The Process of Cultural Evolution George Herbert Mead
The poets light but
Themselves -- go out --
The Wicks they stimulate --
If Vital Light
Inhere as do the Suns --
Each Age a Lens
-- Emily Dickinson, "No. 883"
T here were valuable insights in the works of Bergson and Husserl, in spite of certain paralyzing premises that led both into irresolvable contradiction. Bergson's psychological and anthropological works made a major contribution to the late-nineteenth-century readjustment of philosophical thought from the static transcendentalism of the Aristotelian-Christian tradition (still apparent in Kant) to an evolutionary perspective. No less significant was Husserl's idea that the external world acquires meaning only as humans act upon it. We should also acknowledge Husserl's belated realization of the universality and developmental nature of science, although this is seldom associated with his name.
A more important contribution came from Durkheim, however, in his explanation of the representational nature of human society, and in the path he charted for a future theory of socio-cultural evolution which would necessarily involve the idea of systems of increasing organizational complexity.
An American contemporary, George Herbert Mead, encountered the ideas of these popular European thinkers in his student days, as well as those of Spencer and William James, and later, of A.N. Whitehead and Dewey. He must also have become familiar with Pavlov's research. And, most important, he was a contemporary of Vygotsky, whose work he seems to have studied in depth. It is a reflection of the unique genius of Mead that he was able to dis