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Commentary on G. H. Mead’s View Of

Commentary on G. H. Mead’s View Of

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Published by: api-26624633 on Feb 22, 2010
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05/11/2014

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Commentary on G. H.
Mead’s
view of Self and Society
 
Presented to:
 
Professor Darryl Ross
Bridging course for men, Carleton University Written by
: Harold Sotomayor
2/20/2010
 
 1 In this brief report I attempt to succinctly describe how the philosopher and social psychologistGeorge Herbert Mead distinguish between body and the self and to an extent, what makes this aradically social view of the self. I will also highlight my personal view on his theory, its connection withthe German school of thought in psychoanalysis and some of the elements of 
Mead’s
theory I believeare missing to make it of greater relevance in today
s society
G. H.
Mead’s background
 
Born in 1867 in South Hadley, Massachusetts; his father was a pastor of the local congregation and latermoved the family to Oberlin, Ohio where he became a professor of homiletics at the Oberlin TheologicalSeminary. Having completed his early education, young George Mead entered Oberlin College andgraduated in 1883. He then continued his studies at Harvard University in 1883. There he worked withWilliam James and developed an interest in philosophical and psychological studies and continued hisresearch and studies in Berlin and Leipzig, Germany, under guidance of Wilhelm Wundt who is widelyregarded as the "father of experimental psychology". All of the above, in my opinion, play an important
role on Mead’s approach
and development of what later would become his Social Psychology. It is worthnoting his friendship with John Dewey who is considered perhaps the greater of the so called
“pragmatists” and the Chicago School of Thought
of early twenty century, all this in tandem with thenotion of a modern
industrial if not “mechanistic” model of society which was a predominant world
view at the time. One can imagine George Mead, perhaps in the company of J. Dewey, sitting in a
Chicago theater watching Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and discussing the context of t
he movie, the socialcrisis of the workers struggle in a capitalist system, urban dystopia and the representation of the self.It was William James,
Mead’s
former teacher, who initially tried to formulate a connection betweenbody and mind through his physiological-moral concept of habit in a sociological context, incorporatinginterest and activity into his idea of consciousness but he did not stress the social milieu as adevelopmental factor shaping the mind of the individual, namely the self. Mead on the other hand, tookthose concepts further and interpreted the mind as a pattern of behaviors growing out of socialinteraction thus making Mead a social behaviorist
.
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)
 
 
 2 
 A radical theory of the self 
In his book Mind, Self and Society published in 1934, G.H. Mead contends that body and self areseparate and that the self is something reflexive capable of being both object and subject to itself,arising not from the biological organism but rather from the social experience of the individual and thusshaping our personality from the interactions of the social context in which we live
(
2
)
, furthermore,idiosyncrasies and unique characteristics that distinguish each individual are a product of that socialinteraction. He assumes that at birth the individual is a Tabula Rasa,
 
without built-in mental content andthat our knowledge and experience develops from the social community and other individuals.
Mead’s distinction between the self as a subject and the self as an object to itself contrast sharply with
earlier views from his predecessors who described the self as conscious, a term which was thought toinclude both, subject and object. That interpretation is what make his theory a very distinct social viewof the self and set him apart in the field of social psychology.
Mead’s interpretation of the self and its origins, it should be noted, goes
into asserting that the self develops by bein
g able to take the point of view of others, and what he terms the “generalized other”
becomes the basis for complex social cooperation and a crucial part of the individual own mind. In other
words, the development of the “I” and the “Me” are derived from acquiring a “generalized other”. To
illustrate this point, Mead provides a metaphor: he compares the self as a checkerboard on which the
“Me” is represented by the
checkers;
the “I” is the player who makes moves and the “generalized other”
is an overhanging light that illuminates the scene making the moves intelligible. To Mead, the mind of the individual is created by society and social processes are real and measurable. That is what makes hiscontribution to the theory of social formation of the self a radical one.
Mead and the Mind-Body conundrum
I shall now turn to a personal assessment
of Mead’s theory.
Does his hypothesis offers a plausible
solution to the individual’s perception of consciousness
in society? It might be argued that it does not,since his theory left unanswered a number of fundamental questions that are essential in attempting toexplain the universality of some behaviors present in the human animal across diverse cultures.

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