Arthur F. Bentley’s Early Writings: His relevance to Behavior Analysis, Contemporary Psychology and the Social Sciences
While a few later works of Arthur F. Bentley are known, his earlier work has rarely been discussed despite containing much of relevance to contemporary behavior analysis, social analysis, and psychological thinking, and despite showing his later work in a new light. This paper outlines all his major early writings except those that are well-known, leaving much in his own words. He proposed critical and contextual analyses of many themes, and many innovative directions to follow, including: relations between individuals and the social; method and ideas for a fully contextual analysis of human behavior; a very early discursive analysis of how eleven major psychological theories of his time dealt with the issues of thinking about behavior; critiques of the major forms of talking in psychology; details of methodologies for making contextual observations rather than cross-sectional or causal observations; and his early versions of critically examining the skin as a false distinction between an inner and outer. His detailed and extensive early research shows that he was not an arm-chair philosopher as many readers of his later works assume, but was even engaged in what now would be “action research”. The paper helps put his later writings into a more accurate perspective. It is argued, though, that despite extensive discussion about the nature of language as active social interaction, he did not ever present a final or satisfactory (by his own criteria) version of this. What is of importance is that his early works show how his transdermal conception and critique of the inner/outer distinction stemmed from his social science research projects which described the way human behavior is shaped by external social and economic events.