Re: Mead's research methodology

From: Andy Blunden (
Date: Mon Jan 19 2004 - 21:44:47 PST

Thanks Lyn.

Since sending that post, I have among other things, been pointed to the
work of Thomas Scheff. Scheff confirms my impression that Mead's brilliant
speculations did not in fact have empirical research-based support. They
were just part of a whole Progressive Movement, and this movement and its
work provided support in lieu of research properly so called.

I have worked my way through Honneth's appropriation of Mead and although I
was quite impressed at first, at the end of the day I find a lot of fault
in his conception. I think Mead anticipated some of Honneth's errors and
Honneth's mistaken belief that Mead gave him "empirical backing" did not
help things.

My rough notes of this reading are at:


At 04:37 PM 19/01/2004 -0800, you wrote:
>Dear Andy and list,
>Sorry about the late reply and its lack of answers to your question.
>I suspect that not many list members have been able to answer your
>question because it is such a difficult one. Mead was indeed a
>philosopher and a daring speculator. However, he most certainly
>considered himself an empiricist, and exactly what *kind* of
>empiricist he was is no simple question either. In my view both
>he and Dewey are consistent and radically empirical thinkers, even
>in their most metaphysical works. that this empiricism is nothing
>like traditional 'sense-data' empiricism is clear. how this
>relates to the work of Honneth is, to me, less clear.
>Mead is often taken as "naturalizing Hegel." I think there is
>something to this. look at Mind, Self, and Society at the chapter
>on Mind, and note how Mead theorizes mind as an emergent process out
>of animal communication. His "social behaviorism" is an attempt
>to state the facts of psychology in observable (empirical) terms
>(some have supposed that Mead could show Peirce a thing or two
>here with his naturalized animal semiotics). these terms are taken
>from the world of animal behavior and are in principle amenable
>to "scientific" formulation and test. Your best bet for getting
>hold of Mead's research methodology may lie in this direction.
>Good Luck
>Lyn Headley
>UCSD Communication and Science Studies
>--- Andy Blunden <ablunden@MIRA.NET> wrote:
> > I have just subscribed to this list and I'd like to pick the brains
> > of
> > others a little.
> > Where I am coming from is that I am making a critique of Axel
> > Honneth's
> > "Struggle for Recognition"; Honneth seeks "empirical backing" for
> > his
> > social theory in part from Mead's social psychology. My question
> > aims to
> > see if Mead can in fact provide "empirical backing" or whether it
> > is more
> > the case that Mead was a particularly brilliant and insightful
> > associate of
> > John Dewey who made some interesting speculative observations.
> > Question: what was the nature of Mead's experimental work?
> > What was his research methodology?
> > Andy Blunden
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