Met, George Herbert | Internet encyclopedia of philosophy (2023)

George Herbert Mead is a major figure in the history of American philosophy, one of the founders ofpragmatismalong withPierce, James, Tufts andDewey. He published numerous articles during his lifetime, and after his death several of his students produced four books in his name from Mead's unpublished (and even unfinished) notes and manuscripts, student notes, and shorthand notes from some of his courses at the University of Chicago. Through his teaching, writing, and posthumous publications, Mead has had a significant impact on 20th-century social theory among both philosophers and social scientists. In particular, Mead's theory of the emergence of mind and self from the social process of significant communication has become the basis of the symbolic-interactionist school of sociology and social psychology. In addition to his well-known and widely appreciated social philosophy, Mead's thought includes significant contributions to natural philosophy, philosophy of science, philosophical anthropology, philosophy of history, andprocess philosophy. Both John Dewey andAlfred North Whiteheadthought Mead a thinker of the highest caliber.

Table of Contents

  1. life
  2. writings
  3. social theory
    1. communication and mind
    2. action
    3. self and others
  4. The temporal structure of human existence
  5. Perception and Reflection: Mead's Theory of Perspectives
  6. philosophy of history
    1. The essence of the story
    2. history and self-awareness
    3. History and the idea of ​​the future
  7. References and further reading
    1. Primary Sources
    2. secondary sources

1st life

George Herbert Mead was born on February 27, 1863 in South Hadley, Massachusetts and died on April 26, 1931 in Chicago, Illinois. He was the second child of Hiram Mead (d. 1881), a Congregational minister and pastor of South Hadley Congregational Church, and Elizabeth Storrs Billings (1832-1917). George Herbert's older sister Alice was born in 1859. In 1870 the family moved to Oberlin, Ohio, where Hiram Mead became professor of homiletics at Oberlin Theological Seminary, a position he held until his death in 1881. After the death of her husband, Elizabeth Storrs Billings Mead taught at Oberlin College for two years and then served as President of Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts from 1890 to 1900.

George Herbert Mead entered Oberlin College in 1879 at the age of sixteen and graduated in 1883 with a BA degree. During his time at Oberlin, Mead and his best friend, Henry Northrup Castle, became ardent students of literature, poetry, and history and staunch opponents of supernaturalism. In literature Mead was particularly interested in Wordsworth, Shelley, Carlyle, Shakespeare, Keats and Milton; and in history he focused on the writings of Macauley, Buckle, and Motley. Mead published an article on Charles Lamb in the 1882-3 issueOberlin Review(15-16).

After graduating from Oberlin in 1883, Mead took a job as an elementary school teacher, but it lasted only four months. Mead was fired because of the way he handled discipline issues: he would simply dismiss uninterested and disruptive students from his class and send them home.

From late 1883 to the summer of 1887, Mead was a surveyor with the Wisconsin Central Rail Road Company. He worked on the project that resulted in the 1100-mile railroad line that ran from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, where it connected to the Canadian Pacific Railroad line.

Mead earned his MA in philosophy from Harvard University in the 1887-1888 academic year. In addition to studying philosophy, he also studied psychology, Greek, Latin, German and French. His philosophy professors included George H. Palmer (1842-1933) and Josiah Royce (1855-1916). During this period, Mead was most influenced by Royce's romance and idealism.

Since Mead would go on to become one of the main figures of the American pragmatic movement, it is interesting that he did not study under William James (1842-1910) during his time at Harvard (although he did live in James' house as James' tutor). Children).

In the summer of 1888, Mead's friend Henry Castle and his sister Helen had traveled to Europe and settled temporarily in Leipzig, Germany. Later, in the early fall of 1888, Mead also went to Leipzig to do his doctorate there. Studied philosophy and physiological psychology. During the 1888-1889 academic year at the University of Leipzig, Mead took a keen interest in Darwinism, studying with Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920) and G. Stanley Hall (1844-1924) (two important founders of experimental psychology). On Hall's recommendation, Mead moved to the University of Berlin in the spring of 1889, where he concentrated on the study of physiological psychology and economic theory.

While Mead and his friends, the Castles, were in Leipzig, Mead and Helen Castle developed a romance and were subsequently married in Berlin on 1 October 1891. Prior to George and Helen's marriage, Henry Castle had married Frieda Stechner of Leipzig, and Henry and his bride had returned to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Henry continued his law studies at Harvard.

Mead's work on his Ph.D. The degree was interrupted in the spring of 1891 by the offer of a professorship in philosophy and psychology at the University of Michigan. This was to replace James Hayden Tufts (1862-1942) who left Michigan to pursue his Ph.D. Studied at the University of Freiburg. Mead accepted the job and never resumed his own promotion thereafter. studies

Mead worked at the University of Michigan from the fall of 1891 to the spring of 1894. He taught both philosophy and psychology. In Michigan he became acquainted with and influenced by the work of the sociologist Charles Horton Cooley (1864-1929), the psychologist Alfred Lloyd and the philosopher John Dewey (1859-1952). Mead and Dewey became close personal and intellectual friends and found much in common in their interests in philosophy and psychology. At that time, the boundaries between philosophy and psychology were not sharply drawn, and Mead was to teach and research psychology (mainly post-1910 social psychology) throughout his career.

George and Helen Mead's only child, Henry Castle Albert Mead, was born in Ann Arbor in 1892. Growing up, the boy became a doctor and married Irene Tufts (daughter of James Hayden Tufts), a psychiatrist.

In 1892 after earning his Ph.D. Working in Freiburg, James Hayden Tufts obtained an administrative position at the newly formed University of Chicago to help its founding president, William Rainey Harper, organize the new university (which opened in the fall of 1892). The University of Chicago was organized around three major departments: Semitics, chaired by J. M. Powis Smith; Classics, chaired by Paul Shorey; and Philosophy, chaired by John Dewey from 1894. Dewey was recommended for this position by Tufts, and Dewey agreed to transfer from the University of Michigan to the University of Chicago provided his friend and colleague George Herbert Mead received one Position as an assistant professor in the philosophy department of Chicago.

Thus the University of Chicago became the new center of American pragmatism (which had emerged earlier with Charles Sanders Peirce [1839-1914] and William James at Harvard). The "Chicago Pragmatists" were led by Tufts, Dewey and Mead. Dewey left Chicago for Columbia University in 1904, leaving Tufts and Mead as the key spokesmen for Chicago's pragmatic movement.

Mead spent the rest of his life in Chicago. He was an assistant professor of philosophy from 1894-1902; associate professor from 1902-1907; and full professor from 1907 until his death in 1931. During these years, Mead made significant contributions to both social psychology and philosophy. Mead's most important contribution to the field of social psychology was his attempt to show how the human self emerges in the process of social interaction, particularly through verbal communication ("symbolic interaction"). As already mentioned, Mead was one of the great American pragmatists in philosophy. As such, he pursued and promoted the pragmatic program and developed his own distinctive philosophical view centered around the concepts of sociality and temporality (see below).

Mrs. Helen Castle Mead died on December 25, 1929. George Mead was severely affected by her death and gradually became ill himself. John Dewey arranged for Mead's appointment as a professor in the Philosophy Department at Columbia University beginning in the 1931-1932 academic year, but before he was able to accept this appointment, Mead died on April 26, 1931 in Chicago.

2. Writings

Throughout his more than 40-year career, Mead thought deeply, wrote almost continuously, and published numerous articles and book reviews in philosophy and psychology. However, he never published a book. After his death, several of his students edited four volumes of shorthand notes from his social psychology course at the University of Chicago, Mead's lecture notes, and Mead's numerous unpublished works. The four books areThe philosophy of the present(1932), edited by Arthur E. Murphy;mind, self and society(1934), edited by Charles W. Morris;Movements of Thought in the 19th Century(1936), edited by Merritt H. Moore; andThe philosophy of the law(1938), Mead's Carus Lectures of 1930, edited by Charles W. Morris.

Notable among Mead's published works are the following: Suggestions Towards a Theory of the Philosophical Disciplines (1900); “Social Awareness and Awareness of Meaning” (1910); “What social objects must psychology presuppose” (1910); "The Mechanism of Social Consciousness" (1912); "The Social Self" (1913); "Scientific Method and the Individual Thinker" (1917); "A Behavioristic Account of the Significant Symbol" (1922); “The Emergence of Self and Social Control” (1925); “The Objective Reality of Perspectives” (1926); "The Nature of the Past" (1929); and The Philosophies of Royce, James, and Dewey in Their American Setting (1929). 25 of Mead's most notable published articles were collected inSelected writings: George Herbert Mead, edited by Andrew J. Reck (Bobbs-Merrill, The Liberal Arts Press, 1964).

Most of Mead's writings and much of the related secondary literature are listed in theReferences and further reading, under.

3. Social Theory

a. communication and mind

Immind, self and society(1934) Mead describes how the individual mind and self emerge from the social process. Rather than approaching human experience in terms of individual psychology, Mead analyzes experience from the "point of view of communication as essential to social order." For Mead, individual psychology can only be understood in relation to social processes. The "development of the individual's self and his self-awareness within the field of his experience" is primarily social. For Mead, the social process precedes the structures and processes of individual experience.

According to Mead, spirit arises within the social communication process and cannot be understood in isolation from this process. The communication process involves two phases: (1) the "conversation of gestures" and (2) language or the "conversation of significant gestures". Both phases presuppose a social context in which two or more individuals interact with each other.

Mead introduces the idea of ​​the "conversation of gestures" with his famous example of dogfighting:

Dogs that approach in a hostile attitude will continue such gesture language. They circle around each other, growling and snapping, waiting for an opportunity to attack. . . . (mind, self and society14) Each dog's action becomes a stimulus for the other dog's response. There is then a relationship between these two; and when the other dog responds to the action, it undergoes a change in turn. The mere fact that the dog is ready to attack another becomes an incentive for the other dog to change its own position or attitude. As soon as he has done this, the change in behavior of the second dog causes a change in the behavior of the first dog. We have a gesture talk here.However, they are not gestures in the sense that they are significant. We don't expect the dog to say to itself, "If the animal comes from this direction, it'll jump at my throat and I'll turn around like this." What does take place, however, is an actual change in one's position based on the direction of approach of the other dog. (mind, self and society42-43, emphasis added).

In conversation about gestures, communication takes place without the individual being aware of the response his gesture evokes in others; and since the person is unaware of the reactions of others to their gestures, they are unable to react to their own gestures from the point of view of others. The individual participant in the gesture conversation communicates, but she does notknowsthat she communicates. The talk of gestures, that is, isunconsciouslyCommunication.

However, from the conversation of gestures comes language or conscious communication. Mead's theory of communication is evolutionary: communication evolves from more or less primitive to more or less advanced forms of social interaction. In the human world, language replaces (but does not abolish) conversation with gestures and marks the transition from insignificant to significant interaction.

Language, in Mead's view, is communication throughsignificant symbols. A significant symbol is a gesture (usually a vocal gesture) that elicits the same (i.e., functionally identical) response from the person making the gesture as is evoked from others to whom the gesture is directed (mind, self and society47).

Significant communication can also be defined as the understanding of the individualmeaningher gestures. Mead describes the communication process as a social act, since it necessarily requires at least two individuals to interact with each other. In this act meaning arises. The act of communication has a triadic structure consisting of the following components: (1) an initiating gesture on the part of an individual; (2) a response to that gesture by a second person; and (3) the result of the action initiated by the first gesture (mind, self and society76, 81). There is no meaning independent of the interactive participation of two or more people in the act of communication.

Of course, the individual can anticipate the reactions of others and can therefore consciously and intentionally make gestures that elicit appropriate reactions from others. This form of communication differs significantly from gestural conversation, since there is no possibility of consciously shaping and controlling the act of communication.

Awareness of meaning is what enables the individual to respond to their own gestures while the other responds. So a gesture is an action that implies aconcerningAction. The reaction is the meaning of the gesture and indicates the result (the "intentionality") of the action initiated by the gesture. Gestures "become meaningful symbols when they implicitly evoke in one individual the same responses that they expressly evoke or [should] evoke in other individuals" (mind, self and society47). For example: “You ask someone to bring a chair to a visitor. You arouse the tendency to get the chair in the other, but if he acts slowly, you get the chair yourself. The response to the gesture is to do a certain thing, and you arouse the same tendency in yourself" (mind, self and society67). At this stage the conversation of gestures turns into a conversation of significant symbols.

There is a certain ambiguity in Mead's use of the terms "meaning" and "meaning". The question is, can a gesture be meaningful without being significant? But if the meaning of a gesture is the response to that gesture, then there is meaning in the (insignificant) conversation of the gestures - the second dog eventually responding to the first dog's gestures in aerial combat and vice versa.

However, it is the talk ofsignificant symbolsThis is the basis of Mead's Theory of Mind. “Only in relation to gestures as significant symbols is the existence of mind or intelligence possible; for only in gestures that are significant symbols can there be thought that is simply an internalized or implicit conversation of the individual with himself through such gestures.mind, self and society47). The mind, then, is a form of participation in an interpersonal (ie, social) process; it is the result of the attitudes of others towards one's gestures (or behavior in general). Spirit, in short, is the use of meaningful symbols.

The essence of Mead's so-called "social behaviorism" is his view that mind emerges from the interaction of organic individuals in a social matrix. Mind is not a substance residing in a transcendent realm, nor is it merely a series of events taking place within the human physiological structure. Mead thus rejects the traditional view of the mind as a separate substance from the body, as well as the behaviorist attempt to explain the mind solely in terms of physiology or neurology. Mead agrees with the behaviorists that we can explain the mind behaviorally if we deny its existence as a substantial entity and instead view it as a natural function of human organisms. But it is neither possible nor desirable to deny the existence of the mind altogether. The physiological organism is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for mental behavior (mind, self and society139). Without the special character of the human central nervous system, the internalization of the process of meaningful communication by the individual would not be possible; but without the social process of conversational behavior there would be no significant symbols for the individual to internalize.

