Mead, George Herbert

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.
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Mead, George Herbert

George Herbert Mead (mēd), 1863–1931, American philosopher and psychologist, b. South Hadley, Mass., grad. Oberlin, 1883, and Harvard, 1888, and studied in Leipzig and Berlin. He taught at the Univ. of Chicago from 1894 until his death. The work of John Dewey and of Mead may be regarded as complementary. Mead, studying the development of the mind and the self, regarded mind as the natural emergent from the interaction of the human organism and its social environment. Within this biosocial structure the gap between impulse and reason is bridged by the use of language. Mastering language, humans set up assumptions as to their roles in life, and self and consciousness-of-self emerge, giving intelligence a historical development that is both natural and moral. Mead called his position social behaviorism, using conduct—both social and biological—as an approach to all experience. Mead's work, collected posthumously, includes The Philosophy of the Present (1932), Mind, Self, and Society (1934), and The Philosophy of the Act (1938).

See P. Pfuetze, The Social Self (1954, repr. 1973 under the title Self, Society, Existence); see W. R. Corti, ed., The Philosophy of George Herbert Mead (1977); D. L. Miller, George Herbert Mead: Self, Language, and the World (1980).

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