What is George Herbert Mead's theory of self? | thebluetones.info
In his theory of the self, Mead proposed that our concept of ourselves is based on social interactions and our own internalization and interpretation of those. A summary of Primary Socialization in 's Socialization. Researchers have different theories about how children learn about themselves and their roles in society. Sociologist George Herbert Mead believed that people develop self- images. George Herbert Mead, a sociologist from the late s, is well known for his theory of the social self, which includes the concepts of 'self,' 'me,'.
Human activity is, in a pragmatic sense, the criterion of truth, and through human activity meaning is made.Social Development: Crash Course Sociology #13
Joint activity, including communicative activity, is the means through which our sense of self is constituted. The essence of Mead's social behaviorism is that mind is not a substance located in some transcendent realm, nor is it merely a series of events that takes place within the human physiological structure.
This approach opposed the traditional view of the mind as separate from the body. The emergence of mind is contingent upon interaction between the human organism and its social environment; it is through participation in the social act of communication that individuals realize their potential for significantly symbolic behavior, that is, thought.
Mind, in Mead's terms, is the individualized focus of the communication process. It is linguistic behavior on the part of the individual. There is, then, no "mind or thought without language;" and language the content of mind "is only a development and product of social interaction" Mind, Self and Society Thus, mind is not reducible to the neurophysiology of the organic individual, but is emergent in "the dynamic, ongoing social process" that constitutes human experience Mind, Self and Society 7.
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, in effect, a philosophy of the act 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 the act from the standpoint of the experiencing individual in interaction with an environment. The initial phase of an act constitutes a gesture.
A gesture is a preparatory movement that enables other individuals to become aware of the intentions of the given organism. The rudimentary situation is a conversation of gestures, in which a gesture on the part of the first individual evokes a preparatory movement on the part of the second, and the gesture of the second organism in turn calls out a response in the first person.
On this level no communication occurs. Neither organism is aware of the effect of its own gestures upon the other; the gestures are nonsignificant. For communication to take place, each organism must have knowledge of how the other individual will respond to his own ongoing act. Here the gestures are significant symbols. Only when we have significant symbols can we truly have communication. We perceive the world in terms of the "means of living" Mead To perceive food, is to perceive eating.
To perceive a house, is to perceive shelter. That is to say, perception is in terms of action. Mead's theory of perception is similar to that of J. Mead the social psychologist argued in tune with Durkheim that the individual is a product of an ongoing, preexisting societyor more specifically, social interaction that is a consequence of a sui generis society. The self arises when the individual becomes an object to themselves.
Mead argued that we are objects first to other people, and secondarily we become objects to ourselves by taking the perspective of other people. Language enables us to talk about ourselves in the same way as we talk about other people, and thus through language we become other to ourselves. A central mechanism within the social act, which enables perspective taking, is position exchange.
People within a social act often alternate social positions e. In children's games there is repeated position exchange, for example in hide-and-seek, and Mead argued that this is one of the main ways that perspective taking develops.
However, for Mead, unlike John Dewey and J. Gibsonthe key is not simply human action, but rather social action. In humans the "manipulatory phase of the act" is socially mediated, that is to say, in acting towards objects humans simultaneously take the perspectives of others towards that object.
This is what Mead means by "the social act" as opposed to simply "the act" the latter being a Deweyan concept. Non-human animals also manipulate objects, but that is a non-social manipulation, they do not take the perspective of other organisms toward the object.
Humans on the other hand, take the perspective of other actors towards objects, and this is what enables complex human society and subtle social coordination. In the social act of economic exchange, for example, both buyer and seller must take each other's perspectives towards the object being exchanged. The seller must recognize the value for the buyer, while the buyer must recognize the desirability of money for the seller.
Only with this mutual perspective taking can the economic exchange occur Mead was influenced on this point by Adam Smith. Nature of the self[ edit ] A final piece of Mead's social theory is the mind as the individual importation of the social process.
