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Re: [xmca] fetishism

Charles Morris was a student of George Herbert Mead. In 1932 he published "Six theories of mind," dedicated to Mead and Dewey, a review of the many theories of mind as substance, as process, as relation, as intentional act, as substance, and as function. 

In the chapter on mind as process, Morris reviews reactions to what he has called the Galilean-Cartesian-Newtonian world-view, which insisted that the world is no more than matter in motion, mechanical clockwork. In this world view, mind and matter are distinct, as separate substances. Idealism was one such reaction: "idealism has played the cultural role of restoring to man and his cherished objects a place of importance and dignity in the cosmos whenever a scientific movement has tended to make him a three-dimensional...  worm" (50). In the G-C-N world-view all value, meaning, truth and beauty were considered to be purely mental phenomena, and "it was a natural and brilliant counterstroke to assert the basic and pervasive character of mind by attempting to show that" value, meaning, truth and beauty in fact exist in the world - because the world is mind (spirit).  "This attempt to make mind the supreme category is then, in part at least, understandable as an insistence upon the ultimate reality of that realm where alone, on the opposing view, values were allowed to reside" (50-51).

Of course there was a counter-revolution to idealism, and idealism itself ran in considerable problems as a philosophical position. But Morris' evaluation is by no means completely negative: "The strength of idealism lay in its activism [that is, the world is not merely inert stuff]; its weakness in its mentalism: in avoiding the dualism between thought and sense, mind and nature, experience and reality, idealism overgeneralized its case in regarding mind as the sole reality" (100-101). But in Morris' view a more adequate materialism can grasp these aspects of world as active, organized and meaningful, just as well, if not better, than idealism. In the functionalism of Dewey and Mead, mind is the functioning of significant symbols, not to be located in the brain. Mind has contact with nature that is mediated, but direct in the sense that knowledge is achieved in action, and the activity of knowing transforms the world. The world is one of meaning and value insofar as it has relevance to the various functions of the human organism.

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