Interpreting and extending G. H. Mead's "metaphysics" of selfhood and agency

Philosophical Psychology 20 (4):441 – 456 (2007)
G. H. Mead developed an alternative "metaphysics" of selfhood and agency that underlies, but is seldom made explicit in discussions of, his social developmental psychology. This is an alternative metaphysics that rejects any pregiven, fixed foundations for being and knowing. It assumes the emergence of social psychological phenomena such as mind, self, and deliberative agency through the activity of human actors and interactors within their biophysical and sociocultural world. Of central importance to the emergence of self-consciousness and deliberative forms of human agency is the ability of developing individuals to take the perspectives of others within their own conduct. However, precisely what is involved in this process, and whether or not it assumes the preexistence of exactly those forms of selfhood and agency, the emergence of which it seeks to explain, have been much disputed. In this essay, recent reinterpretations of Mead's "metaphysics" are used to argue that his overall theoretical program contains resources necessary to overcome charges of ontological and epistemological circularity. In particular, once his interactionism, perspectivism, emergentism, and compatibilism are explicated, it is possible to see that Mead's "taking the perspective of the other" is not primarily a process of internalization that requires a preexisting "internalizer," but a process of participation with others within conventionalized sequences of interactivity. This participatory process enables the development of prereflective forms of perspective taking and self-other differentiation that serve as necessary conditions for the further emergence of more reflective forms of perspective taking, self-consciousness, and deliberative agency. Compatibilist interpretations of deliberative agency, thus understood, also are discussed.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 9,351
External links
  • Through your library Configure
    References found in this work BETA
    Richard Burke (1962). G. H. Mead and the Problem of Metaphysics. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 23 (1):81-88.
    Alex Gillespie (2005). G.H. Mead: Theorist of the Social Act. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 35 (1):19–39.

    View all 12 references

    Citations of this work BETA
    Similar books and articles

    Monthly downloads

    Added to index


    Total downloads

    13 ( #100,462 of 1,088,371 )

    Recent downloads (6 months)

    1 ( #69,449 of 1,088,371 )

    How can I increase my downloads?

    My notes
    Sign in to use this feature

    Start a new thread
    There  are no threads in this forum
    Nothing in this forum yet.