1st Edition

The Explanation of Behaviour

  • Available for pre-order. Item will ship after May 17, 2021
ISBN 9780367705213
May 17, 2021 Forthcoming by Routledge
330 Pages

USD $24.95

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Book Description

The Explanation of Behaviour was the first book written by the renowned philosopher Charles Taylor. A vitally important work of philosophical anthropology, it is a devastating criticism of the theory of behaviourism, a powerful explanatory approach in psychology and philosophy when Taylor's book was first published. However, Taylor has far more to offer than a simple critique of behaviourism. He argues that in order to properly understand human beings, we must grasp that they are embodied, minded creatures with purposes, plans and goals, something entirely lacking in reductionist, scientific explanations of human behaviour.

Taylor’s book is also prescient in according a central place to non-human animals, which like human beings are subject to needs, desires and emotions. However, because human beings have the unique ability to interpret and reflect on their own actions and purposes and declare them to others, Taylor argues that human experience differs to that of other animals. Furthermore, the fact that human beings are often directed by their purposes has a fundamental bearing on how we understand the social and moral world.

Taylor’s classic work is essential reading for those in philosophy and psychology as well as related areas such as sociology and religion.

This Routledge Classics edition includes a new Preface by the author and a new Foreword by Alva Noë, setting the book in philosophical and historical context.

Table of Contents

Foreword to the Routledge Classics Edition Alva Noë

Preface to the Routledge Classics Edition Charles Taylor

Part 1: Explanation by Purpose

1. Purpose and Teleology

2. Action and Desire

3. Intentionality

4. The Data Language

5. The Problem of Verification

Part 2: Theory and Fact

6. The Determinants of Learning

7. What Is Learned?

8. Spatial Orientation

9. The Direction of Behaviour

10. The Ends of Behaviour

11. Conclusion


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Charles Taylor is Professor Emeritus at McGill University, Canada. The author of many books on social and political philosophy, the philosophy of mind and language and the history of philosophy, he is one of the best-known and widely read philosophers in the world. He is also a prominent figure in Canadian politics and is a prominent voice in debates about liberalism and multiculturalism.


"A vehemently interesting book. The philosophical part displays the most remarkable grasp of the contemporary philosophical situation and its historical roots... There is also a satisfactory absence of the tones and attitudes of any particular philosophical school." - Elizabeth Anscombe, The New Statesman

"A most valuable and systematic account of a major problem in the explanation of behaviour. His arguments are both powerful and of the greatest possible general interest." - Times Literary Supplement