As previously discussed, Mead presented the self and the mind in terms of a social process.
George Herbert Mead: The Self, ''Me'' & ''I''
As gestures are taken in by the individual organism, the individual organism also takes in the collective attitudes of others, in the form of gestures, and reacts accordingly with other organized attitudes. The "Me" is the social self and the "I" is the response to the "Me. The "I" is the individual's impulses. The "I" is self as subject; the "me" is self as object. The "I" is the knower, the "me" is the known. The mind, or stream of thought, is the self-reflective movements of the interaction between the "I" and the "me.
For Mead the thinking process is the internalized dialogue between the "I" and the "me. Understood as a combination of the 'I' and the 'me'Mead's self proves to be noticeably entwined within a sociological existence. For Mead, existence in community comes before individual consciousness. First one must participate in the different social positions within society and only subsequently can one use that experience to take the perspective of others and thus become self-conscious.
Philosophy of science[ edit ] Mead is a major American philosopher by virtue of being, along with John DeweyCharles Peirce and William Jamesone of the founders of pragmatism.
He also made significant contributions to the philosophies of nature, science, and history, to philosophical anthropologyand to process philosophy. Dewey and Alfred North Whitehead considered Mead a thinker of the first rank.
He is a classic example of a social theorist whose work does not fit easily within conventional disciplinary boundaries. As far as his work on the philosophy of science, Mead sought to find the psychological origin of science in the efforts of individuals to attain power over their environment. The notion of a physical object arises out of manipulatory experience. There is a social relation to inanimate objects, for the organism takes the role of things that it manipulates directly, or that it manipulates indirectly in perception.
For example, in taking introjecting or imitating the resistant role of a solid object, an individual obtains cognition of what is "inside" nonliving things. Historically, the concept of the physical object arose from an animistic conception of the universe.
Contact experience includes experiences of position, balance, and support, and these are used by the organism when it creates its conceptions of the physical world.
This "internalization" of the generalized other occurs through the individual's participation in the conversation of significant symbols that is, language and in other socialization processes e.
The self, then, is of great value to organized society: The generalized other internalized in the "me" is a major instrument of social control; it is the mechanism by which the community gains control "over the conduct of its individual members" Mind, Self and Society The genesis of the self in social process is thus a condition of social control.
The self is a social emergent that supports the cohesion of the group; individual will is harmonized, by means of a socially defined and symbolized "reality," with social goals and values. Thus, there are two dimensions of Mead's theory of internalization: The self, then, has reference, not only to others, but to social projects and goals, and it is by means of the socialization process that is, the internalization of the generalized other through language, play, and the game that the individual is brought to "assume the attitudes of those in the group who are involved with him in his social activities" The Philosophy of the Act By learning to speak, gesture, and play in "appropriate" ways, the individual is brought into line with the accepted symbolized roles and rules of the social process.
The self is therefore one of the most subtle and effective instruments of social control. For Mead, however, social control has its limits. One of these limits is the phenomenon of the "I," as described in the preceding section.
Another limit to social control is presented in Mead's description of specific social relations. This description has important consequences regarding the way in which the concept of the generalized other is to be applied in social analysis.
The self emerges out of "a special set of social relations with all the other individuals" involved in a given set of social projects Mind, Self and Society The self is always a reflection of specific social relations that are themselves founded on the specific mode of activity of the group in question.
The concept of property, for example, presupposes a community with certain kinds of responses; the idea of property has specific social and historical foundations and symbolizes the interests and values of specific social groups. Mead delineates two types of social groups in civilized communities.
There are, on the one hand, "concrete social classes or subgroups" in which "individual members are directly related to one another. Such abstract social groups provide the opportunity for a radical extension of the "definite social relations" which constitute the individual's sense of self and which structure her conduct.
Human society, then, contains a multiplicity of generalized others. The individual is capable of holding membership in different groups, both simultaneously and serially, and may therefore relate herself to different generalized others at different times; or she may extend her conception of the generalized other by identifying herself with a "larger" community than the one in which she has hitherto been involved e.