The emergence of the mind depends on the interaction between the human organism and its social environment; through participation in the social act of communication, the individual realizes his (physiological and neurological) potential for significant symbolic behavior (i.e., thinking). In Mead's terms, the mind is the individualized focus of the communication process - it isverbal behavioron the part of the individual. So there is no "mind or thought without language"; and language (the content of the mind) "is only a development and product of social interaction" (mind, self and society191-192). Mind, then, is not reducible to the neurophysiology of the organic individual, but an emergence in "the dynamic, ongoing social process" that constitutes human experience (mind, self and society7).

b. action

For Mead, spirit arises from the social act of communication. Mead's concept of the social act is relevant not only to his theory of mind but to all facets of his social philosophy. His theory of "mind, self, and society" is indeed a philosophy of action from the standpoint of a social process involving the interaction of many individuals, just as his theory of knowledge and value is a philosophy of action from the standpoint of the experiencing individual in interaction with an environment.

There are two models of action in Mead's general philosophy: (1) the model ofthe act as such, i.e. organic activity in general (which is detailed inThe philosophy of the law) and (2) the model ofthe social act, i.e. H. social activity, which is a special case of organic activity and is of particular (though not exclusive) relevance to the interpretation of human experience. The relationship between the "social behavioral process" and the "social environment" is "analogous" to the relationship between the "individual organism" and the "physico-biological environment" (mind, self and society130).

The law as such

In his analysis of action as such (i.e. organic activity), Mead speaks of action asdetermining"the relationship between the individual and the environment" (The philosophy of the law364). Reality, Mead argued, is a field of situations. “These situations are fundamentally characterized by the relationship of an organic individual to his environment or world. The world, things, and the individual are what they are because of this relationship [between the individual and his world]" (The philosophy of the law215). Action defines and develops the relationship between the individual and his world.

Mead describes the plot as developing in four stages: (1) the stage ofimpulses, whereupon the organic individual responds to "problematic situations" in his experience (e.g., the intrusion of an enemy into the individual's field of existence); (2) the stage ofperception, on which the individual defines and analyzes his problem (e.g. the direction of the enemy attack is sensed and a path leading in the opposite direction is selected as an escape route); (3) the stage ofManipulation, which are acted upon with reference to the individual's perceptual assessment of the problematic situation (e.g., the individual runs down the path and away from their enemy); and (4) the stage ofcompletion, after which the difficulty that has arisen is resolved and the continuity of organic existence is restored (e.g. the individual escapes from his enemy and returns to his ordinary affairs) (The philosophy of the law3-25). ]

What is interesting about this description is that the individual is not only a passive recipient of external environmental influences, but is able to act in relation to such influences; he reconstructs his relation to his environment through selective perception and through the use or manipulation of the objects selected in perception (e.g. the escape route mentioned above). The objects in the environment are created, so to speak, by the activity of the organic individual: the route by which the individual escapes was not "there" (in his thoughts or perceptions) until the individual needed a route of escape. Reality is not just "out there", independent of the organic individual, but the result of the dynamic interaction of organism and environment. According to Mead, perception is a relationship between organism and object. So perception is not something that happensinthe organism, but an objective relationship between the organism and its environment; and the perceptual object is not an entityout there, independent of the organism, but a pole of the interactive perception process (The philosophy of the law81).

Objects of perception arise in the individual's attempt to solve problems that have arisen in his experience, problems that are, in an important sense, determined by the individual himself. The character of the individual's environment is predetermined by the individual's sensory abilities. The environment, then, is what it is in relation to a sensual and selective organic individual; and things or objects "are what they are in the relation between the individual and his environment, and that relation is that of behavior [i.e. H. action]" (The philosophy of the law218).
The Social Law
While the social act is analogous to the act as such, the “individual biological activity” (mind, self and society130) does not suffice as an analysis of social experience. The "social organism" is not an organic individual, but "a social group of individual organisms" (mind, self and society130). The human individual is thus a member of a social organism, and his actions must be viewed in the context of social actions involving other individuals. Society is not a collection of pre-existing atomic individuals (as suggested, for example, by Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau), but rather a processual whole within which individuals define themselves through participation in social acts. According to Mead, the acts of the individual are aspects of trans-individual acts. “For social psychology, the whole (society) precedes the part (the individual), not the part the whole; and the part is explained in relation to the whole, not the whole in relation to the part or parts" (mind, self and society7). The social act is thus a “dynamic whole”, a “complex organic process” in which the individual finds himself, and within this situation individual actions are possible and meaningful.

Mead defines thesocial actin relation to thesocial object. The social act is a collective act in which two or more people participate; and the social object is a collective object with a common meaning for each participant in the action. There are many types of social action, some very simple, some very complex. These range from the (relatively) simple interaction of two people (e.g. dancing, making love or playing handball) to more complex actions involving more than two people (e.g. a play, a religious ritual). ). , a hunting trip), to even more complex acts carried out in the form of social organizations and institutions (e.g. law enforcement, education, economic exchange). The life of a society consists of the sum total of such social acts.

Through the social act, the people in society create their reality. The objects of the social world (common objects like clothing, furniture, tools, as well as scientific objects like atoms and electrons) are what they are because they are defined and used within the matrix of specific social actions. Thus an animal skin becomes a cloak in the experience of people (e.g., barbarians or pretenders to the aristocracy) engaged in the social act of covering and/or adorning their bodies; and the electron is introduced (as a hypothetical object) into the scientific community's project to explore the ultimate nature of physical reality.

Communication through significant symbols is what enables the intelligent organization of social action. Significant communication, as mentioned earlier, involves understanding meaning, i.e. H. adopting the attitude of others towards one's own gestures. Significant communication between individuals creates a world of shared (symbolic) meanings within which further and conscious social action is possible. In other words, the specifically human social act is rooted in the act of significant communication and is actually ordered through the conversation of significant symbols.

In addition to its role in organizing the social act, significant communication is also fundamentally involved in the creation of social objects. Because through significant symbols, people point to the object relevant to their collective actions. Suppose a group of people decided to go to the zoo. One of the group offers to drive the others in his car; and the others respond by following the driver to his vehicle. The car has thus become an object for all members of the group that everyone uses to get to the zoo. Before this particular project of going to the zoo, the car didn't have the specific importance it has as a tool for the zoo trip. The car was undoubtedly an object in another social act before being incorporated into the zoo outing; but prior to this incorporation it was not specifically and explicitly a means of transportation to the zoo. However, whatever it was would be determined by its role in a social act (e.g. the owner's project of going to work every day, etc.). Needless to say, the decision to go to the zoo, like the decision to use the automobile in question as a mode of transportation, was made through conversation with significant symbols. The significant symbol here serves to indicate "any object within the domain of social behavior, an object of common interest to all persons involved in the given social action, so directed upon or towards that object" (mind, self and society46). For Mead, the reality people experience is largely socially constructed in a process mediated and facilitated through the use of significant symbols.

c. self and others

The self as social emergence

The self, like the mind, is a social emergence. This social conception of the self, Mead argues, implies that individual selves are the products of social interaction and not the prerequisites (logical or biological) of that interaction. Mead contrasts his social theory of the self with individualistic theories of the self (i.e., theories that posit the priority of the self over social processes). “The self is something that has development; it is not present at birth but arises in the process of social experience and activity, that is, develops in the individual as a result of his relationships with that process as a whole and with other individuals within that process" (mind, self and society135). Mead's model of society is an organic model in which individuals are related to the social process as body parts are related to bodies.

The self is a reflective process—i.e. H. "it is an object unto itself". For Mead, it is the reflexivity of the self that "distinguishes it from other objects and from the body." For the body and other objects are not objects unto themselves as the self is.

It is perfectly true that the eye can see the foot, but it does not see the body as a whole. We can't see our backs; we can feel certain parts of them when we are agile, but we cannot experience our whole body. Of course there are experiences that are somewhat vague and difficult to pinpoint, but for us the physical experiences are organized around a self. Foot and hand belong to the Self. We can see our feet, especially when viewed through the wrong end of opera glasses, as strange things that we have a hard time recognizing as our own. The parts of the body are well distinguishable from the self. We can lose parts of the body without seriously interfering with the self. The mere ability to experience different body parts is no different than experiencing a table. The table gives a different feeling than the hand when one hand touches another, but it is an experience of something that we definitely come into contact with. The body does not experience itself as a whole, in the sense that the self in some way enters into the experience of the self (mind, self and society136).

Moreover, it is this reflexivity of the self that distinguishes human from animal consciousness (mind, self and society, footnote 137). Mead points out two uses of the term "consciousness": (1) "consciousness" can denote "a particular feeling consciousness" that is the result of an organism's sensitivity to its environment (in this sense animals, insofar as they act in relation to events aware of their surroundings); and (2) "consciousness" can refer to a form of consciousness "which always has, at least implicitly, reference to an 'I' within it" (that is, the term "consciousness" can meaneven- Awareness) (mind, self and society165). It is the second use of the term "consciousness" that is appropriate for the discussion of human consciousness. While there is a form of pre-reflexive consciousness that refers to the "bare existence of the world," it is reflexive (or self-)consciousness that characterizes human consciousness. The pre-reflective world is a world in which the self is absent (mind, self and society135-136).

So self-awareness involves the objectification of the self. In the mode of self-awareness, “the individual enters into his own experience as such. . . as an object” (mind, self and society225).How is this objectification of the self possible?The individual, according to Mead, "can come forth as an object [for himself] only on the basis of social relations and interactions, only through his experiential transactions with other individuals in an organized social setting" (mind, self and society225). Self-awareness is the result of a process in which the individual adopts the attitudes of others towards themselves, in which they attempt to see themselves from the point of view of others. The self as object arises from the individual's experience of other selves outside himself. The objectified self is an emergence within the social structures and processes of human intersubjectivity.

Symbolic Interaction and the Emergence of the Self

Mead's account of the social emergence of the self is further developed through an explanation of three forms of intersubjective activity:language,play, andthe game. These forms of "symbolic interaction" (i.e., social interactions that take place through shared symbols such as words, definitions, roles, gestures, rituals, etc.) are the key paradigms in Mead's theory of socialization, and the underlying social processes enable the reflexive objectification of the self.

Language, as we have seen, is communication through 'significant symbols', and through significant communication the individual is able to adopt the attitudes of others towards himself. Language is not only a "necessary mechanism" of the mind, but also the primary social basis of the self:

I know of no other form of behavior than that of language, in which the individual is an object to himself. . . (mind, self and society142). When a self appears it always involves an experience of another; there could be no experience of a self just by itself. The plant or lower animal responds to its environment, but there is no experience of a self. . . . When the reaction of the other becomes an integral part of the individual's experience or behavior; when the attitude of the other becomes an essential part of his behavior - then the individual appears in his own experience as a self; and until that happens he does not appear as a self (mind, self and society195).

Within the linguistic act, the individual takes on the role of the other, i. H. it responds to its own gestures in terms of the symbolized attitudes of others. This "process of taking on the role of the other" within the process of symbolic interaction is the archetype of self-objectification and essential to self-realization (mind, self and society160-161).

It should be clear, then, that the self-as-object Mead speaks of is not an object in a mechanistic billiard-ball world of external relations, but rather a basic structure of human experience arising in response to other persons in an organic social-symbolic world inner (and intersubjective) relationships. This becomes even clearer in Mead's interpretation of games and gaming. In play and play, as in language activities, the key to building self-awareness is the process of role-play.” In play, the child takes on the role of another and actsas ifyouwarthe other (e.g. mother, doctor, nurse, Indian and myriad other symbolized roles). This form of role-playing involves a single role at a time. The other that enters the child's play experience is thus a "specific other" (The philosophy of the present169).

The game involves a more complex form of role-playing than the game. In play, the individual must internalize not only the character of an individual and specific other, but also the rolesatothers involved with him in the game. In addition, he must understand the rules of the game that determine the different roles (mind, self and society151). This role configuration, organized according to rules, brings the attitudes of all those involved together into a symbolized unit: This unit is the "generalized other" (mind, self and society154). The generalized other is "an organized and generalized attitude" (mind, self and society195) by which the individual defines his own behavior. When the individual can see himself from the point of view of the generalized other, "self-awareness in the full sense of the word" is achieved.

Play, then, is the stage in the social process in which the individual attains selfhood. One of Mead's most outstanding contributions to the development of critical social theory is his analysis of games. Mead reveals the full social and psychological meaning of play and the extent to which play functions as a tool of social control. The following passage contains a remarkable analysis:

What is going on in the game is going on all the time in the child's life. He is constantly assuming the attitudes of those around him, particularly the roles of those who in some sense control him and on whom he is dependent. He first gets the function of the process in an abstract way. It really goes from game to game.He has to play the game. The morality of the game captures the child more than the general morality of the whole community. The child moves into play, and play expresses a social situation into which he can fully enter;his morals can influence him more than those of the family to which he belongs or the community in which he lives. There are all kinds of social organizations, some fairly permanent, some temporary, that the child enters,and he plays a kind of parlor game in them. It's a time when he enjoys "fitting in" and he joins organizations that come and go.It becomes something that can function in the organized whole, and thus tends to determine itself in its relationship to the group to which it belongs. This process is a remarkable step in the development of the child's morals. It makes him a confident member of the community he belongs to (mind, self and society160, emphasis added).

