SOCB43H3S – Lecture 8
The I and the Me
Science + Morality
He’s the first non-European.
Born February 14th 1863,
Father was a minister, family long line of clergies, father taught at Overland College in Ohio;
Strong Calvinistic; at Overland College, they read classics over and over and weren’t open to new social
development. Mead lost his faith, illusion of the church
He was an engineer working on railways and design the tracks. That’s important because this
hands on experience where you have to confront and adapt to the real world, it made an impression on
him. He mentioned that he wanted to study philosophy and got in contact with William James, a leading
philosopher, brother of Henry James, a novelist. He went to Germany for his studies because that was
the centre of intellectual life. He was graduated and ready to become a professor and started teaching
in Michigan, then University of Chicago in the 1890s. It was important because it had rapid expansion,
just a little fort to a metropolis. That was due to the opening up of this university. He wanted it to be a
symbol of Chicago, not that uptight boring east coast; Rocafella, recruiting the best faculty members in
the world. John Dewey is another psychologist that’s important. He was a major social activist. He
opened up these settlement houses. He would meet other people and have a clean place to live. Mead
taught in social psychology, almost invented it actually. He was attracting students from all over. He was
a great lecturer. He had a hard time writing however and was never satisfied to write down his ideas. He
was more comfortable with a verbal flow i.e. in a conversation. He never published a book. We are
reading a compilation of his lecture notes collected by his students. He actually did end up dying in 1931.
That was his boring life basically.
He’s an action theorist i.e. Weber about people doing things rather than the structure of the
organization. Even though he had education in psychology and sociology, he created social psychology
which was aimed to understand how our mental life and ourselves and our understanding of that are
products of interactions with others. It is that idea that there is a link between interaction and our
capacity to have a mind, that’s what he’s known for in sociology.
It was about the dominant pool of thought
You can only study things you can see and observe. You can only observe their
behaviour, things they do. Things like the mind, the intentions, feelings, it’s impossible to observe that.
If you want to be scientific, all you can do is to study organism and humans in terms of stimuli and
responses. So i.e. you’re thirsty….so you drink. That is what needs to be study. You yourself don’t know
what’s going on inside of you, you observe as well. All you have is stimulus and response and behaviour.
There’s got to be something wrong that makes it seems like our psychological life is not real. But how
can you think that if you only study things you observe. You don’t see people’s mind. To me what it
means is that we can observe the mind in the world. We can observe self and emotions and plans, it’s
not locked inside of you. Mind can be thought as a phenomenon that can be observed in the world like
anything else. The important thing is that you want to say that what’s in that black box, it’s not just that
box, it’s somehow in our actions, out there in the world. We should study acts and not just stimuli and
response. It will include attention, perception, and emotion. The inner self is secondary phenomenon
therefore we should start with people doing stuff.
There’s some kind of stimulation, a need to do something about that stimulation. I.e. being
thirsty, that is an example of an impulse. So you have an impulse to find something to drink.
Where does that impulse come from? It can be from within. It can be that it’s been a while since
you have drank something. Usually it’s some kind of combination. The normal situation is that
you have an impulse that leads you to an action that carries out that impulse. The actor and the
environment in which the organism is moving are intimately connected. Each is always a phase
and a moment with the other, an intertwining moment that is acceptable; going back and forth,
i.e. breathing is the result of thousands of interactions with the environment and transforming
that into something usable.
The organism or that actor is reacting to stimuli that relates to the impulse. So you’re thirsty and
you are looking for some thirst quenching beverage. Perception involves sifting thru all this.
Which of all the things in the world helps or relates to this impulse you have? Not everything in
the world is going to solve your thirst (i.e. licking the table). We can narrow it down with
processes of perception. Notice just in these two steps how much more Mead has built in to
normal psychology. You have an impulse like thirst and there’s this whole process where the