The self is not confined within the limits of any one generalized other. It is true that the self arises through the internalization of the generalized attitudes of others, but there is, it would appear, no absolute limit to the individual's capacity to encompass new others within 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 vis-a-vis the sociological problem of the relation between consensus and conflict in society. It is clear that both consensus and conflict are significant dimensions of social process; and in Mead's view, the problem is not to decide either for a consensus model of society or for a conflict model, but to describe as directly as possible the function of both consensus and conflict in human social life.
There are two models of consensus-conflict relation in Mead's analysis of social relations. These may be schematized as follows: Intra-Group Consensus — Extra-Group Conflict Intra-Group Conflict — Extra-Group Consensus In the first model, the members of a given group are united in opposition to 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 in much of human social organization and that it is frequently the major reference-point of intra-group consensus.
For example, a great many human organizations derive their raison d'etre and their sense of solidarity from the existence or putative existence of the "enemy" communists, atheists, infidels, fascist pigs, religious "fanatics," liberals, conservatives, or whatever.
The generalized other of such an organization is formed in opposition to the generalized other of the enemy.
The individual is "with" the members of her group and "against" members of the enemy group. Mead's second model, that of intra-group conflict and extra-group consensus, is employed in his description of the process in which the individual reacts against her own group. The individual opposes her group by appealing to a "higher sort of community" that she holds to be superior to her own. She may do this by appealing to the past e. Thus, intra-group conflict is carried on in terms of an extra-group consensus, even if the consensus is merely assumed or posited.
This model presupposes Mead's conception of the multiplicity of generalized others, i. It is also true that the individual can criticize her group only in so far as she can symbolize to herself the generalized other of that group; otherwise she would have nothing to criticize, nor would she have the motivation to do so.
It is in this sense that social criticism presupposes social- symbolic process and a social self capable of symbolic reflexive activity. In addition to the above-described models of consensus-conflict relation, Mead also points out an explicitly temporal interaction between consensus and conflict. Human conflicts often lead to resolutions that create new forms of consensus. Thus, when such conflicts occur, they can lead to whole "reconstructions of the particular social situations" that are the contexts of the conflicts e.
Such reconstructions of society are effected by the minds of individuals in conflict and constitute enlargements of the social whole. An interesting consequence of Mead's analysis of social conflict is that the reconstruction of society will entail the reconstruction of the self.
This aspect of the social dynamic is particularly clear in terms of Mead's concept of intra-group conflict and his description of the dialectic of the "me" and the "I. Thus, the critical capacity of the self takes form in the "I" and has two dimensions: For example, the criticism of one's own moral principles is also the criticism of the morality of one's social world, for personal morality is rooted in social morality.
Conversely, the criticism of the morality of one's society raises questions concerning one's own moral role in the social situation. Since self and society are dialectical poles of a single process, change in one pole will result in change in the other pole.
It would appear that social reconstructions are effected by individuals or groups of individuals who find themselves in conflict with a given society; and once the reconstruction is accomplished, the new social situation generates far-reaching changes in the personality structures of the individuals involved in that situation. The Temporal Structure of Human Existence The temporal structure of human existence, according to Mead, can be described in terms of the concepts of emergence, sociality, and freedom.
Emergence and Temporality What is the ground of the temporality of human experience? Temporal structure, according to Mead, arises with the appearance of novel or "emergent" events in experience. The emergent event is an unexpected disruption of continuity, an inhibition of passage. The emergent, in other words, constitutes a problem for human action, a problem to be overcome.
