RE: [xmca] George Herbert Mead. help please

From: Branimira Slavova <B.Slavova who-is-at>
Date: Thu Nov 01 2007 - 07:03:15 PDT


I was trying to understand the differences among these philosophies some time ago. So I'll pitch in my 2 cents. I was led to believe that the main difference between the American pragmatist philosophers and the Russians is based on their different stances on the Feuerbach's critique of Hegel. My sense was that the pragmatists had more of a reductionist view, while the Russians were anti-reductionist which allowed them to consider more sophisticated basic units of analysis. Is that a fair thing to say?


Dr Mira Slavova
Research Fellow in Information Management
Maurice Keyworth Building
The University of Leeds
Leeds LS2 9JT
Tel: 0113 343 7818

-----Original Message-----
From: on behalf of Michael Glassman
Sent: Thu 11/1/2007 13:24
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: RE: [xmca] George Herbert Mead. help please
I think the response is a kind of complicated and it relates back I think to an earlier comment you made about unity or whether you consider communication as products of labor. There was a difference between Peirce/James and Dewey/Mead when it comes to Pragmatism - which involves whether activity builds upon itself, making life better and adaptation easier, or whether all activity is situation specific and doesn't really have a larger social meaning beyond solving a problem. James (and I assume Peirce) believed that Dewey (and by extension Mead) saw social progress in activity because of a Hegelian deposit that remained in Dewey's thinking even after he left Johns Hopkins. It has been a continuous argument about whether Dewey has a Hegelian deposit for about a century now. But James was much more interested in the individual while Dewey/Mead because of their interest in progress were necessarily more socially or societally oriented - Is that what you mean by the difference between narrow and broad Pragmatism? Pepper separated them by calling one contextualism and one organicism (though the differentiation seem to be to be a short at Dewey).
But the idea that there are materials that can somehow be thought of separate from practical activity and problem solving - now I think they all pretty much would have argued against that by the mid 1890s. The big issue I think is their thinking was a fear of dualism. Once you assume that there are materials that are separate from actions in any way, including any types of universals, then you are somehow separating the human condition from nature itself. What you run in to is control of these things, or attempts to control these things, outside of the problem based interaction/transaction itself. For instance if you posit that discourse is somehow a product, are you making the assumption or claim that you can somehow control discourse and they way it is manipulated outside of the process itself? I think this is the reason that, at least to my reading, even though Dewey believed there was mediation he questioned the worth of studying and understanding it, because that assumed that you could transfer this meaning to the next situation - because you can't separate language or anything else from the actual activity.
I'm not sure I understand your point about one group of theorists in Russia and one group of theorists in the United States. What is true is that there were a number of forces in the United States that were pushing thinking about human condition towards more practical aspects of human problem solving.


From: on behalf of Andy Blunden
Sent: Thu 11/1/2007 8:49 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: RE: [xmca] George Herbert Mead. help please

Mmm, that's an answer, Micharl.
Engstrom seems to be saying, amongst other things, that Mead was much
better than his interpreters of the 1980s/90s. The question arose for me in
connection with a paper I am writing about Axel Honneth, including his
appropriation of Mead in the 90s. I had the same view, i.e., that what Mead
said was OK, but Honneth just missed it, and transformed his theory into
typical postmodern "intersubjectivity" (social rather than societal some
would say). When I was challenged and asked to say why I thought Vygotsky
and Leontiev should be used as a foundation in social psychology, instead
of Mead, it was confusing to answer. I actually think that the main
differences between Vygotsky/Leontyev/Luria and Mead/Peirce/Dewey is that
the first group were Russians living in the USSR and the second lot were
Americans living in the USA. - not so much in the actually theoretical
differences between these early figures.
One of the ideas I use in my paper is the contrast between pragmatism in
the "narrow" sense an pragmatism in the "broad" sense. People said, you
mean Mead was pragmatic in the narrow sense and Vygotsky in the broad. No!
Mead is pragmatic in the broad sense, but the "spirit" of American
pragmatism is narrow, and the ideas of great thinkers cannot survive the
spirit of their times and the spirit of their people. (By narrow pragmatism
I mean pragmatism that reduces everything to interactions between
individuals deemed to be the bearers of needs, knowledge etc., and denies
the real existence of universals. By pragmatism in the broad sense, I mean
pragmatism which understands that interactions between individuals happen
by means of universals, which are material artefacts, culture - public
property, so to speak, and this material culture constitutes the
objectivity of universals. The ordinary American pragmatist of the kind I
think you are talking about Michael, if I'm not mistaken, doesn't believe
in theories and ideas, it all comes down just to whether its useful or not.
But Mead and Dewey and Perice were better than that.


