The Symbolic Process and its Integration in Children

Chapter 2: The Origin and Nature of the Symbolic Process As Shown in the Writings of American Sociologists

John Fordyce Markey

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The Trends

THE main lines of thought may be summarized in the trend from an individualistic subjective structural conception to a social objective behaviouristic conception. The whole movement stands out clearly, although it is difficult to point out many sociologists who hold one of the views completely. Most of them represent transitional stages in one or more of the aspects involved.

The Individualistic Subjective Structural Conception

The individualistic subjective structural conception of social interaction and the symbolic process is as follows Mind and ideas are primarily individual facts and only secondarily, if at all, social facts. This ready-made individual, to a great degree socially independent, is much of a separate unit, quite complete in himself. The symbolic process, in so far as it is thought, ideas" psychic "-is also subjective. The symbolic process, when it consists of spoken words, visible signs, etc., is objective, but these signs and symbols are arbitrary, merely superficialities ; the real thing is the subjective individual process.

Usually, according to this conception, social groups are made up of but little more than the " sum of " such individuals. These atoms and their relations, which are relatively external to the individuals, make up the structure of social life. Thus it appears as a static framework by which social activities are carried on. The

( 5) structures within the individuals are mind, ideas, thoughts. Dewey's suggestion that an interdict be placed for a generation upon the use of such words as mind, matter and consciousness as nouns, obliging us to employ adjectives and adverbs, mental and mentally, etc. (1925, p. 75), would be somewhat abhorrent to those who conceive of the individuals' grand possessions as a mind and some thoughts. It would possibly not be so serious for the next generation. By the phrase a mind and some thoughts, the purpose is not to imply that these do not exist as much as trees or lakes exist. The point being emphasized is the difference between looking at thoughts as little structures stored in the mind and seeing thoughts as actions as responses.

The background of earlier sociologists was permeated, as a rule, with the individualistic structural psychology. Psychological thought had not escaped from metaphysical solipsism, nor has it yet escaped, except in a small degree. Considering the period in which these early writers lived who represent most clearly this conception, they are to be commended for what they did see accurately rather than censured for what they saw inaccurately. One influence from which they did not escape was the individualistic refraction of that time.

The clearest examples of the individualistic subjective structural conception are Ward, Ross, and, to a lesser degree, Giddings.

Ward was perhaps the most consistent in his individualistic interpretations. The mind and intellect existed before the group. He speaks of early mankind being without society (1910, II, p. 229, 221 ; I, p. 451, 461). For Ward there is no question-the egg produced the hen -human association was the result of the " perceived advantage " which association yields, and it came into existence " only in proportion " as that advantage was perceived by the intellect. Thought and reason went

( 6) before, and produced every institution in society (1898 a, p. 91; b, p. 183; 1906, p. 63). The mind is the source 0f the social forces.

He treats the mind as an entity,[1] although he attacks this idea as a most serious obstacle to psychological progress. This objection seems to have been a sleight-of-hand performance through which his scientific ‘conscience ' was satisfied. He was a monist with matter as the basic assumption, consequently mind must be a relation of matter (1893, p. 225 f ; 1906, p. 89 ; 1910, I, p. 408 ff). But certainly, in his treatment, the individual has a mind and some thoughts. Agreeing with Locke, he says that the mind " without experience " is a blank sheet 0f paper 0r an empty cabinet. All except the very poorest " strawboard intellects (idiots) are capable, like the boxes, however rudely made, 0f holding any 0f the things that are put into them and 0f preserving them securely " (1906, p. 2,68 ff). The mind is represented by both the box and its contents. The intellect (capacity t0 acquire knowledge 0f objects) is "purely psychic" and "not at all 0f a physiological nature " (1893, p. 225).

Being evolutionary in his point 0f view, he did think 0f the mind as an evolutionary development 0f capacities already existing in the animal world. He states that although the intellect has probably thus far been confined t0 man, it is only an amplification 0f the capacity which resides in the lowest organized beings (1906, p. 333 f ; 1910, I, P. 384). However, his discussion 0f reasoning and mental activity in animals is quite intellectualistic.

Achievement and knowledge (all achievement is knowledge) is individual. In the conquest 0f nature the individual " seems t0 be everything and society nothing but the beneficiary 0f all this gain as it leaks through the individuals' hands . . . " (1906, p. 6 ; 1911, PP. 41, 547-555)

Of course, after knowledge has been produced society

( 7) has a great deal 0f control over it and the " filling " of the individuals' minds. Thus, " all the geniuses, all the heroes, all the great men of the world " have been products 0f " the local, the economic, the social 0r the educational environment " (one 0r other 0f the artificial environments) (1906, pp. 269, 293).

Language is a product of the individual's intellect. It is among the earliest 0f human institutions and was "certainly spontaneous " (1911, p. 188). It was a result of the pressing need 0f the mind for communication. Thought " was not content simply to struggle for expression." It applied the " indirect method," ergo, language (1910, II, p. 180 ff) !

Ross is probably as extreme, although not as consistent in his statement of the individualistic nature of the mind and ideas-but consistency is a hard virtue in much more tenable positions.

