beginning to understand the power of love because we are just beginning to understand the weakness of force and aggression." B.F. Skinner asks if you knew how to manipulate people into living in an ideal society, wouldn't you do it? We are all products of our experiences and responses to societal conditioning. Wouldn't it be best if we deliberately created a society that conditioned us to live harmoniously and happily? If readers are looking for a conventional novel, there is a "We are only just beginning to understand the power of love because we are just beginning to understand the weakness of force and aggression." B.F. Skinner asks if you knew how to manipulate people into living in an ideal society, wouldn't you do it? We are all products of our experiences and responses to societal conditioning. Wouldn't it be best if we deliberately created a society that conditioned us to live harmoniously and happily? If readers are looking for a conventional novel, there is a plot here, a beginning and middle and end. But that story is mostly beside the point. The story is a thought experiment first conceived immediately after WW2. Here an academic psychologist Burris visits another psychologist, Frazier, taking with him a pair of veterans, their "girls," and a philosopher Castle, also an academic. The structure of visitors observing and interacting with members of a utopian community has been used many times. Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1907) is an earlier example. The visitors argue against the workability of a society that clearly is working just fine. In 1970, my first term at the University of Washington, I took a psychology class taught by a recent retiree from the US Navy. The man was a behaviorist, of course, and had spent 20 years training porpoise to commit acts of war. I worked hard in that class, harder than was typical for an intro class. I read and wrote a paper about Walden Two. Mostly what I remembered was the clever way work was set up in this imagined utopia. Everyone had to do at least a little manual labor, but all work was chosen. Payment was in credits and each member of the community had to earn 4 credits per day. Some jobs such as cleaning out sewers earned more than a credit/hour. Some, such as working in a flower garden, earned less than one credit/hour. "Payment" was adjusted if more or fewer workers were needed than takers. I loved that system. I also recall that the founder, Frazier, was not liked much but was tolerated in his utopia, and was actually not very good at following his own utopian guidelines. There was a great deal I did not recall after all this time, and mostly that is because Skinner got so much wrong. He is wrong to remove children from one-on-one care by parents. He is wrong in the way he describes "teaching" young children to withstand frustration, and ironically he is wrong to underestimate the impact of "delayed gratification" as a necessary skill for adolescents and teenagers. I would have recognized some of this at the time since I was familiar that group-raising infants in the USSR had proven unsuccessful. Promoting childbearing by age 15 or 16 is not "much better" than waiting to have children when the body is mature. Child-bearing is not something to get out of the way while still a child. And since Skinner is squeamish about religion and extra-marital sex, he fails to address the issues that come with promoting marriage among very young teenagers. "In a cooperative society there's no jealousy because there's no need for jealousy." He insists there are no laws in Walden Two, yet there is a Code and violating the Code has consequences. That is law. His Managers and other officials are not government because government is irrelevant unless it is local. Citizens of Walden Two are told how to vote in local elections. "The majority of people don't want to plan. They want to be free of the responsibility of planning. What they ask for is merely some assurance that they will be decently provided for. The rest is a day-to-day enjoyment of life. That's the explanation for your Father Divines; people naturally flock to anyone they can trust for the necessities of life... They are the backbone of a community—solid, trust-worthy, essential." Skinner argues hard for his scientific approach and claims that his invented society is egalitarian about race and gender. What he refers to as"Girls" and women are supposed to be on an even footing, yet we have mostly all men everywhere in charge in this novel. There is a cheerful woman dentist. All the childcare givers are women, though he insists men help too. All the characters seem to be white, and all the girls are pretty—this is actually remarked upon early. Men are "caught" by women—an out of date notion about marriage. ("The man chases the woman until she catches him.") The character Castle is said to be a strong debater, but he is a peevish straw man opponent here, often failing to make his point in arguing with Frazier. Frazier himself is set up as a failure to his own cause, which is probably the most compelling and realistic detail. There is a great deal to argue with in specifics. I might wish he knew more about biology and anthropology, especially the latter. I am sorry he demeans history repeatedly as mere "entertainment", while freely referencing [Western European white] history to make his case. He is actively hostile to every other scientific field. That last is particularly unfortunate. Yet I am still intrigued by his underlying question about a perfectible society, by his approach to labor, and his emphasis on cooperation rather than competition. He might have made a stronger case had he focused less on specifics such as his tea carrier and more on how humans have cooperated for millennia. He failed to see the population bomb coming and his setting this confrontation in an agrarian society during summer is a sort of naïve cheat that repeats in many discussions and debates between characters. Remove the favoritism of parents and their poor knowledge of scientific method, remove competition, use behavioral principles and there will be no envy or jealousy. Snap! Problem solved. (I can hear the whining from here.) I found myself repeatedly thinking that his daughter was fortunate that it was her mother who was the primary caregiver. "In the summer of 1945, B. F. Skinner wrote The Sun Is But a Morning Star, a utopian novel he published in 1948 as Walden Two (Skinner, 1948). An impetus for the book arose over the course of a dinner conversation in the spring of 1945 with a friend whose son-in-law was stationed in the South Pacific as World War II was coming to an end. Skinner mused about what young people would do when the war was over. “What a shame,” he said, “that they would abandon their crusading spirit and come back only to fall into the old lockstep American life—getting a job, marrying, renting an apartment, making a down payment on a car, having a child or two” (Skinner, 1979, p. 292). . . . "Skinner's utopian vision, then, was not about any of Walden Two's practices, except one: experimentation. His vision was to search for and discover practices that maximized social justice and human well-being. This was Skinner's unique contribution to the utopian genre; it distinguishes Walden Two from all the others. As he later exhorted, “Regard no practice as immutable. Change and be ready to change again. Accept no eternal verity. Experiment” (Skinner, 1979, p. 346).—B. F. "Skinner's Utopian Vision: Behind and Beyond Walden Two" by Deborah E Altus and Edward K Morris

