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The Timeliness of George Herbert Mead$
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Hans Joas and Daniel R. Huebner

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226376943

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226377131.001.0001

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Mead, Whitehead, and the Sociality of Nature

Mead, Whitehead, and the Sociality of Nature

(p.185) Chapter Nine Mead, Whitehead, and the Sociality of Nature
The Timeliness of George Herbert Mead

Michael L. Thomas

University of Chicago Press

Michael L. Thomas provides a fresh analysis of the relationship between Mead and the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead. There can be no doubt that in the last years of his life Mead grappled with Whitehead’s thinking more than with any other philosophy. The expression “objective reality of perspectives”—the title of one of Mead’s essays—conveys the basic idea behind his effort very well. Perspective alludes to subjectivity, but every subjectivity is itself part of an objective reality. Instead of yielding to a bifurcation of nature into an objective and a subjective realm, both Mead and Whitehead view reality as a temporal, constructive process in which the subjectivity of individuals plays a role in its construction. But Thomas also insists on the differences between the two thinkers. Mead saw himself as being more consistent in this shared effort and better able to prevent any recreation of the bifurcation they were both struggling to overcome. Thomas sees Mead as focusing on the scientific understanding of reality and Whitehead as more interested in an aesthetic project. But these two projects do not necessarily contradict each other, and it is Thomas’s ambition to outline possible avenues of synthesis.

Keywords:   George Herbert Mead, Alfred North Whitehead, sociality, perspective, temporality, subjectivity

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