external image georgeherbertmead.jpg
external image georgeherbertmead.jpg
George Herbert Mead's Theory
"The emergent event, which arises in a present, establishes a barrier between present and future; emergence is an inhibition of (individual and collective) conduct, a disharmony that projects experience into a distant future in which harmony may be re-instituted. The initial temporal structure of human time-consciousness lies in the separation of present and future by the emergent event. The actor, blocked in his activity, confronts the emergent problem in his present and looks to the future as the field of potential resolution of conflict."

This means that as situations in our life arise that disrupt what we would consider a normal day, we take into consideration what happened, how to deal with it, and then shape our behaviour to conform to this solution should it happen again. Using this model you could explain why certain people of a particular career field might all share the same personality traits. The demands of the job require that a certain set of behaviours be learned and used in order to deal with the behaviours and problems seen regularly, in a normal day on that job.

Mead also argues that without these problems or "rupture of continuity" there can be no experience to base change on. We would all essentially cease to individually have unique experiences and then have nothing to in turn differentiate one person from the next. It is with these changes that the emergence of inhibition is possible and an individuals behaviour is then modified.

The second portion of Mead's Temporal Structure of Human Existence Theory is "Function of the past in Human Experience". It is in this portion that continuity is defined, and he states that we define continuity using past norms, and perceived patterns in previous emergence events. It should be stated though that by nature emergence events cannot be predicted, and to predict an emergent event would actually rob it of some of its value as an emergence event. But once an emergent event appears it can become part of our continuity. It is here a strong point is made that:

"History is founded on human action in response to emergent events. Action is an attempt to adjust to changes that emerge in experience; the telos of the act is the re-establishment of a sundered continuity. Since the past is instrumental in the re-establishment of continuity, the adjustment to the emergent requires the creation of history. “By looking into the future,” Mead observes, “society acquired a history”(The Philosophy of the Act 494). And the future- orientation of history entails that every new discovery, every new project, will alter our picture of the past."

The third quarter of this theory Mead called Sociality and Time, roughly states that everything alive or not, is part of a system or systems and interacts with other systems or relationships. Such as the "bee system" and the "flower system" have a relationship with each other to form the "bee-flower system". We have relationships with many parts of our external environment. Some conscious and some none, each of these relationships and dependencies shape our reactions and in turn shape our behaviour. It should be noted that these interactions are rarely unidirectional and that we often effect and are affected. Mead talks about how throughout our lives we will encounter different systems and our change occurs as we experience and adjust to these systems.

Mead defined our capacity for these relationships as sociality. He then describes two modes of sociality
(1) Sociality characterizes the “process of readjustment” by which an organism incorporates an emergent event into its ongoing experience. This sociality in passage, which is “given in immediate relation of the past and present,” constitutes the temporal mode of sociality (The Philosophy of the Present 51). (2) A natural event is social, not only by virtue of its dynamic relationship with newly emergent situations, but also by virtue of its simultaneous membership in different systems at any given instant. In any given present, “the location of the object in one system places it in the others as well” (The Philosophy of the Present 63).

The fourth and final portion of Mead's Temporal Structure of Human Existence Theory, is called the Temporality and the Problem of Freedom. This part of his theory focuses more on human freedoms and more heavily on the loss of freedom, if it occurs. It defines "self" and talks about the ability to make decisions and choices. This portion of the theory discusses the need for this ability of freedom to occur. People define themselves in part by these choices and if these freedoms are removed, the individual looses sense of self. (Cronk, 2005).