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nelson Zagalo

    B. F. Skinner was a professor of psychology, recipient of multiple awards and honours for his work, and went down in history as one of the greatest proponents of the behaviourist psychology in which he proposed the so-called "radical behaviourism," a proposal that sees individuals as systems of behaviour — human responses to stimuli from the environment — in which everything we feel is just a reflection of the way we behave. In this way Skinner believed that by shaping the environment we could s B. F. Skinner was a professor of psychology, recipient of multiple awards and honours for his work, and went down in history as one of the greatest proponents of the behaviourist psychology in which he proposed the so-called "radical behaviourism," a proposal that sees individuals as systems of behaviour — human responses to stimuli from the environment — in which everything we feel is just a reflection of the way we behave. In this way Skinner believed that by shaping the environment we could shape individuals, he believed in the possibility of "behaviour engineering" through "cultural engineering". The book "Walden II" (1948) is a novel that follows the Socratic method (philosophical inquiry through dialogue) and serves the presentation of these engineerings based on a utopian community. It is not a great novel, but it is an excellent presentation of the author's ideas, which makes it an excellent read for anyone interested in the subject. About its scientific foundation, Chomsky answered Skinner this way, in 1971: "At the moment we have virtually no scientific evidence and not even the germs of an interesting hypothesis about how human behavior is determined". ... ...A análise complete em Português encontra-se publicada no blog VI: https://virtual-illusion.blogspot.com...

  17. 5 out of 5

    ddjiii

    Walden Two was assigned to me by a professor who apparently thought Skinner's extremely half-baked notions of what would be a great society to live in had some value to us. I guess they did, because I had a great time writing as furiously sarcastic a review as I could (which I unfortunately can't find), but throughout the book I was astonished that a guy who clearly must have some brains, and who had devoted his life to the study of how people behave, could be so clueless about how they actually Walden Two was assigned to me by a professor who apparently thought Skinner's extremely half-baked notions of what would be a great society to live in had some value to us. I guess they did, because I had a great time writing as furiously sarcastic a review as I could (which I unfortunately can't find), but throughout the book I was astonished that a guy who clearly must have some brains, and who had devoted his life to the study of how people behave, could be so clueless about how they actually act. To cut the thing short, I thought Walden Two completely absurd as a model society from beginning to end. Skinner is looking for the same place as the rest of us, where we can all live freely, productively and with dignity, but he's hiking in the wrong direction and has tied his shoelaces together.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rose