The "I" and the "I"

Although the self is a product of socio-symbolic interaction, it is not just a passive reflection of the generalized other. The individual's response to the social world is active; youdecideswhat she will doin view ofthe attitudes of others; but their behavior is not mechanically determined by such attitudinal structures. It seems that there are two phases (or poles) of the self: (1) that phase which reflects the attitude of the generalized other, and (2) that phase which reflects the attitude of the generalized otherreplies tothe attitude of the generalized other. Here Mead distinguishes between the "I" and the "I". The "I" is the social self, and the "I" is a response to the "I" (mind, self and society178). “The 'I' is the organism's response to the attitudes of others; the "I" is the organized set of attitudes of others that one holds" (mind, self and society175). Mead defines the "I" as "a conventional, habitual individual" and the "I" as the individual's "novel response" to the generalized other (mind, self and society197). There is a dialectic relationship between society and the individual; and this dialectic is enacted at the intrapsychic level in relation to the polarity of 'I' and 'I'. The "I" is the internalization of roles derived from such symbolic processes as verbal interaction, gaming, and gambling; whereas the "I" is a "creative response" to the symbolized structures of the "I" (i.e., the generalized other).

Although the "I" is not an object of immediate experience, it is in a sense knowable (i.e., objectifiable). The "I" is captured in memory; but in the memory image the "I" is no longer a pure subject, but "a subject that is now the object of observation" (selected Writings142). We can understand the structural and functional meaning of "I," but we cannot observe it directly—it only appearsafter the fact. werememberthe responses of "I" to "I"; and that is as close as possible to a concrete realization of "I". The objectification of the "I" is only possible through an awareness of the past; but the objectified "I" is never the object of present experience. "So if you ask where directly in your own experience does the 'I' appear, the answer is that it appears as a historical figure" (mind, self and society174).

The "I" appears as a symbolized object in our consciousness of our past actions, but then it has become part of the "I". The "I" is, in a manner of speaking, that phase of the self which represents the past (i.e. the already established generalized other). The 'I', which is a response to the 'I', represents action in a present (i.e. 'what actually happens, takes place') and implies the restructuring of the 'I' in a future. After the 'I' has acted, 'we can capture it in our memory and place it in relation to what we have done', but it is now (in the newly formed present) an aspect of the restructured 'I' (mind, self and society204, 203).

Due to the historical dimension of the self, the character of the "I" can only be determinedafterit happened; the “I” is therefore not subject to any predetermination. Certain acts of "I" become aspects of "I" in the sense that they are objectified by memory; but the "I" as such is not contained in the "I".

The human individual exists in a social situation and responds to that situation. The situation has a special character, but this character does not fully determine the individual's reaction; there seem to be alternative approaches. The person must choose a course of action (and even the decision to do "nothing" is a reaction to the situation) and act accordingly, but the course of action he chooses is not dictated by the situation. It is this vagueness of response that "gives a sense of freedom, of initiative" (mind, self and society177). The action of the "I" reveals itself only in the action itself; A concrete prediction of the effect of the "I" is not possible. The individual is determined to respond, but the specific nature of their response is not fully determined. The person's answers areconditioned, but not determined by the situation in which she acts (mind, self and society210-211). Human freedom is conditional freedom.

Thus, the "I" and the "I" exist in dynamic relation to each other. The human personality (or self) arises in a social situation. This situation structures the "I" through intersubjective symbolic processes (language, gestures, play, games, etc.), and the active organism has to react to its situation and its "I" in its further development. ” This reaction of the active organism is the “I”.

The individual adopts the attitude of "I" or the attitude of "I" depending on the situation in which he finds himself. For Mead, "Both aspects of 'I' and 'I' are essential to the self in its full expression" (mind, self and society199). Both communal and individual autonomy are necessary for identity. The "I" is a process that breaks through the structure. The "I" is a necessary symbolic structure that makes the action of the "I" possible, and "without this structure of things the life of the self would be impossible" (mind, self and society214).

The dialectic of self and other

The self arises when the individual adopts the attitude of the generalized other towards himself. This "internalization" of the generalized other occurs through the individual's participation in the conversation of significant symbols (i.e., language) and in other socialization processes (e.g., play and games). The self is thus of great value to organized society: internalizing the conversation of significant symbols and other symbolic structures of interaction allows for "the superior coordination" of "society as a whole" and "increased efficiency." of the individual as a member of the group” (mind, self and society179). The generalized other (internalized in the “I”) is an important tool of social control; it is the mechanism by which the community gains control "over the behavior of its individual members" (mind, self and society155). "Social control," in Mead's words, "is the expression of 'I' versus the expression of 'I'" (mind, self and society210).

The genesis of the self in the social process is thus a condition of social control. The self is a social emergence that supports group cohesion; individual will is brought into line with social goals and values ​​by a socially defined and symbolized "reality". "As far as there are social actions," writes Mead, "there are social objects, and I hold that social control relates the action of the individual to that social object" (The philosophy of the law191). Thus, there are two dimensions to Mead's theory of internalization: (1) the internalization of others' attitudes toward themselves and each other (i.e., the internalization of the interpersonal process); and (2) the internalization of the attitudes of others "to the various phases or aspects of common social activity or a range of social endeavors in which they are all engaged as members of an organized society or social group" (mind, self and society154-155).

Thus, the self relates not only to others, but also to social projects and goals, through the process of socialization (i.e., the internalization of the generalized other through language, play, and the game). The individual is made to "adopt the attitudes of those in the group who are involved with him in his social activities" (The philosophy of the law192). By learning to speak, gesture, and play “appropriately,” the individual becomes aligned with the accepted symbolized roles and rules of the social process. The self is therefore one of the most subtle and effective tools of social control.

For Mead, however, social control has its limits. One of these boundaries is the phenomenon of the "I" described in the previous section. Another frontier of social control is presented in Mead's description of specific social relationships. This description has important implications for the way in which the concept of the generalized other is to be applied in social analysis.

The self arises out of "a particular set of social relations with all other individuals" engaged in a particular set of social projects (mind, self and society156-157). The self is always an image of specific social relations, which in turn are based on the specific behavior of the respective group. The concept of property, for example, presupposes a community with certain kinds of responses; The idea of ​​property has specific social and historical bases and symbolizes the interests and values ​​of particular social groups.

Mead describes two types of social groups in civilized communities. On the one hand there are "concrete social classes or subgroups" in which "individual members are directly related to one another". On the other hand, there are "abstract social classes or subgroups" in which "individual members are related to each other only more or less indirectly, and which function as social units only more or less indirectly, but which offer unlimited possibilities for expansion and branching and enrichment of social relations." between all individual members of the given society as an organized and unified whole" (mind, self and society157). Such abstract social groups offer the opportunity for a radical expansion of the "specific social relations" that constitute the individual's sense of self and structure his or her behavior.

Human society, then, contains a multitude of generalized others. The individual is capable of being a member of different groups both simultaneously and sequentially, and can therefore relate to different generalized others at different times; or she may expand her notion of the generalized other by identifying with a 'larger' community than the one in which she was previously involved (e.g. a tribe). The self is not limited to the confines of a generalized other. It is true that the self arises through the internalization of the general attitudes of others, but it seems that there is no absolute limit to the individual's ability to incorporate new others into the dynamic structure of the self. This makes strict and total social control difficult, if not impossible.

Mead's description of social relations also has interesting implications with regard to the sociological problem of the relationship between consensus and conflict in society. It is clear that both consensus and conflict are important dimensions of social processes; and from Mead's point of view, the problem is not making decisionseitherfor a consensus model of societyorfor a conflict model, but to describe the function of consensus and conflict in human social life as directly as possible.

There are two models of the consensus-conflict relationship in Mead's analysis of social relations. These can be schematized as follows:

  1. Consensus within the group – conflict outside the group
  2. Conflict within the group - consensus outside the group

In the first model, the members of a particular group are united against another group, which is characterized as the "common enemy" of all members of the first group. Mead points out that the idea of ​​a common enemy is central to much of human social organization and that it is often the primary reference point for consensus within the group. For example, very many human organizations derive theirspurposeand their sense of solidarity from the existence (or supposed existence) of the “enemy” (communists, atheists, infidels, fascist pigs, religious “fanatics”, liberals, conservatives or whatever). The generalized other of such an organization is formed against the generalized other of the enemy. The individual is "with" members of his group and "against" members of the enemy group.

Mead's second model, that of in-group conflict and out-group consensus, is used in his description of the process by which the individual respondsversustheir own group. The individual resists his group by appealing to a "higher kind of community" that he believes to be superior. It can do this by appealing to the past (e.g. it can base its criticism of the bureaucratic state on a notion of "Jeffersonian democracy") or by appealing to the future (e.g. it can refer to the ideal of “all humanity” “of the universal community, an ideal whose point of reference is the future). Thus, the conflict within the group is carried out outside the group in the sense of a consensus, even if the consensus is only accepted or postulated. This model presupposes Mead's conception of the multiplicity of generalized others, i.e. the field within which conflicts are possible. It is also true that the individual can only criticize his group insofar as he can symbolize himself to the generalized other of that group; otherwise she would have nothing to criticize and would not have the motivation to do so. In this sense, social criticism presupposes social-symbolic processes and a social self capable of symbolic reflection.

In addition to the models of the consensus-conflict relationship described above, Mead also points to an explicit temporal interaction between consensus and conflict. Human conflicts often lead to decisions that create new forms of consensus. Thus, when such conflicts do occur, they can result in full "reconstructions of the particular social situations" that provide the context of the conflicts (e.g., a war between two nations may be followed by new political alignments in which the two warring nations become allies) . Such reconstructions of society are effected by the minds of the individuals in conflict and represent an extension of the social whole.

An interesting implication of Mead's analysis of social conflict is that the reconstruction of society will entail the reconstruction of the self. This aspect of social dynamics is particularly evident in relation to Mead's concept of intragroup conflict and his description of the dialectic of 'I' and 'I'. As already mentioned, the "I" is an emergent response to the generalized other; and the "I" is that phase of the self that represents the social situation in which the individual must act. The critical capacity of the self thus takes shape in the "I" and has two dimensions: (1) explicit self-criticism (directed at the "I") is implicit social criticism; and (2) explicit social criticism is implicit self-criticism. For example, criticism of one's own moral principles is also criticism of the morality of one's own social world, because personal morality is rooted in social morality. Conversely, criticism of the morality of one's own society raises questions about one's own moral role in the social situation.

Since the self and society are dialectical poles of a single process, a change in one pole leads to a change in the other pole. It seems that social reconstructions are carried out by individuals (or groups of individuals) in conflict with a particular society; and once the reconstruction is complete, the new social situation produces far-reaching changes in the personality structures of the persons involved in that situation." In short, Mead writes, "social reconstruction and reconstruction of the self or personality are two sides of one process - the process of human social evolution" (mind, self and society309).

4. The temporal structure of human existence

According to Mead, the temporal structure of human existence can be described in terms ofemergence,sociality, andfreedom.

emergence and temporality

What is the reason for the temporality of human experience? Temporal structure, according to Mead, arises with the occurrence of novel or "emergent" events in experience. The resulting event is an unexpected break in continuity, an obstruction in passage. In other words, the emergent is a problem for human action, a problembeovercome. The emergent event arising in a present erects a barrier between present and future; Emergence is an inhibition of behavior (individual and collective), a disharmony that projects experience into aawayfuture in which harmony can be restored. The initial temporal structure of human time consciousness lies in the separation of present and future by the emergent event. The actor blocked in his activity faces the emerging problem in his present and looks to the future as a field of possible conflict resolution. The future is a distant realm in time and often in space that must be reached through intelligent action. Human action is action in time.

Mead argues that without activity inhibition and without the distance created by inhibition, there can be no experience of time. Also, Mead believes that without breaking continuity, there can be no experience at all. Experience requires change as well as consistency. Without interruption, "there would be only the course of events" (The philosophy of the law346), and mere passage constitutes no change. Passage is mere continuity without a break (a phenomenon with which humans, with the possible exception of some mystics, have precious little experience). Change comes with a departure from continuity. However, change does not imply the total obliteration of continuity - there must be "persistent, impermanent content" against which an emerging event is experienced as change (The philosophy of the law330-331).

Experience begins with the problematic. Continuity itself cannot be experienced unless it is broken; That is, continuity is not an object of consciousness unless it becomes problematic, and continuity becomes problematic as a result of the occurrence of discontinuous events. Continuity and discontinuity (emergence) are therefore not contradictions, but dialectical polarities (interdependent levels of reality) that themselves produce experience. “Now is contrasted with then, and it is implied that a background has been secured, irrelevant to the difference between them, within which now and then can appear. There must be banks within which the stream of time can flow" (The philosophy of the law161).

Emergence, then, is a fundamental condition of experience, and the experience of emergence is the experience of temporality. Emergence separates the present and the future and is therefore an occasion for action. Also, there is actionin time; human action is infected with time - theyGoalsat the future. Human action is teleological. Discontinuity and not continuity (in the sense of mere duration or passage) is therefore the basis of the experience of time (and experience itself). The emergent event constitutes time, i.e. creates the necessity of time.

The function of the past in human experience

The emergent event is not only a problem for current action, but also a problem for rationality. Reason, according to Mead, is the search for causal continuity in experience, and indeed must presuppose such continuity when attempting to construct a coherent account of reality. Reason must assume that all natural events can be traced back to conditions that make the events possible. But the emergent event presents itself as discontinuous, as an unconditional disturbance.

It is by means of thereconstructionof the past that the discontinuous event becomes continuous in experience: "The character of the past is that it connects the unconnected by passing one present into another" ("The Nature of the Past" [1929], inselected Writings351). The resulting event, when placed in a reconstructed past, is a specific event; but since that past was reconstructed from the perspective of the emergent event, the emergent event is also adeterminingEvent (The philosophy of the presentfifteen). The emergent event itself indicates the continuities within which the event can be viewed as continuous. So it is not a question of predicting what will emerge, because it is by definition and also experientially unpredictable; but once emergence appears in experience, it can be placed in a continuity dictated by its own character. Determination of the emergent isRückblickdetermination.