The emergent event, which arises in a present, establishes a barrier between present and future; emergence is an inhibition of individual and collective conduct, a disharmony that projects experience into a distant future in which harmony may be re-instituted. 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, confronts the emergent problem in his present and looks to the future as the field of potential resolution of conflict. The future is a temporally, and frequently spatially, distant realm to be reached through intelligent action. Human action is action-in-time. Mead argues out that, without inhibition of activity and without the distance created by the inhibition, there can be no experience of time. Further, Mead believes that, without the rupture of continuity, there can be no experience at all.
Experience presupposes change as well as permanence. Without disruption, "there would be merely the passage of events" The Philosophy of the Actand mere passage does not constitute change. Passage is pure continuity without interruption a phenomenon of which humans, with the possible exception of a few mystics, have precious little experience.
Change arises with a departure from continuity. Change does not, however, involve the total obliteration of continuity — there must be a "persisting non-passing content" against which an emergent event is experienced as a change The Philosophy of the Act Experience begins with the problematic. Continuity itself cannot be experienced unless it is broken; that is, continuity is not an object of awareness unless it becomes problematic, and continuity becomes problematic as a result of the emergence of discontinuous events.
Hence, continuity and discontinuity emergence are not contradictories, but dialectical polarities mutually dependent levels of reality that generate experience itself. There must be banks within which the stream of time may flow" The Philosophy of the Act Emergence, then, is a fundamental condition of experience, and the experience of the emergent is the experience of temporality.
Emergence sunders present and future and is thereby an occasion for action. Action, moreover, occurs in time; the human act is infected with time — it aims at the future. Human action is teleological. Discontinuity, therefore, and not continuity in the sense of mere duration or passageis the foundation of time-experience and of experience itself. The emergent event constitutes time, i.
The Function of the Past in Human Experience The emergent event is not only a problem for ongoing activity: Reason, according to Mead, is the search for causal continuity in experience and, in fact, must presuppose such continuity in its attempt to construct a coherent account of reality.
Reason must assume that all natural events can be reduced to conditions that make the events possible. But the emergent event presents itself as discontinuous, as a disruption without conditions. It is by means of the reconstruction of the past that the discontinuous event becomes continuous in experience: The emergent event, when placed within a reconstructed past, is a determined event; but since this past was reconstructed from the perspective of the emergent event, the emergent event is also a determining event The Philosophy of the Present The emergent event itself indicates the continuities within which the event may be viewed as continuous.
There is, then, no question of predicting the emergent, for it is, by definition and also experientially, unpredictable; but once the emergent appears in experience, it may be placed within a continuity dictated by its own character. Determination of the emergent is retrospective determination. Mead's conception of time entails a drastic revision of the idea of the irrevocability of the past. The past is "both irrevocable and revocable" The Philosophy of the Present 2.
There is no sense in the idea of an independent or "real" past, for the past is always formulated in the light of the emerging present. It is necessary to continually reformulate the past from the point of view of the newly emergent situation. For example, the movement for the liberation of African-Americans has led to the discovery of the American black's cultural past.
As far as most Americans were hitherto concerned, there simply was no history of the American black — 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 the sense that something has happened; but what has happened that is, the essence of the past is always open to question and reinterpretation. Further, the irrevocability of the past "is found in the extension of the necessity with which what has just happened conditions what is emerging in the future" The Philosophy of the Present 3.
Irrevocability is a characteristic of the past only in relation to the demands of a present looking into the future. That is to say that even the sense that something has happened arises out of a situation in which an emergent event has appeared as a problem.
Like Edmund Husserl, Mead conceives of human consciousness as intentional in its structure and orientation: Thus, objectivity can have meaning only within the domain of the subject, the realm of consciousness.
It is not that the existence of the objective world is constituted by consciousness, but that the meaning of that world is so constituted.
In Husserlian language, the existence of the objective world is transcendent, i. In Mead's "phenomenology" of historical experience, then, the past may be said to possess an objective existence, but the meaning of the past is constituted or constructed according to the intentional concerns of historical thought. The meaning of the past "what has happened" is defined by an historical consciousness that is rooted in a present and that is opening upon a newly emergent future.