According to him, the " dialectic " of personal growth by which " the thought of the other person is built into the very foundations 0f the thought of one's self," is not " strictly speaking " social. His criterion of social is the action of man on man. The dialectic is a preliminary process not strictly involving this kind 0f action (1919 a, pp. 5, 95-98).

The innovating individual is an extra-social or sub-social factor (1919 a, p. 227 f). Inventions, new ideas, etc., are thus individual products, and it is not society that kindles strange longings or invents new pleasure, but " superior individuals " (1920 a, P. 329). The genius is in no wise a social product (1919 b, p. 360-a view in marked contrast to that of Ward. The causes of social phenomena are individual and to be found in the human mind (1920 b, p. 41 ; 1919 a, pp. 152, 198).

In short, Ross regards man's social union as a late advent. He sees a great drama in which this remarkably independent individual duels against social control for individual ascendancy. If the personality is left to freely

( 8) unfold, it may arrive at a " goodness all its own." (1920 a, pp. viii, 14; 1919 b, p. vii.)

Giddings' conception 0f the social makes a sharp contrast to that of Ward and Ross. The individual is not an independent starting point for the social. Neither the individual nor society are prior to the other. The study of sociology is extended to include the natural grouping and the collective behaviour of living things, " including human beings " (1922, pp. 101, 225 ; 1920, P. 399).

Regarding ideas and mental development, he is somewhat similar to Ward in that he holds that other animals have ideas and generalize. But they do not make an abstract idea as such an object of contemplation. Their generalization and logic is that of recepts, not of concepts. They have language but not speech (1920, P. 222 ff). Speech is evidently associated in his mind with concepts and abstract ideas (symbols). He does not develop the point, however.

He accepts Donovan's theory regarding the social origin of speech. Donovan's theory is that the festal occasion furnished the conditions for this development. The association of musical tones with vocal sounds or cries, reproducing a state of emotional excitement pertaining to play or pleasurable action gave the basis for the " fusion " of concepts. War and phallic dances may become so real and intense as to end in natural passion (1891).

Human nature is also associated with the development of speech. From the moment that the hominine species began to practise speech, however awkwardly, it began to develop a human nature (1920, p. 225). The influences which have created the human faculty are mutations " creative of intelligence on the one hand, natural selection and social pressure on the other. . . ." It is " preeminently " the social nature and is distinguished from the original nature which consists of hereditary mechanisms

( 9) (1922, pp. 226 ff, 103, 112). However, the original nature is yet quite dominant according to Giddings (1922, p. 291). Although Giddings finds speech and ideas social in origin, it is quite evident that he misses some of the social factors involved. It is true, he does recognize to some extent the importance of self-stimulation, dramatization, acting and " conversationalized consciousness " (1922), in the development of the individual. But this is without seeing clearly their social nature and relation to the symbolic process.

Only a part of thought or knowledge forms the " social stuff." The social stuff in " so far as it is intellectual " is one kind of knowledge in particular; namely, knowledge of resemblances, knowledge of those modes of likemindedness that make co-operation possible (1899, P. 22). The material of society is a plural number of like-minded persons (1922, P. 167).

Here we are brought back sharply to an individualistic conception of ideas and symbols which are contained in the minds of distinctly separate individuals (1922, pp. 154, 167, 256).

Simple like-mindedness may be a very weak tie between persons. There is a part truth in Ross' statement that these unities " do not imply anything in the way of combined action or practical co-operation."

In the light of the preceding, the individualistic structural nature of this conception of "mind," "thought," ideas and symbols should be clear. However, some further explanation of the subjective aspect-the third partner involved-seems necessary.

The problem runs : Thought and ideas are often said to be subjective and unobservable. In this case the symbolic process would certainly be subjective, or, if symbols were limited to visible and audible signs, words, etc., these would merely be an objective shell for the subjective kernel. Again, if one is taking a structural point of view regarding ideas and thoughts as fixed and

( 10) established, these might also be said by some to be objective as well as the visible and audible symbols. However, few, if any, structuralists would want to admit such objectivity to ideas. Yet with such a structural view the process of thinking, at least a very significant aspect of the symbolic process, would still be subjective and unobservable. A third position may be taken; namely, that thinking and the symbolic process is objective and observable. In reality there are only the two views to be considered, the first and third. In any dynamic account of real process the second flies to pieces, resolving itself into the other two views.


Ellwood has taken the role of apologist for the subjective in social science; consequently, he may well be taken as an example of this aspect in preference to the writers previously discussed. The individualistic structural aspects are not so pronounced in Ellwood, although his subjectivism tends to bring them into relief. It is perhaps to a considerable degree responsible for them, for Ellwood must also be classed as a social functionalist in spite of his subjective theories.

According to Ellwood's view, social reality is essentially subjective or an " intersubjective " relation. To make sociology purely objective is to deprive it of its essential character (1912, p. viii ; 1925, p. 7 ; 1918, p. vi f).

