G.H.Mead's 'mind Self & Society' Places The Person Center Stage

2486 words - 10 pages

As a Psychologist it may be expected that Mead’s conception of mind would place the person centre stage, however his interpretation of Behaviourist theory allows for the actions, and certainly the physiology of the individual to become a matter of external interpretation. Mead speaks of Qualia and experience (Mead, 1967: 5) in a way that seemingly looks purely at individual phenomenology. However whilst Mead initially seems to explore what the individual is directly acquainted with in the mental faculties the reasons may be wrapped up in a somewhat more objectively universalised study (Mead, 1969: 65) i.e. through behaviour. A single definitive answer to this question may initially seem to be difficult to defend as the question lends its self to a variety of interpretations. A further complication to this debate may come about as a result of the fact that “Mind, Self and Society” was produced posthumously. This work, as an assimilation of his students lecture notes, was assembled based on the ideas he conveyed during his lifetime. In order to achieve true accuracy and depth in our understanding it is important to cross reference this book with other works by Mead.

In many ways it may be argued that both Mead and Wundt saw individual psychology as a flawed system of discourse and as such a social psychology should be pursued (Joas, 1980: 95). Mead was not arguing that there isn’t individual psychology; he simply argued that there are individual minds taking part in social interactions as “no self is complete in itself apart from the community” (Miller, 1975: 69). In effect Mead’s whole concept of an individual is contingent upon the community. Whilst this may be contested it may appear that Mead simply ignores the individual phenomenology and focuses simply on the objective study of behaviour.

Mead’s account of Wundt’s Psychological Behaviourism makes note of the fact that the mind only makes any sense within our language structures. In effect sociability is what causes us to associate ourselves with “mind” as a concept. This is because “if, as Wundt does, you presuppose the existence of mind at the start, as explaining or making possible the social process of experience, then the origin of minds and the interaction among them become mysteries” (Mead, 1967: 50). In effect seeing mind as a concept in language we may re-order experience from mind’s interacting in a society to a society causing minds to establish themselves. Mead ultimately rejects this as it “fails to illuminate the bearing that the context of social experience has upon the development of mind”. The individual appears to play a huge role in Mead’s account here as the standard response for Wundt (imitation) is somewhat lacking in accounting for the interaction between individuals. Mead rejects this on the grounds that “if it were true that you just imitate, you would be doing what [the other person] is doing and have the same idea as he has” (Mead, 1967: 51). Mead is certainly...

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