Mead's concept of time involves a drastic revision of the notion of the irrevocability of the past. The past is "both irrevocable and revocable" (The philosophy of the present2). The idea of ​​an independent or "genuine" past makes no sense, for the past is always formulated in the light of the emerging present. It is necessary to keep reformulating the past from the perspective of the newly emerging situation. For example, the African American liberation movement has led to the discovery of the cultural past of American blacks. Indeed, "Black (or African-American) history" is a function of the emergence of the civil rights movement in the late 1940s and early 1950s and the subsequent development of that movement. For most Americans, there simply was no history of American blacks—there was only a history of white Europeans, which included the history of slavery in America.

There can be no finality in historical accounts. The past is irrevocable in that sensesomehas happened; butWhat happened?(i.e. the essence of the past) is always open to questions and reinterpretations. The irrevocability of the past "is found further in the extension of the necessity with which what has just happened conditions what is to come" (The philosophy of the present3). Irrevocability is a feature of the past only in relation to the demands of a future-looking present. That is, that even feel thatsomething happenedarises from a situation in which an emergent event has arisen as a problem.

Like Edmund Husserl, Mead conceives of human consciousness asintentionallyin its structure and orientation: The conscious world of experience is "intended", "meant", "constituted", "constructed" by consciousness. So objectivity can havemeaningonly within the domain of the subject, the realm of consciousness. That's not itexistencethe objective world is constituted by consciousness, but that themeaningthis world is like that. In Husserlian language, theexistenceof the objective worldtranscendent, i.e. independent of consciousness; but themeaningof the objective worldimmanent, i.e. dependent on consciousness. In Mead's "phenomenology" of historical experience, then, one can say that the past has an objective existence, but thatmeaningof the past is constituted or constructed according to the intentional concerns of historical thought. The meaning of the past ("what happened") is defined by a historical awareness rooted in a present and opening to a newly emerging future.

The story is based on human action in response to emerging events. Action is an attempt to adapt to changes that occur in experience; the telos of the act is the restoration of a broken continuity. Since the past is helpful in restoring continuity, adapting to what is emerging requires creating history. "By looking into the future," Mead notes, "society acquired a history" (The philosophy of the law494). And the future orientation of history means that every new discovery, every new project will change our picture of the past.

Although Mead discounts the possibility of a transcendent past (that is, a past independent of any present), he does not deny the possibility of validity in historical accounts. A historical account will be valid or correct, but not absolutein relationship toa specific emergent context. Accounts of the past “become valid in the interpretation of [the world] inasmuch as they represent a history of becoming in [the world] leading up to the becoming of today . . . . ” (The philosophy of the present9). Historical thinking is valid in that it makes change understandable and allows action to continue. Relying on an absolutely correct account of the past is not only impossible, but also irrelevant to the actual conduct of historical inquiry. A meaningful past is ausablepast.

Historians, of course, deal with thetruthhistorical reports, i.e. with the "objectivity" of the past. Historical conscience seeks to reconstruct the past based on evidence and present an accurate interpretation of history's dates. Mead's argument is that all such reconstructions and interpretations of the past are grounded in a present opening into a future, and that the temporal nature and interests of historical thought make the construction of a purely "objective" historical account impossible. Historical consciousness is "subjective" in the sense that it aims at a human-oriented interpretation of the pastsensiblein the present and in the foreseeable future. Therefore, for Mead, historical inquiry is the imaginative but honest, intelligent, and understandable reconstruction and interpretation of the human past on the basis of all available and relevant evidence. The historian tries above all to define itmeaningof the human past and thus make a contribution to mankind's search for a comprehensive understanding of human existence.

sociality and time

The emergent event is thus fundamental to Mead's theory of time. The emergent event is a becoming, an unexpected event "which, in its relation to other events, gives structure to time" (The philosophy of the present21). But what is the ontological status of emergence? How does it relate to the general structure of reality? The possibility of emergence is based on Mead's conception of connectedness, the "sociality" of natural processes.

Mead's philosophy springs from a basic ecological vision of the world, a vision of the world that includes a variety of related systems (e.g., the bee system and the flower system, which together form the bee-flower system). Nature is a system of systems or relationships; it is not a collection of particles or fragments that are actually separate. For Mead, awards are abstractions within fields of activity; and all natural objects (animate or inanimate) exist within systems, without which the existence of the objects themselves is unthinkable.

The sense of the organic body arises in relation to "external" objects; and these external objects in turn derive their character from their relation to an organic individual. The body-object and the physical object arise in relation to one another, and this relation, in Mead's view, constitutes the reality of each referent. “Opposite the surfaces of other things, the organism's exterior arises in experience, and then the experiences of the organism that are not in such contact become the organism's interior. It is a process by which the organism becomes limited and other things become limited as well" (The philosophy of the law160). Similarly, the object's resistance to organic pressure is actually theactivityof the object; and this activity becomes the "inside" of the object. Moreover, the interior of the object is not a projection of the organism, but onetherein the relation between organism and thing (cfThe philosophy of the present122-124, 131, 136). The relation between organism and object is thus asocialRelationship (That Philosophy von the Law109-110).

Therefore, the relationship between a natural object (or event) and the system in which it exists is not one-way. The character of the object is determined on the one hand by its affiliation to a system; but on the other hand the character of the system is determined by the activity of the object (or event). There is mutual determination of object and system, organism and environment, perceptual event and assent set (The philosophy of the law330).

While this mutuality of individual and system is characteristic of all natural processes, Mead is particularly concerned with the biological realm and places great emphasis on the interdependence and interaction of organism and environment. While the environment provides the conditions under which the organism's actions arise as possibilities, it is the activity of the organism that changes the character of the environment. Thus, "an animal with the ability to digest and assimilate what previously could not be digested and assimilated is the condition for the appearance of food in its environment" (The philosophy of the law334). In this respect, “what the individual is determines the character of his environment” (The philosophy of the law338).

The relationship between organism and environment is not static but dynamic. The activities of the environment change the organism, and the activities of the organism change the environment. The relationship between organism and environment is also complex rather than simple. The environment of any organism contains a multitude of processes, perspectives, systems, each of which can become a factor in the organism's sphere of activity. The organism's ability to act in relation to a variety of situations is an example of the sociality of natural events. And by virtue of this sociality, this "ability to be several things at once" (That Philosophy von the Currently49) that the organism is able to encounter new events.

Through the transition from one system to another, the organism is confronted with unfamiliar and unexpected situations which, due to their novelty, pose problems of adaptation for the organism. These emerging situations are possible given the variety of natural processes and the ability of natural events (e.g., organisms) to occupy multiple systems simultaneously. A bee, for example, is capable of forming relationships with other bees, with flowers, with bears, with little boys, albeit with different attitudes. But sociality is not limited to animated events. A mountain can simultaneously be an aspect of geography, part of a landscape, an object of religious worship, the dialectic pole of a valley, and so on. The ability to socialize is a universal property of nature.

There are thus two kinds of sociality: (1) Sociality characterizes the "process of readjustment" by which an organism incorporates an emerging event into its ongoing experience. This sociality in transition, which is “given in the immediate relationship between past and present”, is constitutedthe temporal Modus von sociality(The philosophy of the present51). (2) A natural event is social not only because of its dynamic relationship to emerging situations, but also because of its simultaneous belonging to different systemsat any given immediate. In any given present tense, "the object's location in one system also places it in the others" (The philosophy of the present63). The object is social, not only in terms of its temporal relationships, but also in terms of its relationships to other objects in a current field. This kind of sociality constitutes the emergent event; That is, the state of a system at any given point in time is the social reality within which emerging events occur, and that reality must be adjusted to the necessities of the time. The principle of sociality is thus the ontological basis of Mead's concept of emergence: sociality is the reason for the possibility of emergence and the basis on which emergent events are incorporated into the structure of ongoing experience.

Temporality and the problem of freedom

When Mead's theory of the self is placed in the context of his description of the temporality of human existence, it is possible to construct an account not only of the reality of human freedom, but also of the conditions that lead to the experience of freedomLossthe freedom.

Mead bases his analysis of human consciousness on the social communication process and, on this basis, makes “the other” an integral part of self-understanding. The world in which the self lives is thus an intersubjective and interactive world - a "populated world" containing not only the individual self but also other persons. Intersubjectivity can be explained in terms of this "meeting of spirits" that takes place in conversation, learning, reading and thinking (The philosophy of the law52-53). On the basis of such socio-symbolic interactions between individuals and through the conceptual symbols of the communication process, the mind and the self emerge.

The human world is also temporally structured, and the temporality of experience, Mead argues, is a flow that is primarycurrently. The past is part of my experiencenow, and the projected future is also part of my experiencenow. There is hardly a moment when I turn to the temporality of my life that I am not in the presentnow. So it seems that whateverisTo me,is now; and, needless to say, whatever isvon meaningor whatever issensibleis important or useful to menow. This also applies if what is important and meaningful to me is located in the "past" or in the "future". existential time istime lived in the now. My existence is rooted in a "living present" and in that "living present" my life unfolds and reveals itself. Therefore, in order to gain full contact with oneself, it is necessary to focus one's awareness on the present and appropriate that present (this "existential situation") as one's own.

This "philosophy of the present" need not lead to a carefree "live only for today" attitude. Our past is always with us (in the form of memory, history, tradition, etc.) and provides a context for the 'living present'. We live “in the present” but also “from the past”; andto live Gut now, we cannot afford to “forget” the past. A full human existence must be lived “now” but with constant reference to the past: we must continue to affirm “what was good” and we must work to eliminate or close “what was bad”. avoid. Furthermore, a full human existence must be lived, not only in-the-present-from-the-past, but also in-the-present-in-the-future. The human present opens up to the future. "Today" must always be lived with concern for "tomorrow", because we are constantly moving towards the future, whether we want to or not. Furthermore, we are “called” into this future, to ever new possibilities; and we must, if we are to live well, develop a "right mindfulness" that directs our present awareness to the possibilities and challenges of the future ahead. But we must "live now" in relation to the past and future.

The self, as we have seen, is characterized in part by its activity (the "I") in response to its world, andhowThe individual is active in relation to his world through his choices and awareness of his choices. The individual experiences that they have choices or are confronted with situations that require decisions on their part. He does not (usually) experience himself as being ruled by the world. The world presents him with obstacles, and yet he learns that he is able to respond to those obstacles in a variety of (albeit finite) ways.

One loses one's freedom, even one's selfhood, when one is unaware of one's choices or when one refuses to face the factshatchoices. From the standpoint of Mead's description of the temporality of action and his emphasis on the importance of problematic situations in human experience, emergencies or "crises" in one's life are of the utmost existential importance. I am a being that existsin relationship toone World. As such, it is essential that I experience myself as "in tune with" the world; and if this proves difficult or impossible, then I am thrown into a "crisis," i.e., threatenedseparation(Greek,Crisis) from the world; and separation from the world, from the point of view of being-in-the-world, is tantamount to non-being. In this context, the loss of one's freedom, the experience of lost autonomy, becomes a real possibility. When the individual encounters a crisis in the life process, he may well find himself paralyzed, “stuck” in his situation, patient, and not a changemaker. But it is also the case that experiences of crisis can lead to a deeper sense of active participation in the temporal unfolding of life. In Mead's view, a crisis is a 'critical time' or turning point in the individual's existence: negatively, it is a threat to the individual's continuity in and with his world; On the positive side, it is an opportunity to redefine, expand, and deepen the individual's sense of self and the world to which the self is ontologically related.

So it seems that crises can actually undermine the sense of freedom of choice; but it is also true that crises present opportunities for the exercise of freedom, since such "ruptures" or discontinuities in our experience require us to make decisions about what we "will do now." break this way-depthscould be considered a breakthrough. Freedom denied at one level of experience is rediscovered at another. You have to lose yourself to find yourself.

5. Perception and reflection: Mead's theory of perspectives

Mead's concept of sociality, as we have seen, implies a vision of reality as situational or perspective. One perspective is "the world in its relation to the individual and the individual in his relation to the world" (The philosophy of the law115). Thus, a perspective is a situation in which a perceiving event (or individual) exists in relation to a consentable crowd (or environment) and in which a consensusable crowd exists in relation to a perceiving event. There are obviously many such situations (or perspectives). These are not, in Mead's view, imperfect representations of "an absolute reality" that transcends all particular situations. On the contrary, "these situations are the reality" that the world is (The philosophy of the law215).

remote experience

For Mead, perceptual objects arise within the action and are instrumental in the completion of the action. At the perceptual level of action these are objectsawayfrom the perceiving individual: they are "over there"; they are "not here" and "not now". Distance is both spatial and temporal. Such objects invite the perceiving individual to act in relation to them, to “get in touch” with them. Thus, Mead speaks of perceptual objects as "plans of action" that "direct" the "action of the individual" (The philosophy ofPresent 176 andThe philosophy of the law262). Distance experience implies contact experience. Perception leads to manipulation.

Mead calls the individual's willingness to make contact with distant objects a "terminal attitude". Terminal settings "are beginnings of the contact response that will be made to the object upon reaching the object" (The philosophy of the law161). Such attitudes "are those which, if translated into overt action, would lead to movements which, if continued, would transcend the distances and bring the objects into the manipulative sphere" (The philosophy of the law171). A final pose, then, is an implicit manipulation of a distant object; it stands at the beginning of the act and is an intellectual-emotional attitude in the sense of which the individual encounters the world. As present at the beginning of the plot, the final attitude contains the later stages of the plot in the sense that perception implies manipulation and manipulation is aimed at solving a problem. All stages of the act interpenetrate in terminal attitudes.

