How Does Mead Define Self-Consciousness

Like the mind, self-consciousness is a social embryonic issue. This self, social theory, Mead claims requires that people’s selves should not be products of the (biological or logical) prerequisites of that interaction, but rather of social interaction. Mead’s individualistic conception of the self, which presuppose the significance of self- consciousness to social development contrasts with his theory on the self. It is characterized with development; this development lacks in its initial stage, during birth, but emerges in the social experience process and action, that grows in the every person on account of other people within that process and their associations as a whole to that process. The societal model of Mead is an organic model whereby people’s relationship to the social process is like the way the body is related to all other body parts (Cook, 1992).

The self is a process of reflexivity, “it is an entity to itself.” Mead is of the opinion that it is this reflective process of self, which differentiates it from the body other objects. This is because other objects and the body are not themselves objects as the self is.

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Impeccably, it is factual that the eyes can perceive the leg, however, the eye is not able to perceive the whole body. It is impossible to see directly our backs; however, we can sense particular parts of them, but we can never get a whole body experience. There are, unquestionably, experiences, which are difficult to some extent of location and ambiguous, but the experiences of the body are structured about a self for us. The hand and leg belong to the self. Our feet can be seen, particularly if we view them from the other an opera glass, as peculiar possessions, which we have trouble in recognizing as belonging to us. The body parts are rather distinct from the self. It is possible to lose body parts without any severe incursion to the self. The simple capacity to experience different body parts is not dissimilar from the experience felt from a chair. The chair offers a different sensation from what the hand feels when it touches a different object. However, it is an experience gotten from an object, with which we come into contact. The body lacks the capacity to have a whole experience of itself, whereby the self somehow gets into the understanding of the self (Edles and Appelrouth, 2007).

Furthermore, it is this self-reflexivity, which differentiates animal from human consciousness. Mead elaborates two applications of the term “consciousness”:

  1. It could mean “a particular feeling consciousness.” This means the result of the sensitivity of an organism to its surrounding in this sense, animals.  As long as they behave with reference to happenings in their immediate surroundings are conscious.
  2. It could also mean a type of awareness “which constantly has, obliquely at least, the situation of an ‘I’ in it” (that is to say, the word “consciousness” may refer to self- consciousness). It is the second application of the word “consciousness” that is suitable to the argument of human consciousness. Even though there is a type of consciousness that is pre-reflective, which means the “world’s bareness,” it is self-consciousness or reflective consciousness that symbolizes human awareness. There is absence of self in the pre-reflective world.

Self-consciousness, therefore, comprises self-objectification. In the manner of self- consciousness, a person gets into his personal experience as an entity. This brings up the question of how this self-objectification comes to be. A person, according to Mead, can come in as an object only based on social interactions and relation, and solely through his or her experiential relations with other people in a social surrounding that is organized. Self-consciousness is the product of a process whereby a person takes the approaches and outlooks of others toward himself or herself, in which he or she tries to perceive him or her from the eyes of other people. The self-as-object roots out of a person’s experience outside of themselves of other selves. The objectified self is embryonic within the courses of human inter-subjectivity and societal systems (Cook, 1993).

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For Mead, self-consciousness is closely linked to the language development. To validate this connection, Mead starts by enunciating his knowledge from Wundt about the gesture. Gestures can be understood as the behavioral reactions to stimuli to animals from other creatures. For instance, the barking of a dog, and a dog that will have heard this bark, either runs away or barks back. The “significance” of the “barking gesture” is established in the reaction of the second animal to the first. Nevertheless, dogs do not comprehend their gestures meanings. They merely answer back, that is, they use signs lacking what Mead called “significance.” A gesture is said to have significance, when it results to a second organism responding in a manner that is functionally similar to the reaction that the first organism expects. Therefore, for a gesture to hold ground, it must have the same “meaning” to both organisms, and “meaning” involves the capability to expect knowingly how other organisms will react to gestures or symbols. It is due to the vocal gesture that this capability arises.

 A vocal gesture can be seen as a phrase or word. The application of a vocal gesture, is followed  by an indirect reaction of the person making the gesture in the same way as the person hearing it. If someone is about to walk through a street full of activity in rush hour, I may yell, “Don't walk!” As I yell, I hear my gesture in the same manner the other person hears it, that is to say, I hear the exact words I yelled out, and I will pull back too, halting in my tracks since I hear these words. However, of course, I will not hear them precisely as you do, due to the fact that I am conscious of leading them to you. Mead is of the opinion that, Gestures turn out to be significant signs when they indirectly stimulate in the person making them the same reactions which the explicitly stimulate, or are thought to stimulate, in other persons. He points out that, the critical significance of language in human experience development lies in the fact that the inducement has the ability to respond upon the individual speaking as it responds upon the other (Dewey, 2006).

 As illustrated, the concept of reflexivity plays a vital role in Mead's concept of mind and self-consciousness. Vocal gestures, which are dependent on amply sophisticated nervous systems to interpret them, allow us to hear our own gestures in the same manner that other people hear them. If I yell “Boo” at you, I risk not only scaring you but me too. In other words, vocal gestures allow us to speak to ourselves in the absence of other people. I create certain vocal gestures and expect how other people would respond to them, even in their absence. The responses of other individuals have been adopted and have developed into part of a readily accessible catalogue. Mead is of the opinion that Language is social from top to bottom and, therefore, there exists no private language as does Ludwig Wittgenstein believes. Conferring with Mead, through the application of vocal gestures one has the ability to turn “experience” back on itself by using and the loop of speaking at fairly the same time. Once someone becomes part of a multifaceted system of users of language, Mead claims that this “turning back” of experience on itself and reflexivity, allows development of self-consciousness (Edles and Appelrouth, 2007).

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Social interaction is a vital notion for Mead and it affects self-consciousness. Thinking about the system of “Me”, then there are instances when the “I” institutes new responses that possibly will or will not be incorporated into a current “Me.” However, if incorporated, then there is an instance between the novel and old system of “Me”. The most interesting aspect of this idea is that at the human interactions levels we possess the capability of reflection. It is possible for us to be aware of alterations that are occurring and, in addition, anticipate novel “Me's” that might come into existence. It also enables us to put in place conditions to encourage changes that we perceive and will bring certain transformation in us. In other words, new complications are bound to come up in the world, and due to our capacity for social interaction, we can derive some insight from others on the best courses of action to pursue to solve this problems as we look into the new problems facing us. Certainly, because the difficulties are new means there are no immediate solutions to them. Nevertheless, in some cases, the capability to “stand” between novel and old orders, the same way we do among novel and old social roles, gives us the chance to anticipate other course of action and to incorporate novel responses. Actually, Mead associates moral development with our ability to move beyond old selves, old ideals for the purpose of integrating new ideals into our traits when new circumstances call for them.

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