The Philosophy of the Act

By George Herbert Mead; Charles W. Morris et al. | Go to book overview

XXIV 1
MORAL BEHAVIOR AND REFLECTIVE THINKING

ONE might wonder whether the process of thinking in problems concerning value goes on as a series of scientific judgments, advancing first from one purpose to another and choosing between the two alternatives with respect to each purpose. That implies, however, a fixed set of values remaining the same. That is the assumption under what may be called Puritanism or Calvinism. There is a fixed set of values-- this is good and that is bad--and then the only thing needed is to determine whether this comes under the category of the good or the category of the bad. Such a situation would be fairly scientific. It is illustrated in the field of law in dealing with crime. If one comes under the definition of crime, then one has done wrong; the thinking is perfectly definite. But the actual situations in which we live are continually changing our values themselves.

2.We are all of us in some sense changing the social order in which we belong; our very living does it, and we ourselves change as we go on; there is always action to answer to reaction in the social world. That process of continuing reconstruction is the process of value, and the only essential imperative I can see is that this essential social process has got to go on-the community, on the one hand, and the selves that make up the community. It has to continue not so much because the happiness of all is worth more than the happiness of the individual but, being what we are, we have to continue being social beings, and society is essential to the individual just as the individual is essential to society. That relationship has to be kept up, and

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1
Taken from student notes. Cf. Mind, Self, and Society, pp. 379 ff.

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