History is founded on human action in response to emergent events. Action is an attempt to adjust to changes that emerge in experience; the telos of the act is the re-establishment of a sundered continuity. Since the past is instrumental in the re-establishment of continuity, the adjustment to the emergent requires the creation of history. And the future- orientation of history entails that every new discovery, every new project, will alter our picture of the past.
Although Mead discounts the possibility of a transcendent past that is, a past independent of any presenthe does not deny the possibility of validity in historical accounts.
An historical account will be valid or correct, not absolutely, but in relation to a specific emergent context. Accounts of the past "become valid in interpreting [the world] in so far as they present a history of becoming in [the world] leading up to that which is becoming today. Historical thought is valid in so far as it renders change intelligible and permits the continuation of activity.
An appeal to 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 a usable past. Historians are, to be sure, concerned with the truth of historical accounts, i.
The historical conscience seeks to reconstruct the past on the basis of evidence and to present an accurate interpretation of the data of history. Mead's point is that all such reconstructions and interpretations of the past are grounded in a present that is opening into a future and that the time-conditioned nature and interests of historical thought made the construction of a purely "objective" historical account impossible.
Historical consciousness is "subjective" in the sense that it aims at an interpretation of the past that will be humanly meaningful in the present and in the foreseeable future. Thus, for Mead, historical inquiry is the imaginative-but-honest, intelligent-and-intelligible reconstruction and interpretation of the human past on the basis of all available and relevant evidence.
Above all, the historian seeks to define the meaning of the human past and, in that way, to make a contribution to humanity's search for an overall understanding of human existence.
Sociality and Time The emergent event, then, is basic to Mead's theory of time. The emergent event is a becoming, an unexpected occurrence "which in its relation to other events gives structure to time" The Philosophy of the Present But what is the ontological status of emergence? What is its relation to the general structure of reality? The possibility of emergence is grounded in Mead's conception of the relatedness, the "sociality," of natural processes.
Mead's philosophy arises from a fundamental ecological vision of the world, a vision of the world containing a multiplicity of related systems e. Nature is a system of systems or relationships; it is not a collection of particles or fragments which are actually separate. Distinctions, for Mead, are abstractions within fields of activity; and all natural objects animate or inanimate exist within systems apart from which the existence of the objects themselves is unthinkable.
The sense of the organic body arises with reference 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 with reference to each other, and it is this relationship, in Mead's view, that constitutes the reality of each referent. It is a process in which the organism is bounded, and other things are bounded as well" The Philosophy of the Act Similarly, the resistance of the object to organic pressure is, in effect, the activity of the object; and this activity becomes the "inside" of the object.
The inside of the object, moreover, is not a projection from the organism, but is there in the relation between the organism and thing see The Philosophy of the Present, The relation between organism and object, then, is a social relation The Philosophy of the Act Thus, the relation between a natural object or event and the system within which it exists is not unidirectional.
The character of the object, on the one hand, is determined by its membership in a system; but, on the other hand, the character of the system is determined by the activity of the object or event. There is a mutual determination of object and system, organism and environment, percipient event and consentient set The Philosophy of the Act While this mutuality of individual and system is characteristic of all natural processes, Mead is particularly concerned with the biological realm and lays great emphasis on the interdependence and interaction of organism and environment.
Whereas the environment provides the conditions within which the acts of the organism emerge as possibilities, it is the activity of the organism that transforms the character of the environment. Thus, "an animal with the power of digesting and assimilating what could not before be digested and assimilated is the condition for the appearance of food in his environment" The Philosophy of the Act In this respect, "what the individual is determines what the character of his environment will be" The Philosophy of the Act The relation of organism and environment is not static, but dynamic.
The activities of the environment alter the organism, and the activities of the organism alter the environment. The organism-environment relation is, moreover, complex rather than simple. The environment of any organism contains a multiplicity of processes, perspectives, systems, any one of which may become a factor in the organism's field of activity.