    boring, sexist and dated

  19. 5 out of 5

    Bruce

    When I think of stories about utopian societies -- Brave New World, 1984, The Time Machine, and Gattaca for example -- I really think of a genre that sends up a dystopia as a means of satire. It's like a subgenre of mystery, with a well-worn formula. The protagonist introduces us to an 'ideal' world whose darker implications are only later revealed (the mystery lies in the discovery of what these implications really are). In the end, the protagonist has either escaped, been co-opted or killed, o When I think of stories about utopian societies -- Brave New World, 1984, The Time Machine, and Gattaca for example -- I really think of a genre that sends up a dystopia as a means of satire. It's like a subgenre of mystery, with a well-worn formula. The protagonist introduces us to an 'ideal' world whose darker implications are only later revealed (the mystery lies in the discovery of what these implications really are). In the end, the protagonist has either escaped, been co-opted or killed, or brought the system crashing down. I began Walden Two expecting the genre to be followed but gradually grew disillusioned as I waited for the shoe which never dropped. Instead, the protagonist (a psychologist) decides the utopians were right all along and sets off to join them. Say what you like about B.F. Skinner, he's an original thinker. That's right, this is a novel by the behavioral scientist B.F. Skinner, inventor of the notorious Skinner Box (an insidious device that had rats atavistically slapping the button of their own private automat like an OCD sufferer with a heroin addiction). Given the way his yarn spins out, I suppose this work can be considered Skinner's proposal to structure a similar behaviorist heaven-on-Earth for people. I didn't inject a spoiler into my first paragraph mind you… the point -- and fun -- of this book is solely the exposition of "Walden Two's" outre social system. This book has three major shortcomings: first, as a shill rather than foil for a proposed social system, Skinner's antagonists throw only straw arguments (or no arguments) at the feet of his fictional utopian hosts. For example, in a passage (p. 60) discussing how Walden Two's enforced 4-hour work day equates to an 8-hour day elsewhere, Skinner's guide Frazier argues, "'When a man is working for himself instead of for a profit-taking boss... [w]aste is avoided, workmanship is better, deliberate slowdowns unheard of.… Do you agree?'" "'I should be contentious if I didn't,'" is the response. Teetotaler Skinner likewise seems incapable of conjuring a positive argument in favor of alcoholic beverages (though titillation, relaxation, and taste all come readily to my boozing mind). A second major flaw resides in the book's datedness, reflecting the mores of 1948 when it was first published (either that, or else a sexist Skinner could not envision or embrace women's equality): "The women!... There's our greatest achievement! We have industrialized housewifery!... Some of our women are still engaged in activities which would have been part of their jobs as housewives, but they work more efficiently and happily." (p. 63) Later, the two women in the tour group are spirited off for a private tour of the things in which ladies (as opposed to gents) might presumably take an interest. Tough luck for them. Finally, no one can lay claim to mastery of all subject matter, and Skinner's utopian schemes suffer where he proposes reforms to practices about which he appears ignorant. For all I know, there may be many such examples, but two that jumped out to me are his theories about child-rearing and artistic endeavor. Regarding the former, Skinner's surrogate community keeps babies in isolettes on plastic sheeting devoid of swaddle. "Clothing and blankets are really a great nuisance…. They keep the baby from exercising, they force it into uncomfortable postures -- When a baby graduates from our Lower Nursery,… it knows nothing of frustration, anxiety, or fear." (p. 98) Dr. Skinner stops short of dictating a specific SIDS-inducing posture, but he's no Dr. Spock. As for the arts, "There are only a few works of any importance which require more than forty-five minutes" (p. 86); "This [sic - the post-war era? the 20th century?] is not a great age in either art or music" (p. 88); "Leisure. Opportunity. Appreciation…. All you need [to create great art]" (p. 92, apparently accounting for hours of practice and development of both technique and audience but discounting inspiration, stimulation, etc.). I suppose Skinner's tastes must have been limited to short pellets of Scriabin… mechanically administered? Two stars for interesting ideas here about the definitions of leisure and labor, government, marriage, sex, economics, pacificism, civic participation, and (especially) cultural norms of etiquette, all viewed through the (to Skinner, virtuous) lens of submission to appropriate behavior controls. Walden Two offers insight into the philosophy of its author. Despite Skinner's aspirations, (p. 316: "You must realize that some fool professor is going to assign [this] book as outside reading in a course in political science."), this book doesn't quite live up to the bar set by Thoreau. But it makes a fine bathroom browse.

