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Title:Re-Reading Mead: The Mind-Body Dilemma and Sociology
Author(s):Smedley, Charles Vincent
Department / Program:Sociology
Discipline:Sociology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:Ph.D.
Genre:Dissertation
Subject(s):Sociology, Theory and Methods
Abstract:Despite the growing influence of the works of George Herbert Mead on the development of modern sociological theory, sociologists limit their reading of Mead to only a few of his many writings. Not only has this neglect led to a shallow interpretation of Mead, but it has also led to misunderstandings concerning Mead's broader interests and has divorced his work from its historical connection to the discipline of philosophy. Drawing from the whole corpus of Mead's published writings as well as the many unpublished materials in the Mead archives at the University of Chicago, I seek to place Mead's work in just such an historical context. Specifically, I argue that Mead's work must be seen, in part, as an attempt to overcome certain aspects of the mind, and the mind-body problem which have their origins in Cartesian interactionism. I do not claim that Mead was responding specifically to Descartes, but rather to certain problems first raised by Cartesianism which remained unresolved by succeeding philosophers.
Descartes is responsible for the emergence of modern philosophy and his contributions to Western thought are significant. However, Descartes' dualistic philosophy also gave rise to what I call: the problem of mind and body; the problem of knowledge and subjectivity. I present a detailed discussion of these problems and examine Mead's attempts to overcome them.
Similarly, Mead was influenced to no small degree by the works of the German Idealists, primarily Kant and Hegel. Over time, Mead gradually came to reject much of their philosophy. For Mead at least, German Idealism failed to provide an adequate solution to the problem of mind, and it introduced new, but related issues: the creative capacity of mind (Kant); the problem of the individual self (Hegel). Again, I examine both problems in detail and discuss Mead's reactions to them. I conclude with a brief discussion of the importance of these relatively unexplored aspects of Mead's thought for social psychology and sociology.
Issue Date:1986
Type:Text
Description:390 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1986.
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/71016
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8701621
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-16
Date Deposited:1986


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