RE: [xmca] George Herbert Mead. help please

From: Michael Glassman <MGlassman who-is-at>
Date: Thu Nov 01 2007 - 11:44:30 PDT


I know Dewey studied Hegel with George Morris, but James and Peirce
hated Hegel - and criticized Dewey for holding on to him. I don't think
it had much to do with Feuerbach's critique though. I think it was more
a reaction against idealism, which Eric talks about. Pragmatic
philosophy is not as abstract as other philosophical traditions, and it
emerges out of a number of issues that would in many ways be alien to
continental philosophy (for instance I would argue that the exploration
of the frontier, the settling of the mid-western and western states, and
the need for communal problem solving that accompanied it had an
important impact (even though Pragmatism started in Boston, it really
reached fruition in Chicago just as it was emerging as the type of
metropolis that grows from a frontier town). I also think Lincoln had a
tremendous influence on the development of at least instrumental
Pragmatism. All this and more combined with the emergence of Darwin's
ideas of adaptation probably had far more to do with the development of
Pragmatic thought than continental philosophy in general. It was a
different idea and by trying to bring the two together I'm not sure if
we are trying to fit a square peg in to a round hole.


-----Original Message-----
From: []
On Behalf Of Branimira Slavova
Sent: Thursday, November 01, 2007 9:03 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: RE: [xmca] George Herbert Mead. help please


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
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
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
and Leontiev should be used as a foundation in social psychology,
of Mead, it was confusing to answer. I actually think that the main
differences between Vygotsky/Leontyev/Luria and Mead/Peirce/Dewey is
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.
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
I mean pragmatism that reduces everything to interactions between
individuals deemed to be the bearers of needs, knowledge etc., and
the real existence of universals. By pragmatism in the broad sense, I
pragmatism which understands that interactions between individuals
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
think you are talking about Michael, if I'm not mistaken, doesn't
in theories and ideas, it all comes down just to whether its useful or
But Mead and Dewey and Perice were better than that.


(PS Engstrom answer my question about communicative and instrumental
a few paragraphs later. Sorry for the stupid question in that other
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
>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
>this theory. Most street level social work is working within and
>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
>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
>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
>know what have read in terms of a couple of hundred pages of his
>a couple of biographical articles and of course I am familiar with the
>Progressive Movement, Dewey, Peirce and everyone, of which he was a
>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
>imagine that there was a lot of laboratory work involved, controlled
>experiments and observation, and so on, by Mead, during his own
>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
>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
> >this type of Pragmatic thought. John Dewey recruited him to the
> >University of Chicago from the Univfersity of Michigan, and they were
> >friends - both intellectually and socially. There was also a large,
> >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
> >and Mead who stayed at the University of Chicago and the remains of
> >group. Mead's ideas are not the ideas of one man but a brilliant
> >philosophical movement that helped to create what we now call
> >and sociology, and qualitative methodology, and even to a certain
> >much of modern anthropology (Boas was also a marginal member of this
> >group).
> >
> >I'm interested, why would you think the ideas are so much more
> >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
> >my view that his ideas on social psychology were very close to our
> >though inevitably, as the work of just one man, relatively
> >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
> >that you guys cover him in your courses at UCSD.
> >
> >Andy
> >
> > Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380
> >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 11:49 PDT 2007

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