  20. 5 out of 5

    MK

    I don't really remember too much of this book. I remember that I liked it ok, but not anywhere near as much as I liked Ayn Rand's 'Atlas Shrugged'. I was given both of these books to read by my older sister. Two opposing philosophies, so to speak. I don't really remember too much of this book. I remember that I liked it ok, but not anywhere near as much as I liked Ayn Rand's 'Atlas Shrugged'. I was given both of these books to read by my older sister. Two opposing philosophies, so to speak.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    A utopia founded on the premise that efficiencies of mass production can be applied at community level to deliver a surfeit & thereby create free time, which is the singular luxury underlying all others, enabling the community a rich and rewarding life. A quick introductory note that I am reviewing this book for its ideas, more than it's literary merit, which I'd agree with others is marginal. You likely won't read this because you want a fun utopia story, but rather because you want to think. ( A utopia founded on the premise that efficiencies of mass production can be applied at community level to deliver a surfeit & thereby create free time, which is the singular luxury underlying all others, enabling the community a rich and rewarding life. A quick introductory note that I am reviewing this book for its ideas, more than it's literary merit, which I'd agree with others is marginal. You likely won't read this because you want a fun utopia story, but rather because you want to think. (Just the opposite of the motivation you might want to bring to, say, The Fountainhead.) I believe he misses a critical point, which is that technology and industrialism, (which tack he eschews in this small scale communal economic model) can create, and indeed even when this book was written, had already long since created and surpassed the incremental multiplier of human efficiency Skinner hypothesizes as needful to enable his utopia. In Walden 2, much effort goes into describing the optimized round-the-clock kitchens which create meals for just 2/3 the work you would in your own home. (...this is approximate, the book is not in my hands.) The kitchens are just exemplary; that saved effort appears in every aspect of work, and adds up to delectable indolence, artistic expression, conversation, enlightenment: all the good things. Well enough. I buy it entirely. Why then is my point a crux problem for Skinner? Because the fundamental enabler of his nirvana has already been delivered into our hands, and we Have Not Availed Ourselves Of It! Our muscles ARE leveraged, by fuel; we are all many times more productive than our pre-industrial ancestors. Yet instead of writing poetry and eating grapes, we still work all the time, so that we may consume more. Some few individuals check out, work just enough to relax (almost constantly!) in sufficiency instead of slaving to relax in plush luxury for two weeks a year. I suppose my key conclusion is that Skinner's utopia may well work, but we basically seem not to want it. Is it not there for the enjoying right now? Why are there no takers? I think our work ethic is genetic, possibly vestigial, but nonetheless fundamental. Enough! I gotta get back to work... One more paragraph: we're not good at the communal part, either. Instead we have leaders, and leaders of leaders, and an autocracy all the way up, with Elon at the top, holding way more burritos and houses and cars than he can ever eat, live in or drive. It's an error in the rules we've built that we can't have incentive and broad sufficiency. Our wealth is badly spread (see Gini curve) and we can't seem to do anything about it. Walden elided this problem, (because it's always been apparent) but why? Maybe because having no concrete recipe to achieve it is just about baked into the definition of "utopia." Unfortunately.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Henry

    B. F. Skinner? More like B.F. Skin me alive because this thinly veiled "novel" is a rambling waste of time. By the end I decided I would have rather read anthem by ayn Rand six times over instead, and that is by no means a compliment. B. F. Skinner? More like B.F. Skin me alive because this thinly veiled "novel" is a rambling waste of time. By the end I decided I would have rather read anthem by ayn Rand six times over instead, and that is by no means a compliment.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    When your utopia based on behavior science is a dystopia for the rest. Probably Skinner hopped that fictionalizing and humanizing his radical behaviorist project may be easier to swallow; hence this book. I found it interesting that these days most of the AI books start with a similar utopia in the first chapter; again, to make their ubiquitous, totalitarian, manipulative, technological, anti-humanist, and so on project more acceptable.