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The ability of the organism to act with reference to a multiplicity of situations is an example of the sociality of natural events. And it is by virtue of this sociality, this "capacity of being several things at once" The Philosophy of the Present 49that the organism is able to encounter novel occurrences.
By moving from one system to another, the organism confronts unfamiliar and unexpected situations which, because of their novelty, constitute problems of adjustment for the organism. These emergent situations are possible given the multiplicity of natural processes and given the ability of natural events e. A bee, for example, is capable of relating to other bees, to flowers, to bears, to little boys, albeit with various attitudes.
But sociality is not restricted to animate events. A mountain may be simultaneously an aspect of geography, part of a landscape, an object of religious veneration, the dialectical pole of a valley, and so forth.
The capacity of sociality is a universal character of nature. There are, then, two modes of sociality: This sociality in passage, which is "given in immediate relation of the past and present," constitutes the temporal mode of sociality The Philosophy of the Present In any given present, "the location of the object in one system places it in the others as well" The Philosophy of the Present The object is social, not merely in terms of its temporal relations, but also in terms of its relations with other objects in an instantaneous field.
This mode of sociality constitutes the emergent event; that is, the state of a system at a given instant is the social reality within which emergent events occur, and it is this reality that must be adjusted to the exigencies of time. Thus, the principle of sociality is the ontological foundation of Mead's concept of emergence: 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 give rise to the experience of loss of freedom.
Mead grounds his analysis of human consciousness in the social process of communication and, on that foundation, makes "the other" an integral part of self- understanding. The world in which the self lives, then, is an inter- subjective and interactive world — a "populated world" containing, not only the individual self, but also other persons.
Intersubjectivity is to be explained in terms of that "meeting of minds" which occurs in conversation, learning, reading, and thinking The Philosophy of the Act It is on the basis of such socio-symbolic interactions between individuals, and by means of the conceptual symbols of the communicational process, that the mind and the self come into existence.
The human world is also temporally structured, and the temporality of experience, Mead argues, is a flow that is primarily present. The past is part of my experience now, and the projected future is also part of my experience now. There is hardly a moment when, turning to the temporality of my life, I do not find myself existing in the now. Thus, it would appear that whatever is for me, is now; and, needless to say, whatever is of importance or whatever is meaningful for me, is of importance or is meaningful now.
This is true even if that which is important and meaningful for me is located in the "past" or in the "future.
George Herbert Mead | American philosopher | thebluetones.info
My existence is rooted in a "living present," and it is within this "living present" that my life unfolds and discloses itself. Thus, to gain full contact with oneself, it is necessary to focus one's consciousness on the present and to appropriate that present that "existential situation" as one's own. This "philosophy of the present" need not lead to a careless, "live only for today" attitude. Our past is always with us in the form of memory, history, tradition, etc.
A fully meaningful human existence must be "lived now," but with continual reference to the past: The human present opens toward the future. Further, we are "called" into this future, toward ever new possibilities; and we must, if we wish to live well, develop a "right mindfulness" which orients our present- centered consciousness toward the possibilities and challenges of the impending future.
But we must "live now" with reference to both past and future. The self, as we have seen, is characterized in part by its activity the "I" in response to its world, and how the individual is active with respect to his world is through his choices and his awareness of his choices. The individual experiences himself as having choices, or as being confronted with situations which require choices on his part. He does not ordinarily experience himself as being controlled by the world.
The world presents obstacles to him, and yet he experiences himself as being able to respond to these obstacles in a variety even though a finite variety of 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 fact that one has choices. 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 significance.
I am a being that exists in relation to a world. As such, it is essential that I experience myself as "in harmony with" the world; and if this proves difficult or impossible, then I am thrown into a "crisis," i.
It is in this context that the loss of one's freedom, the experience of lost autonomy, becomes a real possibility. Encountering a crisis in the process of life, the individual may well experience himself as paralyzed, as "stuck" in his situation, as patient rather than as agent of change. But it is also the case that the experience of crisis may lead to a deepened sense of one's active involvement in the temporal unfolding of life.
