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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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G. H. Mead’s Understanding of the Nature of Speech in the Light of Contemporary Research

G. H. Mead’s Understanding of the Nature of Speech in the Light of Contemporary Research

(p.315) Chapter Fifteen G. H. Mead’s Understanding of the Nature of Speech in the Light of Contemporary Research
The Timeliness of George Herbert Mead

Timothy Gallagher

University of Chicago Press

Mead’s theory of the nature and development of language is thoroughly evaluated in light of subsequent research in the chapter by Timothy Gallagher. The chapter is structured as a response to ethologist Niko Tinbergen’s well-known four questions in the explanation of behavior: How does it work (mechanics)? How does it develop in the individual (ontogeny)? How did it emerge in history (phylogeny)? And how is it adaptive for survival (function)? Mead, Gallagher shows, fares well on each of these questions, and his writings exhibit an explicit awareness of features of language that have received confirmation in recent scholarship, including its neuro-physiological apparatus, its complex development that is dependent on features of human biology and social learning, its evolutionary relation to and advance over non-symbolic gestures, and its role in producing flexible and dynamic coordination of social activities. Ultimately Mead goes beyond these questions by developing a non-dualistic theory of the relationship between language and consciousness—a problem not considered by Tinbergen’s reductive questions.

Keywords:   George Herbert Mead, Niko Tinbergen, evolution, language, communication, gesture, consciousness

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