  24. 4 out of 5

    akemi

    Hey, Skinner, what if we, like, enjoy our dumb emotions, contradictory thoughts and self-induced suffering? Gimme that sweet sweet 4 hour work day, but leave me my stupidity, thnx.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bogdan Balostin

    Re-read: I find the ideas more fascinating this time around, and I can bear the dry prose and annoying characters better. Unfortunately, I can see the flaws of the ideas for the first generation building Walden Two. It's indeed possible and we should strive to change the evil human nature towards "good behavior" but we will never accomplish it with 100% efficiency. In another book, Life 3.0 I first encountered the idea that simple animals are Life 1.0 which means they change very slowly only thro Re-read: I find the ideas more fascinating this time around, and I can bear the dry prose and annoying characters better. Unfortunately, I can see the flaws of the ideas for the first generation building Walden Two. It's indeed possible and we should strive to change the evil human nature towards "good behavior" but we will never accomplish it with 100% efficiency. In another book, Life 3.0 I first encountered the idea that simple animals are Life 1.0 which means they change very slowly only through direct genetic evolution and humans are Life 2.0 because they can improve both their body (genetic) and their mind (use of tools and cultural). I believe we are only scratching the surface in terms of what is possible culturally and in terms of organization at a societal level. Original Review: As a novel, this book deserves less than a one-star rating. There, I said it, and I think even B.F. Skinner would agree with me if we both lived in Walden Two. Now let me tell you first why it's an awful novel. Characters are caricatures, awkward dialogue and descriptions, no plot, literally, nothing happens in this novel. It's just a long dialogue without any kind of consequences. So if recently you've only read books that grab you and never let you go, a bestseller or a page-turner, think again before you start reading this. Good news, a page-turner is written using behavioral science, though in the way marketing (and manipulation) works. Anyway, on the brilliance of the book, the philosophical treaty, the pornography of a behaviorist (as one reviewer said). The thing is reading this book made me want to cry. With the advancement of technology, nothing changed. The governments are even worse than before, all the problems we had 100 or 50 years ago, we still have them only on a greater scale. You would think a democratic government would improve with time, but unfortunately, when Skinner describe the government of the 1950s he is practically describing the worst problems of today's government. It's like we don't learn. Quite the contrary, behavioral science was criticized until it disappear from the mainstream medium but the techniques are still used to control people. What Skinner proposes is to let people know they don't have free will (so to speak, there are many kinds of will) and help them make the best decision for the community. That sounds controversial and dictatorial, so it was impossible. Instead, nowadays, everyone tries to control the population (with great success) while lying that we are free to do anything. Just look at clickbait title, aggressive marketing, emotion-based marketing, democratic elections (!!!), media manipulation. The thing is if you read this book, do it with an open mind. Even I was shocked at some suggestions because they come against my free spirit and the free choice of man. I'm not going to write them here because if you don't read the whole book, you will not get the right meaning. It happened to me, I was curious about what kind of society Walden Two would be without reading the book and my view was skewed by my current culture when I read a summary of the points that made Walden Two work.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Titus