From Mead's point of view, a crisis is a "crucial time" or a turning-point in individual existence: Thus, it would appear that crises may in fact undermine the sense of freedom of choice; and yet, it is also true that crises constitute opportunities for the exercise of freedom since such "breaks" or discontinuities in our experience demand that we make decisions as to what we are "going to do now. Freedom denied on one level of experience is rediscovered at another.
One must lose oneself in order to find oneself. Mead's Theory of Perspectives Mead's concept of sociality, as we have seen, implies a vision of reality as situational, or perspectival. A perspective is "the world in its relationship to the individual and the individual in his relationship to the world" The Philosophy of the Act A perspective, then, is a situation in which a percipient event or individual exists with reference to a consentient set or environment and in which a consentient set exists with reference to a percipient 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" which is the world The Philosophy of the Act Distance Experience For Mead, perceptual objects arise within the act and are instrumental in the consummation of the act. At the perceptual stage of the act, these objects are distant from the perceiving individual: Such objects invite the perceiving individual to act with reference to them, to "make contact" with them.
Thus, Mead speaks of perceptual objects as "plans of action" that "control" the "action of the individual" The Philosophy of the Present and The Philosophy of the Act Distance experience implies contact experience. Perception leads on to manipulation. The readiness of the individual to make contact with distant objects is what Mead calls a "terminal attitude. Such attitudes "are those which, if carried out into overt action, would lead to movements which, if persevered in, would overcome the distances and bring the objects into the manipulatory sphere" The Philosophy of the Act A terminal attitude, then, is an implicit manipulation of a distant object; it stands at the beginning of the act and is an intellectual-and-emotional posture in terms of which the individual encounters the world.
As present in the beginning of the act, the terminal attitude contains the later stages of the act in the sense that perception implies manipulation and in the sense that manipulation is aimed at the resolution of a problem. In terminal attitudes, all stages of the act interpenetrate. Within the act, then, there is a tendency on the part of the perceiving individual to approach distant objects in terms of the "values of the manipulatory sphere.
For example, a distant shape is seen as being palpable, as having a certain size and weight, as having such and such a texture, and so forth.
In perception, the manipulatory area is extended, and the distant object becomes hypothetically a contact object.
In immediate perceptual experience, the distant object is in the future. Contact with the distant object is implicit, i. In so far as the act of perception involves terminal attitudes, the promise or futurity of the distant object is "collapsed" into a hypothetical "now" in which the perceiving individual and the perceptual object exist simultaneously. The temporal distance between individual and object is thus suspended; this suspension of time permits alternative and perhaps conflicting contact reactions to the object to be "tested" in imagination.
Thus, the act may be "completed" in abstraction before it is completed in fact. In this sense, "the percept is a collapsed act" The Philosophy of the Act The contemporaneity of individual and distant object is an abstraction within the act. In the collapsed act, time is abstracted from space "for the purposes of our conduct" The Philosophy of the Present Prior to actual manipulation, the perceiving individual anticipates a variety of ways in which a given object might be manipulated.
This implicit testing of alternative responses to the distant object is the essence of reflective conduct. The actual futurity of the distant object is suspended, and the object is treated as though it were present in the manipulatory area. The time of the collapsed act, therefore, is an abstracted time that involves "the experience of inhibited action in which the goal is present as achieved through the individual assuming the attitude of contact response, and thus leaving the events that should elapse between the beginning and the end of the act present only in their abstracted character as passing" The Philosophy of the Act Thus, in the abstracted time of the collapsed act, "certain objects cease to be events, cease to pass as they are in reality passing and in their permanence become the conditions of our action, and events take place with reference to them" The Philosophy of the Present The perceiving individual's terminal attitudes constitute an anticipatory contact experience in which the futurity of distant objects is reduced to an abstract contemporaneity.