(PS Engstrom answer my question about communicative and instrumental action
a few paragraphs later. Sorry for the stupid question in that other thread
I started, and apologies for forgetting to set "Send text only")

At 08:02 AM 1/11/2007 -0400, you wrote:
>It's difficult to describe, but even though the theorists don't get so
>much play, much of the theory of Mead and the others is integrated in to
>everyday activity in United States society (why the
>disconnect? Hmmmm.) Every time somebody does Case Management they are
>testing this theory. Many drug programs and housing programs are testing
>this theory. Most street level social work is working within and testing
>this theory. Many teachers, inside the classroom, are continuously
>testing this theory (Standardized Curriculums can be seen as a frontal
>political attack on these ideas). The results need to be empirical but
>they are not positivist, and they are not generalizable - which in itself
>is part of Pragmatic thought. It is not so much these ideas aren't
>constantly used and tested, but perhaps more the way we view testing and
>From: on behalf of Andy Blunden
>Sent: Wed 10/31/2007 9:14 AM
>To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>Subject: RE: [xmca] George Herbert Mead. help please
>Please understand Michael that my knowledge of Mead is very thin; I only
>know what have read in terms of a couple of hundred pages of his writings,
>a couple of biographical articles and of course I am familiar with the
>Progressive Movement, Dewey, Peirce and everyone, of which he was a part.
>But I get the impression that he worked out these ideas, as you say, in
>dialogue especially with Dewey and in the midst of that milieu, but I don't
>imagine that there was a lot of laboratory work involved, controlled
>experiments and observation, and so on, by Mead, during his own lifetime.
>The Vygotsky school on the other and incorporates today many decades of
>empirical and practical experimental work and observation by scores of
>psychologists. Yes? How many research groups or psychological practitioners
>use Symbolic Interactionism specifically today, as their comprehensive
>theoretical paradigm?
>At 08:58 AM 31/10/2007 -0400, you wrote:
> >Andy,
> >
> >Mead's work was not just one man - he was surrounded by an entire group at
> >the University of Chicago that had come together under the umbrella of
> >this type of Pragmatic thought. John Dewey recruited him to the
> >University of Chicago from the Univfersity of Michigan, and they were best
> >friends - both intellectually and socially. There was also a large, more
> >application oriented group centered around Jane Addams and Hull House, and
> >the nascent labor movement. When Dewey went to Columbia, there was a
> >great deal of cross-pollination between the group he started at Columbia
> >and Mead who stayed at the University of Chicago and the remains of that
> >group. Mead's ideas are not the ideas of one man but a brilliant
> >philosophical movement that helped to create what we now call psychology,
> >and sociology, and qualitative methodology, and even to a certain extent
> >much of modern anthropology (Boas was also a marginal member of this whole
> >group).
> >
> >I'm interested, why would you think the ideas are so much more speculative
> >than say CHAT?
> >
> >Michael
> >
> >________________________________
> >
> >From: on behalf of Andy Blunden
> >Sent: Wed 10/31/2007 8:21 AM
> >To:
> >Subject: [xmca] George Herbert Mead. help please
> >
> >
> >
> >I'm currently reading a collection of George Herbert Mead, which confirms
> >my view that his ideas on social psychology were very close to our own,
> >though inevitably, as the work of just one man, relatively speculative.
> >Can anyone recommend to me a critique of Mead by a CHAT person, perhaps a
> >message in the XCMA archive or a paper available in HTML or PDF? I know
> >that you guys cover him in your courses at UCSD.
> >
> >Andy
> >
> > Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380 9435,
> >mobile 0409 358 651
> >
> >_______________________________________________
> >xmca mailing list
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >_______________________________________________
> >xmca mailing list
> >
> >
> Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380 9435,
>mobile 0409 358 651
>xmca mailing list
>xmca mailing list

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Received on Thu Nov 1 07:10 PDT 2007

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