So within the plot there is a tendency on the part of the perceiving individual to approach distant objects in terms of the "values ​​of the manipulative sphere". Distant objects are "perceived with the dimensions they would be if they were placed in the field in which we could both manipulate and see them" (The philosophy of the law170-171). For example, a distant formseenas being tactile, as having a certain size and weight, as having this and that texture, and so on. In perception, the range of manipulation is expanded, and the distant object hypothetically becomes a contact object.

In the immediate perceptual experience, the distant object lies in the future. Contact with the remote object is implicit, i.e.expected. "Perception," says Mead, "is there as a promise" (The philosophy of the law103). Inasmuch as the act of perception involves terminal attitudes, the promise (or future) of the distant object is 'collapsed' into a hypothetical 'now' in which the perceiving individual and the perceptual object coexist. The temporal distance between the individual and the object is thus abolished; this disruption in time permits alternative (and perhaps contradictory) contact responses to the object to be "tested" in the imagination. Thus, the action can be "completed" in the abstract before it is actually completed. In this sense, "perception is a collapsed act" (The philosophy of the law128).

The simultaneity of individual and distant object is an abstraction in the act. In the collapsed act, time is abstracted from space “for the purposes of our behavior” (The philosophy of the present177). Before the actual manipulation, the perceiving individual anticipates a multitude of ways in which a given object will be usedcouldbe manipulated. This implicit testing of alternative responses to the distant object is the essence of reflective behavior. The actual futureness of the distant object is canceled and the object is dealt withas ifit was present in the manipulation area. The time of collapsed action is therefore an abstracted time involving “the experience of inhibited action, in which the goal is presented as attained by the individual assuming the attitude of contact reaction, thereby abandoning the events that should have elapsed between the beginning and the end of the act only in its abstracted character as passing” (The philosophy of the law232).

Thus, in the abstracted time of the collapsed act, “certain objects cease to be events, cease to pass away as they do in reality, and in their persistence become conditions of our action, and events take place in relation to them” (The philosophy of the present177). The terminal attitudes of the perceiving individual constitute an anticipatory contact experience in which the future of distant objects is reduced to an abstract simultaneity. As we have seen, this reduction of the future is important for the reflective behavior of the acting individual.

In perception, distant objects are reduced to the manipulative area and become (hypothetical) contact objects. "The bases of perception are the spatial-temporal distances of objects that are outside the sphere of manipulation and the willingness of the organism to behave towards them as they will be when they come into the sphere of manipulation" (The philosophy of the law104). Perception involves assuming contact qualities in the distant object. The object is removed from its actual position in time and incorporated into a "permanent" space, which is actually the space of "the hypothetical extended sphere of manipulation" (The philosophy of the law185). The object that is actually spatiotemporal distant becomes hypothetical and spatiotemporal for the purposes of reflective behaviorcurrently: It is in the acceptance of the contact attitude by the perceiving individual both "here" and "now".


In an attempt to ground the theories and methods of modern science in a philosophical framework, early modern perceptual calculations distinguished between the "primary" and "secondary" properties of objects. Galileo articulated the latter distinction as follows:

I feel compelled by the need, as soon as I comprehend a piece of matter or body, to imagine that it is in its own nature limited and figured in this and that shape, that it is either large or small in relation to others, that it in this or that place, at this or that time, in motion or at rest. . . that it is simple, few or many; in short, no body can be separated from such states by any imagination: but that it must be white or red, bitter or sweet, ringing or dumb, of a pleasant or unpleasant odour, I do not see my mind compelled to recognize this necessarily accompanying by such terms; So if the senses were not the companions, perhaps reason or imagination alone would never have reached them. So I think that on the side of the object in which they appear to exist, these tastes, smells, colors, etc., are nothing but mere names, but reside only in the sensitive body; so that if the beast were removed every such quality would be abolished and annihilated (quoted by E. A. Burtt,The metaphysical foundations of modern physics[Doubleday, 1932], 85-86).

Another way of putting it is to say that theprimary qualitiesof an object are those that are subject to precise mathematical calculation, while thesecondary qualitiesof the object are those that are rooted in the sensitivity of the perceiving organism and are therefore not "objectively" quantifiable. The primary qualities (number, position, extent, mass, etc.) aretherein the object, but the secondary qualities aresubjectiveReactions of the sensitive organism to the object. A corollary of this doctrine is that because the primary qualities are objective, they are "more knowable" than the subjective secondary qualities.

A serious breakdown in the theory of primary and secondary qualities appeared in George Berkeley's critical epistemology. According to Berkeley, everything we know about objects is based on perception. Both the primary and secondary properties of objects are captured in sensation. Furthermore, primary qualities are never perceived except in conjunction with secondary qualities. Both primary and secondary qualities are therefore derived from perception and are ideas "in the mind". When we 'know' the primary properties of an object, we 'know' our own ideas and feelings. With this, Berkeley questions the “objectivity” of primary qualities; these qualities, it seems, depend on a perceiving organism as much as secondary qualities. The result of Berkeley's radical subjectivism (culminating in Hume's skepticism) is an epistemological crisis in which the "knowability" of the outside world becomes problematic.

Mead's account of distance experience provides a description of the experiential basis of the separation of primary and secondary qualities. In the exigencies of action, as we have seen, there is a tendency on the part of the acting individual to reduce distant objects to the area of ​​contact. "It is this breakdown of the act," says Mead, "that accounts for the so-called subjective nature of the secondary qualities. . . [of] objects" (The philosophy of the law121). The object's contact characters become the main focus within the act, while the distance characters are sidelined (ie held in abeyance or ignored for the time being). For behavioral purposes, "The reality of what we see is what we can handle" (The philosophy of the law105). In Mead's analysis of perception, the distinction between distance and contact character corresponds roughly to the traditional distinction between secondary and primary qualities. For Mead, however, the distance characters of an object are not "subjective" but just as objective as the contact characters. Distance signs (like color, sound, smell and taste) arethereas a matter of fact; they appear in the transition from impulse to perception and are even present in manipulation: “In the manipulative realm one actually manipulates the colored, smelling, sounding, tasty object. The distant signs no longer seem distant, and the object responds to a collapsed act" (The philosophy of the law121).

Mead's theory of perspectives is essentially an attempt to make clear the objective intentionality of perceptual experience. In Mead's relational conception of biological existence there is a mutual determination of organism and environment; the character of the organism determines the environment, just as the character of the environment determines the organism.

In his rejection of direct environmental determinism, Mead points out that the sensitivity, selectivity, and organizational capacity of organisms are sources of form's control of the environment. At the human level, for example, we find the phenomenon ofattention. Man chooses his stimuli and thereby organizes the field in which he acts. Attention is thus characterized by its selectivity and organizational tendency. “Here we have the organism acting and determining its environment. It is not simply a series of passive senses acted upon by external stimuli. The organism goes out and determines what it will react to and organizes the world" (mind, self and society25). Attention is the basis of human intelligence; It is the ability to pay attention that gives us control over our experience and behavior. Attention is one of the elements of human freedom.

The relationship between organism and environment is, in a word,interactive. The perceptual object arises within this interactive matrix and is "determined by its reference to a perceptible event or individual in an consenting set" (The philosophy of the law166). In other words, objects of perception are determined in perspective, and perspectives are determined by perceiving individuals.

Clearly, even if we consider only sensory data, the object is a function of the whole situation, the perspective of which is determined by the individual. There are peculiarities in the objects that depend on the individual as an organism and the spatiotemporal position of the individual. It is one of the important results of modern relativity that we are forced to recognize that we cannot explain these peculiarities by specifying the individual in relation to his environment. (The philosophy of the law224).

The perceiving individual cannot be explained in terms of the so-called outside world, since this individual is a necessary condition for the appearance of this world.

With this, Mead leaves the subject of Newtonian physics on the basis of his interpretation of the theory of relativity. But he denies not only the concrete existence of independent objects, but also the existence of the independent psyche. There is nothing subjective about the perceptual experience. If objects exist in relation to the perceiving individual, it is also true that the perceiving individual exists in relation to objects. The qualities of objects (both distance and contact qualities) exist in the relationship between the perceiving individual and the world. The so-called secondary sensual qualities are therefore objectively present in the individual-world matrix; sensual charactersis therein a certain perspective on reality.

In actual perceptual experience, the object is objectively present in relation to the individual. If the relationship between the world and the perceiving individual led Berkeley to a radical subjectification of experience, Mead's relationism leads him to an equally radical oneobjectificationfrom experience.

Perspectives, in Mead's view, are objectively real. Perspectives are "present in nature," and natural reality is the entire "organization of perspectives." There is, as far as we can, directknows, no natural reality beyond the organization of perspectives, no noumena, no independent "world of physical particles in absolute space and time" (The philosophy of the present163). The cosmos is nature layered into a multitude of perspectives, all interrelated. Perspective layers of nature "are not only in nature, but they are the only natural forms that exist" (The philosophy of the present171).

The scientific object

Mead distinguishes two main types of perspectives: (1) the perceptual perspective and (2) the reflective perspective. Aperceptual perspectiveis rooted in the space-time world where action is unreflective. This is the world of immediate perceptual experience. Areflective perspectiveis an answer to the world of perceptual perspectives. The perspectives of fig trees and wasps are perceptually independent from the standpoint of the trees and wasps (considered hypothetically) up to certain points of intersection (i.e. actual contacts). "But in the reflective perspective of the man who plants the fig trees and ensures the presence of the wasps, both life stories unfold, and their intersection offers a dimension from which their connection takes its kind" (The philosophy of the law185). Reflectively, the fig tree perspective and the wasp perspective form a single perspective "which includes the perspectives of both" (The philosophy of the law184). The world of reflective perspectives is the world of reflective thought and action, the world of distant experience, and the world of scientific research. Within the reflective perspective, the hypothetical objects of the collapsed act emerge. Since Mead's concept of distance experience has already been discussed, the present analysis focuses on the emergence of the scientific object in reflective experience.

Corresponding to the two types of perspectives outlined above are two attitudes toward the perceptual objects that arise in experience. First, and according to the perceptual perspective, there is "the attitude of immediate experience" grounded in "the world that is there" (The philosophy of the law14).The world that is(an expression Mead uses over and over again) encompasses our own actions, our own bodies, and our own psychological responses to the things that arise in our ongoing activity. perceptual objects, inthe world that is, are what they appear to be in relation to the perceiving individual.

The second attitude toward perceptual objects is that of "reflective analysis," which attempts to set forth the premises of perceptual experience. This attitude corresponds to the reflective perspective. Scientific objects are constructed through reflective analysis of perceptual objects. Examples of scientific objects are the Newtonian notions of absolute space and time, the concept of the world in an instant (absolute simultaneity), the notion of “ultimate elements” (atoms, electrons, particles), and so on. According to Mead, such objects are hypothetical abstractions that arise in the scientific attempt to explain the world of immediate experience. "The whole tendency of the natural sciences, as particularly shown in physics and chemistry, is to replace the objects of immediate experience with hypothetical objects which lie outside the realm of possible experience" (The philosophy of the law291). Scientific items are not items of experience. Science explains the perceptible in terms of the imperceptible (and often thatI amperceptible).

There is a danger in the reflective analysis ofthe world that is, namely the objectification of scientific objects and the subjectification of perceptual objects. That is, it is possible to conceive of the perceptual world as a product of organic sensibility (including human consciousness), while the world of scientific objects is "conceived as entirely independent of perceiving individuals" (The philosophy of the law284-285). According to Mead, this formulation of the relationship between objects of science and objects of perception is “completely uncritical” (The philosophy of the law19). The supposed separation of scientific and perceptual objects leads to a "forked nature" in which experience is cut off from reality by the dualism of primary and secondary qualities. Mead's criticism of the latter doctrine, discussed above, reveals that "the organism is a part of the physical world which we explain" (The philosophy of the law21). and that the object of perception with all its properties is objectively present in the relation between organism and world. The scientific object also has a final reference to the world of perception. The act of reflective analysis within which the scientific object arises presupposesthe world that isin the perceptual experience. Scientific objects are abstractions within the act of reflection and are in fact attempts to explain the objects of perceptual experience. And it's closedthe world that isthat the scientist must go to confirm or refute the hypothetical objects of scientific theory.

Reflective analysis, then, arises within and presupposes an unreflective world of immediate experience. And it is this immediate world "that is the ultimate test of the reality of scientific hypotheses, as well as the test of the truth of all our ideas and assumptions" (mind, self and society352). Immind, self and societyMead refers to the unreflective world as the world of the "biological individual". "The term," he emphasizes,

refers to the individual in an attitude and moment where the impulses maintain an unbroken relationship with the objects around them. . . . I called it "biological" because the term puts the emphasis on the living reality that can be distinguished from reflection.A later consideration returns to thisand strives to represent the full interrelationship between the world and the individual in terms of physical stimuli and biological mechanisms [scientific objects]; the actual experience did not take place in this [hypothetical] form, but in the form of simple reality (mind, self and society352, 353, emphasis added).

The world that isis before the reflective world of scientific theory. The objectification of scientific objects at the expense of perceptual experience is, in Mead's view, the product of an "uncritical scientific imagination" (The philosophy of the law21).

Mead's analysis of the scientific object is an attempt to establish the actual relationship between reflective analysis and perceptual experience. His goal is to show the objective reality of the world of perception. However, he does not deny the reality of scientific objects. Scientific objects are hypothetical objects that are real in that they make the world of experience understandable and controllable. Harold N. Lee, in his discussion of Mead's philosophy, points out that “the task of science is to understand the world in which we live and to enable us to act intelligently in it; It's not about constructing a new and artificial world unless the artificial image helps to understand and control the world we live in.The artificial image is irreplaceable for the world(Lee 56, emphasis added). Scientific knowledge is not definitive but hypothetical; and the reality of scientific objects is therefore hypothetical rather than absolute.