This reduction of futurity, we have seen, is instrumental in the reflective conduct of the acting individual. In perception, then, distant objects are reduced to the manipulatory area and become hypothetically contact objects.
Perception involves the assumption of contact qualities in the distant object. The object is removed from its actual temporal position and is incorporated in a "permanent" space which is actually the space "of the manipulatory area, hypothetically extended" The Philosophy of the Act The object, which is actually spatio-temporally distant, becomes, hypothetically and for the purposes of reflective conduct, spatio-temporally present: Galileo articulated the latter distinction as follows: I feel myself impelled by the necessity, as soon as I conceive a piece of matter or corporeal substance, of conceiving that in its own nature it is bounded and figured in such and such a figure, that in relation to others it is either large or small, that it is in this or that place, in this or that time, that it is in motion or remains at rest.
Hence I think that these tastes, odours, colors, etc. Another way of putting this is to say that the primary qualities of an object are those which are subject to precise mathematical calculation, whereas the secondary qualities of the object are those which are rooted in the sensibility of the perceiving organism and which are therefore not "objectively" quantifiable.
The primary qualities number, position, extension, bulk, and so forth are there in the object, but the secondary qualities are subjective reactions to the object on the part of the sensitive organism. A corollary of this doctrine is that the primary qualities, because they are objective, are more "knowable" than are the subjective secondary qualities.
A serious breakdown in the theory of primary and secondary qualities appeared in the critical epistemology of George Berkeley. According to Berkeley, whatever we know of objects, we know on the basis of perception.
The primary as well as the secondary qualities of objects are apprehended in sensation. Moreover, primary qualities are never perceived except in conjunction with secondary qualities. Both primary and secondary qualities, therefore, are derived from perception and are ideas "in the mind.
The outcome of Berkeley's radical subjectivism which reaches its apogee in the skepticism of Hume is an epistemological crisis in which the "knowability" of the external world is rendered problematic. Mead's account of distance experience offers a description of the experiential basis of the separation of primary and secondary qualities. In the exigencies of action, we have seen, there is a tendency on the part of the acting individual to reduce distant objects to the contact area.
The contact characters of the object become the main focus within the act, while the distance characters are bracketed out that is, held in suspension or ignored for the time being.
For the purposes of conduct, "the reality of what we see is what we can handle" The Philosophy of the Act In Mead's analysis of perception, the distinction between distance and contact characters is roughly equivalent to the traditional distinction between secondary and primary qualities, respectively. For Mead, however, the distance characters of an object are not "subjective," but are as objective as the contact characters.
Distance characters such as color, sound, odor, and taste are there in the act; they appear in the transition from impulse to perception and are present even in manipulation: The distance characters seem to be no longer distant, and the object answers to a collapsed act" The Philosophy of the Act Mead's theory of perspectives is, in effect, 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 opposition to outright environmental determinism, Mead points out that the sensitivity, selectivity, and organizational capacities of organisms are sources of the control of the environment by the form.
On the human level, for example, we find the phenomenon of attention. The human being selects her stimuli and thereby organizes the field within which she acts. Attention, then, is characterized by its selectivity and organizing tendency. It is not simply a set of passive senses played upon by the stimuli that come from without. The organism goes out and determines what it is going to respond to, and organizes the world" Mind, Self and Society Attention is the foundation of human intelligence; it is the capacity of attention that gives us control over our experience and conduct.
Attention is one of the elements of human freedom. The relation between organism and environment is, in a word, interactive. The perceptual object arises within this interactive matrix and is "determined by its reference to some percipient event, or individual, in a consentient set" The Philosophy of the Act In other words, perceptual objects are perspectively determined, and perspectives are determined by perceiving individuals.
Even when we consider only sense data, the object is clearly a function of the whole situation whose perspective is determined by the individual. There are peculiarities in the objects which depend upon the individual as an organism and the spatio-temporal position of the individual.