George Herbert Mead believed that a person’s personality is determined by their social environment, including the people they interact with, the culture they live in, and the values they are taught. He argued that a person’s personality is shaped by their interactions with others, and that it is impossible to separate the self from the social environment.
‘I’ and the ‘me’
The ‘I’ and the ‘I‘ are key terms for social philosophy in George Herbert Meadone of the main influences on the development of the sociology called symbolic interactionism. The terms refer to the psychology of the individual, where in Mead’s understanding, the “I” is the socialized aspect of the person, and the “I” is the active aspect of the person.
One can usefully compare Mead’s “I” and “me”, respectively, with Sartre‘choice’ and ‘the situation“. But Mead himself compared the “I” with Freud‘censor’, and the ‘I’ with its ‘ego“; and this is psychologically adequate.
The “I” is what one learns in interaction with others and (more generally) with the environment: other people’s attitudes, once internalized in the self, constitute the self. Me. This includes both knowledge about that environment (including society) but Also about who the person is: their self sense. “What the individual is to himself is not something he invented. significant others came to…treat you as a being.” This is because people learn to see who they are (male or female, old or young, etc.) by observing others’ responses to themselves or their actions. If others respond to a person as (for example) a woman, the person develops a sense of himself as a woman.
At the same time, ‘the ‘I’ disciplines the ‘I’ by preventing it from breaking the law of the community’. It is, therefore, very similar to the way in which Freud’s “ego-censor”, the conscience … arose from the critical influence of his parents (conveyed to him through the voice), to which were added, over time, time ahead, those who trained and taught him and the innumerable and indefinable host of all other people in his environment – his fellow men – and public opinion’. It is ‘the attitude of the other in his own organism, as the controller of what he is going to do’.
In contrast, “the ‘I’ is the individual’s response to the community’s attitude.” The “I” acts creatively, although within the context of the me. Mead observes that “not until we have acted do we know what we did… what we said.” People, he argues, are not automatons; Mead states that “the ‘I’ reacts to the self that arises through taking the attitude of others.” They don’t follow rules blindly. They ramp up a response based on what they learned, the “I”. Mead highlighted, therefore, those values that attach particularly to the “I” and not to the me, “…which cannot be calculated and which involve a reconstruction of society and, therefore, of the ‘I’ that belongs to that society.” Together, the “I” and the “me” make up the person or the self in Mead’s social philosophy. According to Mead, there would be no possibility of personality without the “I” and the “me”.
Mead explored what he called “the merging of the ‘me’ and the ‘me’ in attitudes to religion, patriotism and teamwork”, noting what he called the “peculiar sense of exaltation” that pertains to them. He also considered that ‘the idea of the fusion of the ‘I’ and the ‘me’ gives a very adequate explanation of this exaltation… in the aesthetic experience’.
In everyday life, however, ‘a complete merging of ‘I’ and ‘I’ may not be a good thing…it is a kind of dynamic balance between ‘I’ and ‘I’ that is needed’.
When there is a predominance of “I” in the personality, ‘we speak of a person as a conventional individual; his ideas are exactly the same as those of his neighbors; he is little more than a “me” under these circumstances – “… the shallow, fragile, conformist personality type…” that’s “all personawith your excessive concern what people think.” The alternative – and in many ways Mead’s ideal – was the person who has a definite personality, who responds to organized attitude in a way that makes a significant difference. I it is the most important phase of the experience.
Mead acknowledged that it is normal for an individual to have “all kinds of selves responding to all sorts of different social reactions”, but also that it was possible for “a tendency to fragment the personality” to appear: “Two separate selves” and “selves”, two different selves, result… dissociation of personality’.
Walt Whitman ‘marks the impulsive “I”, the natural and existential aspect of the self, of critical sanction. It is the cultured self, the “I” in Mead’s terms, that needs remediation.
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