Reflective behavior takes place in relation to problems that arisethe world that is, and the construction of scientific objects aims to solve these problems. Problematic situations ariseinside the world that is; not the whole world of experience becomes problematic, but only aspects of this world. And while the scientific attitude is "ready to question everything," it does not "question everything at once" (selected Writings200). “The scientist,” says Mead, “is always studying oneindeedproblem;" he does not question "the whole world of meaning", but only that part of the world that has come into conflict with the accepted doctrine. The undisputed aspects of the world "form the necessary field without which no conflict can arise". "The possible questioning of any content, of whatever kind, always means that a field of unquestioned reality remains" (selected Writings205). The scientist returns to this field of undisputed reality to test his reconstructed theory. "The world of the scientist is always there, as one in which conversions take place with constant shifting of problems, but asa real worldwithin which the problems arise” (selected Writings206, emphasis added).

6. Philosophy of History

a. The essence of the story

History, according to Mead, is the collective time of the social act. Historical thinking arises in response to emerging events (crises, new situations, unexpected disruptions) that confront community life. Mead's general description of experiential time applies in relation to the time of historical experience: the continuity of experience is made problematic by the emergent event; Present and future are cut off from each other, the past (both in its content and in its meaning) is questioned; the past is reconstructed in such a way that the emerging event is seen as continuous with the past. In this way the present difficulty becomes understandable and the resulting discontinuity of experience potentially solvable. Historical thinking is a reconstruction of a communal past in an attempt to understand the nature and meaning of a communal present and a (potential) communal future. Historical accounts are never definitive, as historical thinking constantly reformulates the past in terms of emerging situations in a present that opens up to a future.

Human life is an ongoing process structured in time. The existential present, the "now" in which we act, is dynamic and implies a past and a future. The idea of ​​the world in a moment (the present on the razor's edge), according to Mead, is an abstraction within the plot that can help in the pursuit of completion; but as a description of concrete experience, the present on the razor's edge is athreadbarecurrently. The apparent present is not the actual present of ongoing experience. The present, in Mead's words, "is something that happens, goes on" (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century300). “Our experience is always a passing experience, and . . . this passing experience always involves an expansion into other experiences. It is what has just happened, what is going on, what is appearing in the future that gives our experience its special character. It's never just a moment's experience. There is no experience of a mere moment as such" (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century299). Human experience is inherently dynamic, and human life is built on a temporal basis.

The emerging event is the basis of novelty in experience. This novelty is characteristic not only of the present, but also of the past and future. On the one hand, the future lies beyond the emergent present; and the novelty of the future takes the form of the unexpected. The emerging event creates a future that surprises us. The past, on the other hand, must be reinterpreted in the light of the unfolding event; the result of such reinterpretation is nothing less than anew past. Awareness of the past develops in response to upcoming events that alter our sense of temporal relationships.

We find that each generation has a different history, that reconstructing its history is part of each generation's apparatus. Not only with every author but with every generation another Caesar crosses the Rubicon. That is, if we look back at the past, it's a different past. The experience is something like that of a person climbing a mountain. Looking back at the terrain covered always shows a different picture. So the past is constantly changing if we look at it from the perspective of different authors, different generations. So it's not just the future [and present] that's new; the past is also new (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century116-117).

History is the reconstruction of the past in response to a new present opening up to a new future. This emphasis on the novelty of human experience pervades Mead's thought. According to Mead, science thrives on novelty. Scientific research is essentially a response to exceptions to the law. While science on the one hand defines knowledge as "finding units, finding rules, laws" (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century270), but on the other hand it also tries to shake all uniformities, rules and laws by striving for something new. Scientific research arises from the conflict between what was expected and what actually happens; Contradictions in experience are starting points for the scientific reconstruction of knowledge (Mead,selected Writings188).

For Mead, science is a continuous reconstruction of our worldview in response to new situations. Mead's slogan for science is: “The law is dead; Long live the law!" (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century286). Science is a form of human existence, a way of moving with the changes that are unfolding before us. Science is essentially "a method, a way of understanding the world" (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century288).

History is the science of the human past. Historical research presents the past "on the basis of current documents and their historically critical interpretation" (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century448). But the historical past, as we have seen, is not independent of the present and the future. Historical research, like scientific research in general, takes place in a present that has been made problematic by the occurrence of an emergent event. In Asia Minor, an ancient village is unearthed and the rise of human civilization is suddenly thrown back five thousand years; Afro-American demands for freedom and identity lead to a revaluation of black culture with regard to its historical roots.

In Mead's conception of the historical method, the past isinpresent and becomes meaningfulinthe gift. As Tonness has suggested, the past is not a "metaphysical reality amenable to present activities" but an "epistemological reference system" that gives coherence to the emerging present (606). Historical thinking continually reconstructs the past in an attempt to uncover the cognitive meaning of the present and future.

Not only the content of the past is subject to change. have past eventsmeaningswhich also change as new events emerge in the ongoing experience. The meaning of past events is determined by the relationship of those events to a present. The elucidation of such a meaning is the task of historical thinking and research. A historical account, as we have seen, is true to the extent that the present is made coherent by reference to past events. Historical thinking reinterprets the past in relation to the present. But this reinterpretation is not capricious. The historical past arises in the processing and representation ofproof. Historical accounts must bedocumented. However, no historical account is definitive. The meaning of the past is always in question; any given interpretation of the past can be criticized from the standpoint of another interpretation.

The historical truth is in Mead's viewrelativeTruth. The meaning of the past changes as the present slides into the present (The philosophy of the present9) and when different individuals and groups are confronted with new situations that require a temporal reintegration of experiences. A new present suggests a new future and demands a new past. This interdependence of past, present and future is the essential character of human temporality and historical consciousness.

b. history and self-awareness

ImMovements of Thought in the 19th CenturyMead offers the romanticism of the late 18th and 19th centuries as an example for the present and future orientation of human past surveys. Mead's description of the reconstruction of Romantic self-consciousness on the basis of a reconstructed past is a concrete illustration of his view of historical consciousness developing in relation to a problematic present. Confronted with the rupture of experience that was the result of the early modern revolution, the romantic historians and philosophers turned to the medieval past to redefine the historical and cultural identity of European man. The main feature of Romantic thought, according to Mead, was an attempt to redefine European self-awareness through the reappropriation of the historical past. "It was the essence of the Romantic movement to go back in time from the point of view of Romantic self-awareness, to become aware of itself in relation to the past" (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century447-448). The European had been cut off from his past by the political and cultural revolutions of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries; and in the post-revolutionary world of the early 19th century, the Romantic movement represented the European search for a reconstructed identity. It was history that provided the basis for this reconstruction.

The revolt of reason against authority

The idea of ​​rationality has played a central role in modern social theory. The revolt against arbitrary authority "came within itself on the basis of a description of human nature as a rational principle from which authority might emanate" (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century12). Thus, the goal of modern social theory has been to ground social institutions in human nature rather than in divine providence. For example, the doctrine of human rights and the idea of ​​the social contract were brought together by Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau to establish the political order in a purely human world. Society was conceived as a voluntary association of individuals; and the object of this union was the preservation of natural rights to such goods as life, liberty, and property. Social authority was thus derived from individuals committed to living together and pursuing specific human ends. This analysis of society was at the root of the revolutionary social criticism of the eighteenth century.

When people came to understand the social order as arising from the rational character of society itself; when they began to criticize institutions in terms of their immediate order-preserving function and to criticize that order in terms of its purpose and function; as they approached the study of the state from a political science perspective; then, of course, they found themselves in opposition to the medieval attitude, which accepted their institutions as God-given to the Church (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century13-14).

But the outcome of the "revolution," according to Mead, was not what the philosophers of the Age of Reason expected. The institutions of the medieval past (e.g. monarchy, theocracy, economic feudalism) were either eliminated or greatly reduced in scope and power. But the new regime itself contained reactionary elements. The victorious bourgeoisie began to build a new class society based on the dialectic of capital and labour; and in this new society, human rights were understood in terms of the successful struggle for economic power (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century223). Every human being was viewed as an “economic entity” and human freedom became freedom to compete in the market for profits (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century217).

The first effects of the rise of capitalist society were devastating for the working class. “As labor was brought to the factory centers, great cities arose in which men and women lived in almost impossible conditions. And factories sprang up around the machine, where men, women and children worked under horrid conditions" (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century206). This situation was rationalized by an ideology that defined human rights in terms of economic competition and that "viewed industry as that which supplies the morals of a working-class community" (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century207).

Under such conditions, the rights and freedoms for which "the revolution" had fought became more ideological than real. Only after the subsequent rise of the trade unions and socialist movements did the contradiction between ideology and reality begin to be overcome.

While "the revolution" was at least partially fulfilled in England and America, from the perspective of the early 19th century on the European continent it was a total failure. The French Revolution degenerated into a period of political terror that laid the foundations for the emergence of Napoleonic imperialism. The ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity proved an insufficient basis for a fully rational society.

These ideals, in Mead's view, are politically naïve. The concept of freedom isNegative; it is a requirement "that the individual should be free from constraints" (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century22). In the real political world, where there is a conflict of wills, the concept of freedom comes into conflict with itself. The freedom of one individual or group often violates the freedom of another individual or group (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century22).

The concept of equality, which requires that “every person . . . the same political [and perhaps economic] standing as any other person" (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century23), is also far from the actual conditions of political and economic life. According to Mead, any society is a complex organization of many individuals and groups. These individuals and groups possess varying degrees of power and prestige. Against this background, the concept of equality is at best an ideal to strive for; but it is not a description of what is happening in the concrete social world.

Likewise, the ideal of brotherhood, the idea of ​​the camaraderie of all men, is "far too vague to make it the basis of state organization." The notion of brotherhood fails to recognize that "people too often have to rely on their hostility toward other people to identify with their own group" (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century24).

The ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity are from Mead's point of viewabstractIdeals that could not survive the post-revolutionary struggles for political supremacy and property control.

The Romantic movement emerged after the failure of the "Revolution". “After the collapse of the revolution, after the failure to organize a society based on liberty, equality and fraternity, there was a sense of defeat. And out of that sense of defeat a new movement has emerged, a movement that goes by the generic name of 'romanticism'" (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century57). The failure of the "revolution" left Europe in disarray. The European's ties to his medieval past were severed, but his revolutionary hopes were not fulfilled. He was caught between two worlds. He couldn't be sure of his identity. His self-esteem was in crisis. Romanticism was an attempt to overcome this crisis through reflection and reconstruction of the European past. Romanticism was thus an attempt to restore continuity between the past, present and future of European culture.

Romantic confidence

The romantic conception of self was a result of Kant's critique of associationism. "What happened in Romanticism along a philosophical line was to take this [the?] transcendental unity of apperception, which for Kant was a mere logical function, together with the postulation of the self which we could not possibly know, but which Kant said we couldn't help but accept and compose her into the new romantic selves" (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century67). However, the romantic self was not conceived as transcendent. The Romantics did not "postulate" the self; youclaimsit "as something immediately given in experience" (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century86). The Romantics agreed with Kant that the self is the basis of all knowledge and judgment. But while the Kantian self was developed as a regulative concept in an attempt to make experience intelligible, the romantic self was seen as constitutive of experience. The Romantics, Mead argues, “stated the existence of our selves as the primary fact. We insist. That gives the values ​​the benchmark. In this situation the self presents itself as its ultimate reality" (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century62). For the Romantics, self-knowledge was not only possible, but was considered the highest form of knowledge.

At the center of the romantic preoccupation with self-confidence was the question of the relationship between subject and object. This question, as we have seen, is also a central concern in Mead's ontology and epistemology. Philosophically, the Romantic analysis of the subject-object relationship arose in relation to what Mead calls "the age-old problem of knowledge": how to be assured that what appears in our cognitive experience is real? (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century80). The early modern revolt of reason against authority had ended in a skepticism which, writes Mead, 'shook all the propositions, all the tenets of medieval philosophy. She had even torn Renaissance philosophy to pieces. It had destroyed [with Hume's analysis of causality] the natural structure of the world that Renaissance science had presented so simply and yet so majestically, this causal structure that led Kant to state that there were two things that overwhelmed him , the starry sky above and the moral law within" (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century80). The Romantics reacted against this skeptical attitude. They approached the problem of cognition from the standpoint of the self. For the Romantics, the self was the precondition of experience; and experience was therefore, including the experience of objects, to be understood in relation to the self. The epistemological problem of romantic philosophy was to assimilate the non-self to the self, to include the objective world in the subjective world, to make the universe as a whole an intimate part of self-consciousness.

As mentioned above, self-awareness works in “reflective mode”. In self-consciousness, the self appears as both subject and object. We can be aware of our consciousness. Mead points out that this reflexivity of consciousness is the basis of Descartes' affirmation of the existence of the self. But the romantic self-awareness goes beyond the CartesianI findin the observation that "the self does not exist except in relation to something else" (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century74). self implies non-self; Subject implies object. For every subject there is an object; and for every object there is a subject. “There can be no one without the other” (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century78).

The latter insight of romantic thought is reflected in a different form in Mead's theory of perspective. The romantic view of the object as a constitutive element of experience marks a movement away from Cartesian subjectivism and toward the objectification of experience found in Mead's perspectivism. “For Descartes, I am conscious and therefore exist; for the romantic, I am conscious of myself, and therefore this self of which I am conscious exists, and with it the objects it knows. The object of cognition is given at least in this way with the same certainty as there, as the thinker is given in the act of thinking" (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century83).