    an appalling vision of a utopia. Unlike most utopia visions, however, this one is completely honest. It's not about making a "perfect society;" it's about controlling the members. The perfect society is both an effect of that cause and a a tactic towards that goal. Create a society in which everyone is happy, and people will behave for the good of that society. their behavior will be engineered from day 1. and by day 1 I mean since birth; infants are cared for by the community, and their physica an appalling vision of a utopia. Unlike most utopia visions, however, this one is completely honest. It's not about making a "perfect society;" it's about controlling the members. The perfect society is both an effect of that cause and a a tactic towards that goal. Create a society in which everyone is happy, and people will behave for the good of that society. their behavior will be engineered from day 1. and by day 1 I mean since birth; infants are cared for by the community, and their physical environment, their external behavior, and their state of mind is carefully kept in line, monitored, and recorded. It's a vision of a society that is an extended experimental laboratory with all of humanity as the subject. TE Frazier, the author's alter ego, has set himself up as CS Lewis' "conditioner." (see The Abolition of Man.) In fact I can hear the words of one of CS Lewis' villains coming from Frasier: "Man will have to take charge of man. That means, of course that some men will have to take charge of others, which is a good reason to hop on the band wagon as soon as possible." (see That Hideous Strength.) Another person Frazier reminds me of is Elsworth Toohey. (see The Fountainhead.) At one point he straight up admits that he embraced selflessness, not because he believed in it as a moral ideal ( BF Skinner seems aware that there can be no morality without free will; to resolve this he treats morality as nonexistent, not even worthy of a discussion.) but because it is the only effective way of controlling others. "I'm the most selfless man you'll ever meet, Peter," says Toohey to one of his victims. "You want me for what I help you with. I want want you for what I can do to you." Even though this book was massively creepy, I give it five stars for being evil without pretension. The structure of the Walden Two society rests on a single axiom: that free will is an illusion, that we are all nothing but the sum of our conditioning. Therefore we may as well leave the conditioning in the hands of behavioral scientists, who will make it completely pleasant and also direct it to the noble goal of making society completely pleasant. In real life, Walden Two was a miserable failure. (check out the Twin Oaks "planned community.") With every aspect of their lives controlled, and with all the members disbelieving in free will, personal initiative, innovation, and intelligence went out the window. Rather than the automatic progress that Skinner and the soviet planners believed in, what the society experienced was stagnation, followed by regression. This book, and the real life experiment that copied it, proves the central thesis of my life correct. That thesis, of course, is that choice, free will, and individualism are the necessary and related sources of all human progress, all human joy, all betterment of human life, all human life, and all humanity. It's either freedom and prosperity, or control and stagnation. Make your choice.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Paulette

    As a certified behavior analyst, I was excited to discover that Skinner wrote one book of fiction. I picked it up at my local library book sale and found multiple copies. I ended up buying the one that had the name inside the jacket of the woman who bought from us the last house I lived in--weird! The society uses behavioral principles to teach people to not have jealousy, to have self control to delay gratification and accept slightly annoying circumstances. The goals is "escape from the petty e As a certified behavior analyst, I was excited to discover that Skinner wrote one book of fiction. I picked it up at my local library book sale and found multiple copies. I ended up buying the one that had the name inside the jacket of the woman who bought from us the last house I lived in--weird! The society uses behavioral principles to teach people to not have jealousy, to have self control to delay gratification and accept slightly annoying circumstances. The goals is "escape from the petty emotions which eat the heart out of the unprepared. They get the satisfaction of pleasant and profitable social relations on a scale almost undreamed of in the world at large. They get immeasurably increased efficiency because they can stick to a job without suffering the aches and pains which soon beset most of us. They get new horizons for they are spared the emotions characteristic of frustration and failure." On page 258 Skinner talks abou tthe determining forces of behavior--that they can be subtle but that they are lawful. There are many factors so behavior isn't always predicatable since we can't measure all the facotrs accurately. "It's what the science of behavior calls 'reinforcement theory.' The things that can happen to us fala into three classes. To some things we are indifferent. Other things we like--we want them to happen, and we take stepts to make them happen again. Still other things we don't like__we don't want them to happen and we take steps to get rid of them or keep them from happening again. . . if it's in our power to create any of the situtions which a person likes or to remove any situation he doesn't like, we can control his behavior. When he behaves as we want him to behave, we simply create a situation he likes, or remove one he doesn't like. As a result, the probability that he will behave that way again goes up which is what we want. Technically it is called positive reinforcement." "What is love, except another name for the use of positive reinforcement?"

