SOCB43H3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 8: George Herbert Mead, Vocal Folds, System On A Chip
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George Herbert MEAD
The I and the Me
Science and Morality
He was the first non European...this is important because Europe was the birth place of
Sociology. He came from a religious family. His father was a professor, and taught at a small
university in Ohio called Oberland college-- was mix of social ideas and strong Calvinistic
morality. He was very politically progressive and was very intelligent. Hands on experience with
engineering, if you have a problem with your design you have to relate it to the real world. He
wanted to study philosophy, so he went to Germany for his studies. At the time, Germany was
the center of intellectual life. He went to the university of Chicago in 1890s. The city was in the
midst of its cities expansion, went from a fort to being a huge city in a 60 year span. Part of
that was the opening of the university of Chicago. Wanted the university to look at the forward
looking, modern look of Chicago settlement houses- places in the city where immigrants would
come and learn skills and meet other people and would have a clean place to live. He taught and
almost created social psychology. He was not very good at writing, he was better with the verbal
flow of conversation. He never actually published a book, what we are reading is lecture notes
collected by his students. He died in 1931.
So what were his ideas?
He’s an action theorist like Weber, starting with people doing things rather than the structure of
the organization- even though his education in psych and philosophy. He created this area called
Social Psychology. and the aim was to understand how the mind - our mental life, and our self-
out understandings of our selves of different people, how both of those things are products
and outcomes of interactions of others. It’s that idea that there is a length of interaction and
developing and our sense of self and to have a mind and that is what he’s known for in
He was responding to the dominant school of that at the time called behaviourism. The main idea
of this classical behaviorism is that you can only study things that you can see, and the thing
about humans you could observe is their behavior and things that they do. It was believe that
things like your mind, your intentions, etc was impossible to see or observe. They’re like ghosts
or spooks- so if you want to be scientific and want to study organisms and human beings, you
can only look at stimuli and behavior. It’s like a black box almost, you have a stimulus
(picture of black box.. with stuff in it) and leads to response... so everything that goes on in your
inner life goes into the black box and is basically crossed out because you can’t see it so you
can’t study it.
You yourself don’t know what’s going on inside of you, all you see is what you do, and anything
else you think is a factor in your actions is an illusion so all you have is stimulus and response
and your own behavior.
Mead wanted to critique that he thought there has to be something wrong, that something would
make us seem like our psych life is not real or important. But how can you think that if you see
the basic premise of science?
Mead thought what it meant was that the only way out, is to say we can observe “mind” in the
world, and we can observe self and all its emotions and plans, it’s not locked inside of you, but
it’s somehow out there in the world. He thought “Mind” was a phenomenon in the world that
we can observe. He wanted to find out a way to say that we can just study the stimulus and
response, we need to see the box by not looking in side of it, but see it through our actions, so the
solution to his problems is to see the mind in the world. We need to study X and not just
stimulation and response. The inner self, the thing that we can’t observe, it’s not basic; it’s
a secondary left over phenomenon. We need to start with people doing stuff because we know
that’s what people do in the world.
Now we try to describe his Theory of Action
Step 1: Some sort of IMPULSE- a stimulation, the organisms reactions to that. It’s the need you
feel to do something about the stimulation. Ex: being thirsty is an action of an impulse. You feel
like doing something about the problem you have, so with being thirsty, your impulse is to get a
drink. Where does it come from? Maybe from within, it’s been a while since you have had
something to drink. Or it could from the world outside, you may not be thirsty but you see a cold
glass of water, so the world can create the response in you if it wasn’t in you before. Normally
it’s a combination, in general you have an impulse that is linked up with the environment
and have a need to try to push you out there to fix the problem. The organism and the
environment are intermittently connected, each is always a phase and moment in the
other, so there is an intertwine of your desires and the world you’re in and its inseparable.
Step 2: PERCEPTION- the organism is searching for and reacting to different stimuli that relate
to the impulse, so you’re thirsty and have that impulse and you're looking for some beverage that
could help you with this problem. Perception involves sifting through the things