So romance, as Mead portrays it, is not extreme subjectivism. “The romantic attitude is rather the externalization of the self. You project yourself into the world, see the world through the disguise, the veil of your emotions. That is the essential trait of the romantic attitude" (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century75). The world exists in relation to the self; but the world is (objective)thereas a necessary structure of human experience. Self and non-self, subject and object are not opposites but dialectical polarities.

Another aspect of romantic self-awareness is the view that the self is a dynamic process. The polarity of self and not-self is not a static structure but an ongoing relationship, "something that happens" (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century88). "The mere existence of the self," writes Mead,

implies a non-self; it implies a non-self that can be identified with the self. You have seen that the term "self" is a reflective matter. It involves an attitude of separation of the self from itself. Both subject and object are involved in the self in order for it to exist. The self has to be identified with the non-self in a way. It must be able to come back to itself from the outside. So the process involved in the self is the subject-object process, a process in which these two phases of experience lie, a process in which these different phases can be identified with each other - not necessarily as the same phase, but at least as Expressions of the same process (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century88).

The result of this view, according to Mead, is an activist or pragmatic view of mind and knowledge. Knowing is a process involving the interaction of self and non-self. Knowledge is the result of a process in which the self acts in relation to the non-self, in which the non-self is appropriated by the self. In this analysis of Romantic epistemology, the germ of Mead's own "philosophy of the act" emerges. The interaction of self and non-self is the basis not only of our knowledge of the world but also of our knowledge of the self. Self-awareness requires the objectification of the self. The romantic explanation of the polarity of self and non-self makes self-objectification (and thus self-awareness) theoretically comprehensible. In acting against the non-self, self-discovery becomes possible.

The world, Mead wrote, “is organized only insofar as one acts in it. Its importance lies in the behavior of the individual; and when one has constructed one's world as such a field of action, one realizes oneself as the individual who performed that action. Only in this way can he attain a Self. One does not come to oneself simply by turning the eye of introspection upon oneself. You find fulfillment in what you do, in the goals you set, and in the resources you expend to achieve those goals."Movements of Thought in the 19th Century90). The world is a field of action. There are tasks to be completed in this area; and through the accomplishment of tasks, through the self's appropriation of non-self, the self is expanded and realized.

Thus, in Mead's analysis, philosophical romanticism provides a theoretical description of the conditions under which self-awareness is possible. The basic condition of self-awareness, as we have seen, is self-objectification. For Mead, however, the fundamental process of self-objectification occurs in interpersonal experience. “We need to actualize ourselves by taking someone else's role, playing someone else's role, taking the community's attitude towards us, constantly seeing ourselves as others see us, seeing ourselves from the point of view of those around us . That's not the confidence that comes with clumsiness and discomfort. It is the secure recognition of one's own position, of one's own social relationships, which arises from the ability to assume the attitude of others to oneself" (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century95). This interpretation of self-consciousness, which is the essence of Mead's theory of the self, has its roots in the Romantic analysis of the relationship between self and non-self.

History and romantic self-confidence

In Romantic thinking there is a close connection between historical awareness and self-awareness. The Romantic movement grew out of the failure of the bourgeois revolution. The hopes of the Age of Reason had not been fulfilled and the European faced a crisis in his historical sense of identity. Romantic consciousness, Mead argues, was a "discouraged" consciousness. As a reaction to a disappointing present, the romantics in the Middle Ages sought a way of life that brought with it a certain security. But the bourgeois revolution, for all its failures, had created a new concept of the individual. Post-revolutionary man "saw himself as having his own rights, saw himself as having his own feet to stand on." In the Romantic era, European man experienced himself as an individual. “It gave him a certain independence that he didn't have before; it gave him a certain confidence he never had before" (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century59-61). Hence,

Europe discovered the Middle Ages in Romanticism. . . ; but it also discovered itself. In fact, it discovered itself first. She also discovered the apparatus that made this self-discovery possible. The self belongs to the reflective mode. One feels the self only insofar as the self takes on the role of another, becoming both subject and object in the same experience. This is the matter of great importance in this whole historical movement (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century63).

The romantic view of the Middle Ages thus arose in relation to a problematic present and represented an attempt by European man to reconstruct the continuity of his experience. This reconstruction of historical time - which, as indicated above, is collective time - led to the creation of a new sense of collective identity. The romantic conception of the medieval past developed as an attempt to redefine the self. In a way, European man had lost himself, and he turned to history to try to regain his sense of continuity. What Romanticism revealed, then, was not simply a past, but a past as the point of view from which to come back to the self. You have to grow into the attitude of the other, come back to yourself, realize yourself. . . . ” (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century60).

Romance, according to Mead, "is a reconstruction of the self in which the self takes on the role of the great figures of the past" (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century62). By putting yourself in the shoes of others in the past, you can see yourself in a new light. Here Mead reveals yet another form of experience—historical experience—in which the self could be objectified. "That is, the self looked back upon is one's past as found in history. It looked back on it and gave the past a new form than that from which it sprang. It went back in time. It relived the adventures and achievements of these ancient heroes with an interest that children have in the lives of their parents - assuming their roles, recognizing not only the past but the present itself" (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century69). In the romantic search for the "historical connections" between past and present, a new past was created and with it a new sense of "how the present had grown out of the past". History, viewed from the point of view of romantic self-awareness, became the description of "an ordered past" that made the problematic romantic present intelligible. The romantic self-awareness turned to the past, reconstructed the past, and made the past one of the main foundations of the self. The romantic self-confidence was expanded and deepened by the historical awareness. We could say that the Romantic movement reconstructed Western self-awareness through a reconstruction of Western historical awareness.

The bourgeois revolution had severed the link between past and present in early 19th-century Europe and called the future into question. The task of Romanticism was to redefine European self-awareness through a reconstruction of the continuity of historical time. In this way, Romanticism revealed the presence and future orientation of historical consciousness and, at the same time, developed a historically significant self-image that is rooted in the experience of the time.

c. History and the idea of ​​the future

The idea of ​​evolution is central to Mead's philosophy. For Mead, experience is fundamentally processual and temporal. Experience is going through change. Mead's entire ontology is an expression of evolutionary thinking. His concept of reality as a process is ecological in structure and dynamic in content. Nature is a system of systems, a multitude of "transacting" fields and centers of activity. The relationship between organism and environment (perceiving event and consenting crowd) is mutual and dynamic. Both the organism and the environment are active: the activity of the organism changes the environment, and the activity of the environment changes the organism. There is no way to really separate the two, no way to tell what is primary and what is secondary. Thus, Mead's use of the concept of evolution is one aspect of his attempt to avoid behaviorist and environmental determinism, which would view the organism as passive and subject to the whims of nature.

history as evolution

Mead's concept of evolution is formulated in social terms. In Mead's ontology, the whole realm of nature is described as social. The ontological principle of sociality is a fundamentally evolutionary concept that describes reality as a process in which perceiving events adapt to new situations and adapt to a variety of conforming sets.

The spirit as an emergence in the social act of communication lies "within a behavioral process" (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century345) and is time-structured. Reflective intelligence is the peculiarly human way of transcending the conflicts of experience; it is brought into play when there is an inhibition and refers to a future situation in which the inhibition will be overcome (mind, self and society90). And since, as we have seen, the reconstruction of the past is an important element in the temporal organization of human activity, historical consciousness becomes an important tool in the human evolutionary process. Historical thinking redefines the present in terms of a newly interpreted and reconstructed past, thereby facilitating the transition to the future.

Human existence is thus described by Mead in terms of evolution, temporality, and historicity. Human life involves a constant reconstruction of reality with reference to changing conditions and newly emerging situations. According to Mead, this process of evolutionary reconstruction is reflected in institutional change. The historical awareness promoted by Romanticism has allowed us to view human institutions as "structures that arose in a process and at a given moment simply expressed that process" (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century149). For Mead, the ideas of process and structure are not mutually exclusive, but are dialectically related to each other in current historical developments. Historical thinking then becomes a way of penetrating "the structure, the movement, the flow of the process" (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century149).

Historical awareness is one way of understanding change. But it's also a way to encourage change; That is, by understanding the direction of historical change, one can empathize with a given current of change and track the historical success of that current. In this way the historically thinking individual or group can contribute to the development of new structures over time. This, as Mead points out, is a way of "translating revolution into evolution" (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century149).

Mead's conception of historical consciousness is rooted in his view of intelligence as a reconstruction of human experience in response to 'new situations'. As already shown, Mead regards the novel event as the basis of intelligent behavior. “If there were no new situations, our behavior would be completely habitual. . . . Conscious beings are those who are constantly adapting, using their past experiences and reconstructing their methods of behavior. . . . This is intelligence, not in finding out the order of nature once and for all and then acting in certain prescribed forms, but in constant readjustment" (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century290). Historical recourse to the past relates to new situations that arise in a present and foreshadow a future. Human thought, including historical consciousness, is an engagement with the new and aims to move from a problematic present to an unproblematic future. And the past is drawn upon and reconstructed in relation to this project of confronting the new of experience. "When something new arises, the explanation of that novelty is sought in a sequence of events in the past not previously recognized" (Mead, "Relative Space-Time and Simultaneity," 529). As we have seen in the case of the Romantic movement, historical awareness is instrumental in redefining and maintaining the temporal continuity of human experience.

Novelty, for Mead, is the foundation of consciousness, intelligence, and freedom of conduct; it is the ground of human experience. "As for experience, if everything new were abandoned, experience itself would cease" (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century290). Human experience is temporal, and as such "encompasses the constant appearance of that which is new." Thus “we always advance into a future different from the past” (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century290). The future is open and by acting towards the future man becomes an active actor in shaping his own existence.

Although reality always exists in a present, the telos of that reality is found in the future. In Mead's view, the future is one factor, perhaps the main factor, that determines our behavior. It is in the nature of intelligent behavior to be future-oriented. "We naturally move in a process in which the past moves into the present and into the future" (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century509).

Human orientation towards the future is the basis of freedom. The mechanistic world view is inadequate as an explanation of freedom; Indeed, since mechanism denies the possibility of final causes and seeks to explain everything in terms of effective causes, it must deny the possibility of freedom. And yet the "nature of behavior" is "that it is directed toward goals, purposes not yet real but effective in determining the directions in which behavior should take" (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century317).

Goals are chosen by the organism as opposed to effective causes; and our selection of targets is not explainable (or predictable) on the basis of effective causes. “So the interpenetration of experience goes into the future. The essence of reality includes the future as essential in itself. . . . The coming of the future into our behavior is the very nature of our freedom" (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century317).

Human action is action for the future. The past does not determine human behavior (although it conditions it); rather, it is human behavior that determines the past. Human action takes place in an open-ended present, and in terms of the emerging present and imminent future, the content and meaning of the past are determined. Human actions are teleological rather than mechanical. Thus, as Strauss suggests, Mead's evolutionism allows "to question mechanical notions of action and the world, and to formulate problems of autonomy, freedom, and innovation in evolutionary and social rather than mechanistic and individualistic terms" (xviii).

The ideal of history

Although Mead describes human existence as moving toward an open future that cannot be definitively predicted, he does not ignore the fact that there are ideals at work in directing human action. "Aware of social realities and wary of utopian panaceas, [Reck writes] he resorts to the method of science rather than to authoritarian religions or traditional customs in matters of morality, aware that human beings are born of impulse and instinct as well as also consist of intelligence, Mead nonetheless recognized that there are ideal ends that serve as standards and goals for human behavior” (“Introduction” xl). That many of the ideal goals that human beings have pursued have been naïve (that is, at odds with the realities of social and political life) is evident in Mead's critique of the notions of liberty, equality, and fraternity. In the irony of the story, attempts to translate such ideals into reality have often met with frustration. For this reason, Mead argues that ideal goals must in some sense be grounded in historical reality; otherwise they become either fanciful desires or mere ideological and rhetorical statements.

Of the many ideals that have influenced human behavior, Mead singles out one for special consideration: the ideal ofuniversal community. This ideal has cropped up throughout the history of human thought and is, in Mead's view, "the ideal or ultimate goal of human social progress" (mind, self and society310). The ideal of the world community is therefore the ideal of history. According to this ideal, the aim of history is to establish "a society in which everyone will recognize the interests of all", a society "in which the golden rule shall be the rule of conduct, i. H. a society in which everyone should make the interests of others his own" (Movements of Thought in the 19th Century362). The vision of the universal community is in fact the basis of the philosophy of history as a distinct form of thought. "A philosophy of history arose as soon as people imagined that society was moving toward the realization of triumphant goals in some great, distant event. It became necessary to relate present behavior and ephemeral values ​​to the ultimate values ​​towards which creation was moving" (The philosophy of the law504). This is the eschatological vision underlying the historical conceptions of St. Paul, St. Augustine, Hegel, Marx, Herbert Spencer, and, as we shall see, Mead himself.

However, the ideal of universal community is “an abstraction” in that it does not materialize in the concrete world. In the life of the realities of political and social conflict (eg, the conflict between private and public interests), the ideal of universal community stands outside of history. And yet this ideal is in a sense onehistoricalIdeal; that is, the ideal of universal community, though notexplicitin the story is according to Meadimplicitlyin the historical process. The ideal works on the one hand in the hopes of mankind, on the other hand it is potentially present in certain concrete historical forces. Among these historical forces, Mead finds three of particular importance: (1) the universal religions; (2) universal economic processes; and (3) the communication process.

Both economic processes and universal religions tend towards a universal community. Religious and economic attitudes potentially tend towards “a social organization that transcends the actual structure into which individuals find themselves embedded” (mind, self and society290). Trade and love are both potentially universalizing ideas, and both have been important factors in the development of human societies. The forces of exchange and love know no bounds; all people are included (albeit abstractly) in the community of exchange and love. Although the religious attitude is a deeper form of identification with others, precisely because of its relative superficiality, the economic process "can advance faster and allow for easier communication". "It is important to recognize," writes Mead, that these religious and economic developments toward a universal community "continue in history" (mind, self and society296-197). That is, the movement towards a universal community is an inherent process and not just an abstract idea. Human history seems to imply a universal community.