  28. 5 out of 5

    Procrastinating Slytherin

    It is a curse I know firsthand –to be a lover of the arts and manage to only awkwardly produce it. Though my personal –shall we say, preference, if not love for behavioral analysis and all the things it represents as the natural study of human behavior will no doubt render this review prejudiced, in terms of prose, if not lacking in lyricism and skill, it is to say the least indifferent. There is little diversity among the protagonists –male and female- and the “plot” is not lead either by its ch It is a curse I know firsthand –to be a lover of the arts and manage to only awkwardly produce it. Though my personal –shall we say, preference, if not love for behavioral analysis and all the things it represents as the natural study of human behavior will no doubt render this review prejudiced, in terms of prose, if not lacking in lyricism and skill, it is to say the least indifferent. There is little diversity among the protagonists –male and female- and the “plot” is not lead either by its characters or by its events. Then, again, that’s not really the point. Walden II, despite its writer’s ambition is not so much literature as it is science . It is a conceptual (do you think Skinner would cringe at that word?) experiment, inspired by its authors concerns regarding his Zeitgeist, attempting to apply the principles of behavioral analysis in order to make the world a better place. Different ambition to that most writers bear, but equally grand regardless. A Skinner’s child to the bone, I enjoyed Walden II and the quirks of its author. I think it is a thought-provoking text, in spite its clumsiness that will surely offer a better understanding to the science’s students, especially if you have a vague understanding of behaviorism. You won’t find yourself mesmerized by the prose -at times it will be boring- and sometimes you’ll even disagree. Skinner’s proposal, however, curiously answers –or at least suggest an answer- to many of contemporary questions and concerns, and thus, I think, it’s worth it.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Robinson

    Walden Two earns four stars not for its literary value (it's not terribly well written or compelling only as a story), but for the thought provoking social science concepts it raises. Intellectual stimulation earns it a place on my great books list. The concept of behavioral engineering is both repulsive and intriguing to me. The line between behavioral engineering and brainwashing is just too fine. I have enough Professor Castle in me to balk at the ideas that freedom is nonexistent and democrac Walden Two earns four stars not for its literary value (it's not terribly well written or compelling only as a story), but for the thought provoking social science concepts it raises. Intellectual stimulation earns it a place on my great books list. The concept of behavioral engineering is both repulsive and intriguing to me. The line between behavioral engineering and brainwashing is just too fine. I have enough Professor Castle in me to balk at the ideas that freedom is nonexistent and democracy a terrible form of government. At the same time, I cannot disregard the idea that we are already being "behaviorally engineered" by our current educational, governmental and (most concerning to me) corporate interests. The community aspect, the sustainability options it presents, the idea that labor can be minimized and "leisure" maximized and the overall picture of a peaceful, productive and happy community with true equality might be enough to compel me to sign onto the Walden Code. What I find interesting (and relieving) is that a community, Twin Oaks, exists that was founded on the principals of Walden Two. Twin Oaks, has however, abandoned the Skinner's behavioral engineering and instituted a form of democratic governance. Could that be the best of both worlds?

  30. 5 out of 5

    Chris Waterguy

    An appalling and unrealistic view of a utopian society, rejecting personal liberty and democracy, based on the author's belief in behavioralism, rather than on a real understanding of human nature. There may have been some good ideas in there as well, but mainly it described a stifling environment. Surely it's obvious that the vast majority of people do not want to surrender their autonomy? The book description (viewable on Amazon and elsewhere) for Living Walden Two by Hilke Kuhlmann states that An appalling and unrealistic view of a utopian society, rejecting personal liberty and democracy, based on the author's belief in behavioralism, rather than on a real understanding of human nature. There may have been some good ideas in there as well, but mainly it described a stifling environment. Surely it's obvious that the vast majority of people do not want to surrender their autonomy? The book description (viewable on Amazon and elsewhere) for Living Walden Two by Hilke Kuhlmann states that "a recurrent problem in moving past the planning stages was the nearly ubiquitous desire among members to be gentle guides, coupled with strong resistance to being guided." Skinner was a significant figure in psychology, and made important discoveries about certain aspects of human behavior, but in Walden Two he was wrong, wrong, wrong. A more recent book with similar flaws is Parecon by Michael Albert, though it's not as abhorrent as Walden Two.

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