THE WAYS OF BEHAVIORISM. By John B. Watson. (Harpers.)

At last the oracle has spoken in no ambiguous terms and now it is possible for every free-and-equal man, woman and child to grasp as a scientific fact that a human being is at best merely 30 feet of “guts,” that such terms as “mind,” “consciousness,” “souls,” “spirit” can have no meanings whatever; that the supreme manifestations of human nature in the lives of seers and saints have been and could be no more than the results of “gut squirming” due to purely mechanical stimuli of physical environment.

This glorious news has been abroad for some years, but not until now has it been made so unmistakably clear, and by no other than the inventor himself.

If any sensitive reader should object to the use of the term “guts” in this connection, it should be understood that Dr. Watson himself insists upon using the term. So often was the term encountered in reading “The Ways of Behaviorism” that the present writer finally turned to the index, curious to see if it might appear there. It does, with various references; and quite properly so, for the doctor not only admits but frequently shouts that his is purely a “gut” psychology. It is true that the term is broadened to include heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, and glands as well as the alimentary canal. The doctor admits that he could have used the term “viscera,” but that, he intimates, would have been a high-brow word, not at all in keeping with the absolute equalitarianism of his gutology. Dr. Watson is exceedingly “democratic,” as the nature in his ingenious theory demands. All human beings, according to the eminent doctor, are born with absolutely equal potentialities, the only difference between any dolt and a Charles P. Steinmetz or a Shakespeare being a matter of purely mechanical stimuli from the physical environment — or , as the charmingly free-spoken doctor would say, how were the “guts” made to “squirm” by environmental ticklings?

Having thus established universal human equality, he would be inconsistent if he were not just as common as an old shoe in teaching us all about ourselves. He must use expressions that are easily within our common grasps and presumably characteristic of our everyday utterance. Children, to the democratic doctor, are just plain “kids,” viscera is “guts.” Thus he avoids abashing us with his accidental advantage in wisdom. He would not be so wise, you understand, but for the sort of accidental tickling his “guts” received in infancy and adolescence. He realizes this keenly, and so why should he be cocky and use terms that would embarrass the rest of us who were not so advantageously tickled?

Doctor Watson is a regular fellow and uses plain, homely commonsense in attacking all problems, though he does not, unfortunately, take the trouble to show just how commonsense can be universally valid in this very mysterious universe. He is far more “scientific” than the greatest scientists of our time: for men like Eddington, Haldane, Thompson, Einstein have gone rather beyond the commonsense stage of Science, and the time seems over-late for basing a new system of psychology on the old, narrow, materialistic dogma of the mid-nineteenth century.

In following the doctor’s explanation as to how human temperament, character and special abilities of all sorts are produced by visceral “squirmings” due to environmental stimuli, one wonders what would happen if a pig were raised in the parlor of a highly cultured family. Surely the same “gut” equipment would be there, as any butcher knows. Might not the full grown hog develop into an Aeschylus or a Beethoven or a Buddha? No doubt Dr. Watson would smile in a superior way at this point and remark that a pig is not human. But if it’s all a matter of properly tickled viscera, why couldn’t a hog be made excessively human by wise and persistent tickling?

Such a doctrine is made possible only by the vigorous suppression of a great deal of important data. For instance, what could Dr. Watson do with the fact of telepathy or the highly suggestive if not conclusive findings of psychical research? He must take for granted that all this and much more is necessarily pure “bunk,” to use another of his favorite, regular fellow expressions presumably agreeable to the ears of disadvantageously tickled folk among the laity.

If Dr. Watson should ever catch up with Science as it is understood by the great scientists of our time, he would be far less “scientific.” In the meanwhile his doctrine should flourish, being admirably adapted to mob-flattery. Far from having made an original contribution, he has merely formulated a going mass persuasion into the semblance of a scientific theory. Behaviorism is an expression of the mood of the time — a mood that has grown out of a popular misinterpretation of the democratic idea.