A third historical force implying universality is the process of communication, to which Mead devotes so much attention in his various works. Language, as we have seen, is the matrix of social coordination. A linguistic gesture is an action that implies a response from another and whose meaning depends on that response. The process of communication is a way of pointing to others, a way of transcending oneself, a way of taking on the role of another. The linguistic act both presupposes and implies a human community of indefinite and unlimited extent.

"Language," according to Mead, "provides a universal community that is something like the economic community" (mind, self and society283). Through significant communication, the individual is able to generalize their experiences to include the experiences of others. The world of "thought and reason" that emerges from the social act of communication is almost by definition transpersonal and therefore verges on the universal. Social organization and social interaction require a commonality of meaning, a “universe of discourse” within which individual actions can acquire meaning (mind, self and society89-90). The process of significant communication is the source of this universe of discourse.

It is Mead's contention that "the world of thought" created by significant communication represents the broadest of any human community to date. The group "defined by the logical universe of discourse" is the most general of all human groups - the one that "claims the largest number of individual members". This group is based on "the universal function of gestures as significant symbols in the general human social communication process" (mind, self and society157-158). This universalizing tendency of language comes closer to the realization of the ideal community than the religious and economic attitudes. The latter actually presuppose the communication process: religion and economy organize themselves as social acts on the basis of communication.

Mead thus formulates the ideal of history in primarily communicative terms:

The social ideal of man. . . is the attainment of a universal human society in which all human individuals would possess a perfected social intelligence, so that all social meanings would each be similarly reflected in their respective individual consciousnesses - so that the meaning of an individual's actions or gestures (as realized by him and expressed in the structure of his self, through his ability to adopt other individuals' social attitudes towards themselves and towards their common social goals or purposes) would be the same for any other individual, whatever responds to it (mind, self and society310).

Mead's vision seems to imply a society of many personalities (mind, self and society324-325) in perfect communication with each other. Any person would be able to put themselves in the place of any other person. Such a system of perfect communication, in which the meanings of all symbols are completely transparent, would realize the ideal of a universal human community.

Mead, of course, recognizes how far we are from the realization of universal communion. Our religions, our economic systems and our communication processes are severely restricted. At present these historical forces divide us as much as they unite us. All three are conditioned, for example, by another historical force that fragments rather than universalizes modern culture, namely nationalism (see Mead,selected Writings355-370). Mead points out that "the limitation of social organization lies in the inability of individuals to put themselves in the perspective of others, to take their points of view" (The philosophy of the present165). This limitation is far from being overcome in today's life. And "the ideal human society cannot exist so long as it is impossible for individuals to penetrate the attitudes of those who influence them in the performance of their particular functions" (mind, self and society328). Contemporary culture is a world culture; we all influence each other politically, culturally, economically. Yet "the proper society in which universality can find expression has not come into being" (mind, self and society267).

But it is also true that the ideal of universal communion is implicit in our religions, in our economic systems, and in our acts of communication. The ideal is present as a guideline in human history. It implies a development towards an ideal goal and influences our behavior accordingly.

Mead's social idealism is not utopian but historical. The ideal of history, the ideal of world community, is “an ideal of method, not of program. It shows the direction, not the destination" (The philosophy of the law519). And insofar as this ideal affects our actual behavior in the historical world, it is aConcreterather than an abstract universal (The philosophy of the law518-519). The ideal of history is both transcendent and immanent; it is rooted in the past and present, but leads into the future, which always awaits its realization.

For Mead, therefore, historical thinking is instrumental in the evolution of human society. Through the constant reconstruction of experience, human intelligence and human society are expanded. Mead's evolutionary conception of human history is clearly a progressive notion that he seeks to document in his writings. In human history there is an implicit tendency towards an ever-increasing sense of community. The ultimate formulation of this historical tendency is found in the ideal of the world community. This ideal is not purely abstract (i.e., extra-historical), but is rooted in actual historical forces such as universal religions, modern economic forces, and the human process of communication. According to Mead, it is this ideal of universal community that influences the human evolutionary process and that indicates the implied direction or teleology of history.

7. References and further reading

a. Primary Sources


  • mind, self and society, ed. C.W. Morris (University of Chicago 1934)
  • movements of thought in the 19th century,ed. M.H. Moore (University of Chicago 1936)
  • The philosophy of the law, Hrsg. C. W. Morriset al.(University of Chicago 1938).
  • contemporary philosophy,ed. AE Murphy (Open Court 1932)
  • Selected Writings,ed. AJ Reck (Bobbs-Merrill, Liberal Arts Press, 1964).


  • "A behavioral representation of the significant symbol",Journal of Philosophy, 19 (1922): 157-63.
  • "Bishop Berkeley and His Message"Journal of Philosophy, 26 (1929): 421-30.
  • "Of Animal Perception"psychological review, 14 (1907): 383-90.
  • "Cooley's Contribution to American Social Thought",American Journal of Sociology, 35 (1930): 693-706.
  • "The Definition of the Psychic"University of Chicago Decade Publications,1st series, vol. III (1903): 77-112.
  • "The Emergence of the Self and Social Control",International Journal of Ethics, 35 (1925), S. 251-77.
  • "Image or Sensation"Journal of philosophy, psychology and scientific method, 1 (1904): 604-607.
  • "The Imagination in Wundt's Treatment of Myth and Religion",Psychological Bulletin, 3 (1906): 393-9.
  • "Josiah Royce - A Personal Impression",International Journal of Ethics, 27 (1917): 168-70.
  • "The Mechanism of Social Consciousness"J. for philosophy, psychology and scientific methods, 9 (1912): 401-6.
  • "Nationality and Internationality",International Journal of Ethics, 39 (1929): 385-407.
  • "Natural Rights and the Theory of Political Institution",Journal of Philosophy, 12 (1915): 141-55.
  • "The Essence of Aesthetic Experience"International Journal of Ethics, 36 (1925-1926): 382-93.
  • "The Nature of the Past", inEssays in honor of John Dewey, ed. by J. Coss (Henry Holt 1929): 235-42.
  • "A New Critique of Hegelianism: Is It Valid?",American Journal of Theology, 5 (1901): 87-96.
  • "The Objective Reality of Perspectives"Proceedings of the 6th International Congress of Philosophy(1926): 75-85.
  • "The Philosophical Basis of Ethics"International Journal of Ethics, 18 (1908): 311-23.
  • "A Pragmatic Theory of Truth", inUniversity of California Publications in Philosophy, 11 (1929): 65-88.
  • "The Instructional Psychology of Social Consciousness"Science, 31 (1910): 688-93.
  • "The relationship between play and education"University of Chicago record, 1 (1896): 140-5.
  • "The relationship between psychology and philology"psychological bulletin,1 (1904): 375-91.
  • "Relative Spacetime and Simultaneity", ed. DL miller,Review of Metaphysics, 17 (1964): 511-535.
  • "Royce, James & Dewey in their American Environment",Internationales Journal of Ethics, 40 (1929): 211-31.
  • "Scientific method and the individual thinker", inCreative Intelligence, Head. J Deweyet al.(Holt 1917): 176-227.
  • “Scientific method and the moral sciences”,International Journal of Ethics, 33 (1923), S. 229-47.
  • “Social Awareness and Awareness of Meaning”,Psychological Bulletin, 7 (1910): 397-405.
  • "Social Psychology as a counterpart to Physiological Psychology",Psychological Bulletin, 6 (1909): 401-408.
  • "The Social Self"Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods, 10 (1913): 374-80.
  • "Suggestions for a theory of the philosophical disciplines",philosophical review, 9 (1900): 1-17.
  • "A Theory of Emotions from the Physiological Point of View"psychological review(1895): 162-4.
  • "A translation of Wundt's 'Volkspsychologie'",American Journal of Theology, 23 (1919): 533-36.
  • "What social objects must psychology presuppose?",J. von Phil., Psych. & Scientific Methods, 7 (1910): 174-80.
  • "The Working Hypothesis in Social Reform",American Journal of Sociology, 5 (1899): 367-71.

b. secondary sources (click on comments).

The following is a selection of books and articles that I have found particularly helpful in my own work on Mead.


  • Aboulafia, Mitchell.The mediating self: Mead, Sartre, and self-determination(Yale 1986).
  • Aboulafia, Mitchell (Hrsg.).Philosophy, Social Theory and Thought by George Herbert Mead(SUNY 1991).
  • Baldwin, John D.George Herbert Mead: A unifying theory for sociology, (Sage 1986).
  • Koch, Gary A.George Herbert Mead: The Making of a Social Pragmatist(University of Illinois 1993).
  • Corti, Walter Robert (ed.),The philosophy of G.H. mead(Amriswil library[Switzerland] 1973).
  • Göff, Thomas.Marx and Mead: Contributions to a sociology of knowledge(Routledge 1980).
  • Hamilton, Peter.George Herbert Mead: Critical Appraisals(Routledge 1993).
  • Hanson, Karen.The Imagined Self: Philosophical Reflections on the Social Character of the Psyche(Routledge 1987).
  • Joas, Hans.GH Mead: A Contemporary Review of His Thought(MIT Press 1997).
  • Joas, Hans.pragmatism and social theory(University of Chicago 1993).
  • Mueller, David L.GH Met. Self, Language and World(University of Chicago 1973).
  • Morris, Karl.Significance and Meaning: A Study in the Relations of Signs and Values(MIT Press 1964).
  • Morris, Karl.signs, language and behavior(Prentice-Hall 1946).
  • Nathanson, Moritz.The Social Dynamics of George H. Mead(Public Affairs Press 1956).
  • Pfeutze, Paul E.Self, Society, Existence: George Herbert Mead and Martin Buber(Harper 1961).
  • Rosenthal, Sandra.Mead and Merleau-Ponty: Towards a Shared Vision (SONNE 1991).
  • Rucker, Darnell.Die Chicagoer Pragmatiker(University of Minnesota Press 1969).


  • Aboulafia, Mitchell. "Mead, Sartre: Self, Object & Reflection",Philosophy & Social Criticism, 11(1986): 63-86.
  • Aboulafia, Mitchell. "Habermas and Mead: On Universality and Individuality",constellations, 2(1995): 95–113.
  • Ames, VanMeter. "Buber and Mead",Antiochia Review,27 (1967): 181-91.
  • Ames, Van Meter. "Zen in Mead"Procedures and Addresses of Amer. Phil Assn.33 (1959-1960): 27-42.
  • Ames, VanMeter. "Mead & Husserl about themselves",philosophy & phenomenological research,15 (1955): 320-31.
  • Ames, VanMeter. "Met and Sartre on Man",journal of philosophy,53 (1956): 205-19.
  • Baldwin, John D. "G.H. Mead and Modern Behaviorism",Pacific Sociological Review, 24(1981): 411-40.
  • Batiuk, Mary-Ellen. "Misinterpretation of Mead: Then and Now",contemporary sociology,11 (1982): 138-40.
  • Baumann, Bedrich. "George H. Mead and Luigi Pirandello",social research,34 (1967): 563-607.
  • Blumer, Herbert. “Sociological Implications of the Thought of G.H. mead,"American J. of Sociology,71 (1966): 535-44.
  • Blumer, Herbert. "Mead & Blumer: Social Behavior & Symbolic Interactionism",American Sociological Review, 45 (1980): 409-19.
  • Bourgeois, Patrick L. "Role-Taking, Bodily Intersubjectivity & Self: Mead & Merleau-Ponty",philosophy today(1990): 117-28.
  • Burke, Richard. "G.H. Mead and the problem of metaphysicsphilosophy & phenomenological research,23 (1962): 81-8.
  • Cook, Gary Alan. "The development of G.H. Mead's Social Psychology",Transactions of the C.S. Peirce Society,8 (1972): 167-86.
  • Cook, Gary Alan. "Whitehead's influence on the thinking of G.H. mead",Transactions of the C.S. Peirce Society,15 (1979): 107-31.
  • Koser, Lewis. „G.H. Mead“, in Lewis Coser,master of sociological thought(Harcourt 1971): 333-55.
  • Cottrell, Leonard S., Jr. „George Herbert Mead und Harry Stack Sullivan“,Psychiatry, 41(1978): 151-62.
  • Faris, Ellsworth. "Review ofmind, self and societyby G.H. mead,"American J. of Sociology,41 (1936): 909-13.
  • Faris, Ellsworth. "The Social Psychology of G.H. mead,"American Journal of Sociology,43 (1937-8): 391-403.
  • Fen, Sing-Nan. "Presence & Re-Presentation: A Discussion of Mead's Philosophy of the Present",philosophical review,60 (1951): 545-50.
  • Yeah, Hans. "The Creativity of Action and the Intersubjectivity of Reason: Mead's Pragmatism and Social Theory",Transactions of the C.S. Peirce Society, 26(1990): 165-94.
  • Lee, Harold N. "Mead's Lesson from the Past,"Tulane Studies in Philosophie,12 (1963): 52-75.
  • Lewis, J.David. "G.H. Mead's contact theory of realitysymbolic interaction,4 (1981): 129-41.
  • Meltzer, Bernard N. "Mead's Social Psychology", insymbolic interaction,ed. JG Manis & B.N. Meltzer (Allyn and Bacon 1972): 4-22.
  • Miller, David L. "G.H. Mead's concept of the present",philosophy of science,10 (1943): 40-46.
  • Miller, David L. "The Nature of the Physical Object",journal of philosophy,44 (1947): 352-9.
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