Skinner and other behavior analysts appear to have conceded that the conceptual system of behavior analysis is ’merely descriptive,’ perhaps to evade the disputes that might arise from claiming explanatory status for our unconventional approach to psychological science. In contrast, I propose that our approach is at least as explanatory as any other. My basic premise is that all explanations are descriptions, but that not all descriptions are acceptable as explanations. Technically, the descriptions arise as tacts with adduction of additional functions that have been identified with naming. Then: What are the characteristics that result in a description being viewed as an explanation? First, it must be generic, a criterion that often is conflated with that of familiarity. Carefully construed, however, generality includes the important characteristic of parsimony. Second, separate (or basic) descriptive concepts must be interrelated to comprise a network that, along with generality, breaks the constraints of circularity. These characteristics are most commonly achieved through reductionistic strategies, while behavior analysis is best implemented through a multi-scaled approach, whereby the same principles can apply irrespective of the size of the behavioral unit.
Review Philip Hineline’s biographical statement.