Two thinkers that I do not particularly have a high regard for — perhaps more due to their effects (and the way that their writings have made society superficial) than because of their ideas — are BF Skinner and Jacques Derrida.
Derrida, for instance — he correctly discerns the inevitability of in interpretive slippage between what is written and what is interpreted in the writing. However, he doesn’t at all seem to countenance that there could be a huge amount of tragedy involved in this. For someone who does not have a voice that anyone will listen to within a particular society, and who therefore takes to writing, so much of what it means to be recognised as human and as vitally real depends upon reception of the work without distortion. So the eternal play of différence may be, in practical terms, within a multicultural society, to some degree entirely necessary as well as inavoidable. Yet the agonising screams of the subaltern who has once again had his attempts to communicate denied should not fail to somehow reach our ears. Derrida’s system which accustoms us to embrace an approach of consumption of meanings as they appear to us on our own terms (that is, without seeking further elucidation, through examinings history and political context) enables us to accept with pleasure — but, on limited terms only, the existence of a mild alterity between oneself and others. One accepts, in other words, the joy of making (necessarily) false interpretations, as a lighthearted game. The radical alterity of the subaltern has nothing to offer us as material for this lighthearted game. His needs are more desperate than that — his necessity to be heard is not even a game, but a matter of life and death (in the emotional sense, and possibly in more ways than this, since actual death can be an outcome of being radically misunderstood.) Let us not be lazy, therefore, with interpretation.
BF SKINNER: He doesn’t really tell us anything, beyond giving us some general principles that may as well be metaphysical, like yin and yang, for all of the predictive value that they have.
Of course, we all behave in certain ways to get rewards in life, and do our best to avoid various aversive stimulii. That is BF Skinner’s grand insight. So let us stop there. Beyond his assertion of this fact, his insights do not enable us to predict any single thing about any single person.
For right above the first layer of my feeling that something is an incentive, there lies an immediate disincentive, and above that the disincentive starts to look like an incentive again, but then through the power of my mind and will, I am actually able to conjure up its image as an overall aversive stimulus.
These are the layers of meanings we have in us — no doubt because we were conditioned through our early years by various experiences. Yet these experiences we had do not rest in our brains as isolated stimulii but in the form of comprehensive ideas and facts.
When I do kickboxing, I go towards an aversive stimulus. I suffer all sorts of mental and physical pains. Above that pain rests the reward of being more proficient. But above that positive stimulus there also remains the aversive stimulus of developing an injury. But, fortunately — above the likelihood of getting wounded rests the almost metaphysical delight of being able to look back in life and say that I’d achieved something.
So, don’t come at me with your aversive stimulus of pain and automatically expect me to pay you any mind. If life were simple like that, we would all be rats in a jar.