For Ellwood, the fundamental social fact is co-ordination and co-adaptation of activities of the group (1912, p. 144 ff). These social co-ordinations have their subjective and objective expressions. The subjective expressions are feelings, emotions, ideas, beliefs, social attitudes, social patterns, etc. (1925, pp. 59, 152-156, 192). The objective expressions are folkways, social habits, objective or visible regularities and uniformities, forms and modes of association, institutions, and what is particularly important from our standpoint, signs, symbols, spoken words, etc. (1925, p. 151 f ; 1918, Pp. 83, 130 f). This

( 11) classification places signs and symbols in one category and ideas in another.[2]

The basis for subjectivity is the individual. Only the individual's mind is supposed to think and have ideas. The mind is a separate entity within the individual, for there is no direct causal connection between one mind and another (Ellwood, 1928, p. 79 f). The social process is the action and reaction of " mind upon mind " through the " intermediation of physical stimuli " (1918, p. 80).

A sharp line is drawn between psychical and physical. The psychical correlates with the physical and neural, but they are distinct (1918, pp. vi f 33, 72, 86). This is a reason for denying the possibility of a mechanistic explanation of social life, because mechanical, evidently used by him in the sense of physical, would exclude the psychical (1918, p. 16).

The danger for the social scientist of such a dualistic conception should be clear. It tends to give two separate worlds with a chasm more or less wide gaping between. The psychic tends to become something inscrutable and arbitrary. Its processes are instrumental but " not in a strictly causal " way. Psychic phenomena are not to be treated in a " causo-mechanical " manner (1916-17, p. 304).

Such a theory leads to a juggling between two frames of reference in which the performer does a sort of tight-rope dance with one end of the rope wabbling in uncaused movements. It is a species of obscurantism, a kind of bulwark to protect vacuous spots in the scientific world.

In his evolutionary approach Ellwood is on much surer ground. He emphasizes the fact that mind and all forms of consciousness have been developed in and through a social life-process as an instrument of association (1918, p.57; 1912, p. 281). Cultural or human evolution is simply due to man's greater intellectual capacity (ability to form abstract ideas, etc.), and his greater capacity to form acquired habits and not an absolutely new factor or

( 12) factors which are not found in the animals below man. The type of association has changed, but not the fundamental nature of it. Thus human evolution is a continuation of animal evolution (1918, p. 38 ff).

In spite of this evolutionary conception of the development of the mind, thought is so separate in association with others that it is not the content of our social life, or " in any sense the social reality." It is the instrument by which society has secured greater adaptation.

The way in which individualistic and structural conceptions tie into and find a source of support in subjectivism should be quite apparent.

The Social Objective Behaviouristic Conception

Subjectivism ended the section just closed, but it is with us yet. The division of the social process into subjective and objective is at present a common practice among sociologists. The trend toward objectivity has scarcely moved the subjective conception, and sometimes has even served to put it a little more securely under cover to do its work perhaps even more insidiously. Subjective theories have withstood the advances made in the social, the functional and objective understanding of mind, ideas, and thought. At last the behaviouristic psychology has placed dynamite near its heart ; the explosion may destroy something, at least a considerable amount of fear is evidenced, but a sounder foundation for the social sciences may result.

The objective trend is a part of the whole scientific movement. The cultivation of any field of phenomena with the application of the scientific technique brings such a trend inevitably. The accumulation of data and knowledge introduces it to a greater degree. Such a consideration as is given to the social process, the group concept, social interaction and the like, play an important part. As invaluable instruments in the scientific method, mathematics, and particularly statistics, might have been expected to have dislodged a greater portion of the sub-

( 13) -jective before this. But after all, statistical methods are only one aid to theory and hypotheses which need to be checked and tested. The statistician has been theoretically unequipped and the social theorist has been statistically unequipped for the task. Consequently, the existing statistical methods have not had adequate application to social materials, nor have new techniques been sufficiently developed to handle special sociological problems. To assume that sociology will get far without a well-developed theoretical basis is as unwarranted as to assume that it will get far without quantitative testing, in which statistics is a very important tool. So far the statistician has been able to measure some of the cruder and conditioning processes of social life, such as population movements, biological, business and labour phenomena, etc. But we have few ratios and equations for the correlation of concomitant and sequential association in the behaviour process of social interaction itself. Particularly have the so-called psychic and subjective eluded the statistician.

Behaviourism is a direct attack upon the subjective. As a method, it furnishes theoretical as well as factual ground for a quantative procedure. The behaviouristic approach, now quite respectable and being adopted by sciences depending upon psychological principles, has thus been of considerably more immediate influence in bringing about non-subjective and quantitative analysis. The influence of Pavlov, Bechterew, and the Continental behaviourists along with Watson, Lashley, and the American behaviourists is not to be underestimated. It has shown functionalism a way out of its morass of subjective structuralism. For it is possible for the sociologist to adopt the functional viewpoint and still hold to subjectivism and even structionalism which tends to be a logical end of subjectivism. Ellwood is an example already given of a social functionalist who is still a subjective structuralist.

In order to show a line of development away from a subjective toward a behaviouristic conception of the

( 14) symbolic process, the following writers will be considered Baldwin, Bernard, Cooley, Mead, and Dewey. The first three illustrate the functional approach, which is in reality a departure at least in the direction of the behaviouristic, which is directly evidenced in Bernard's work. In this respect as well as in numerous others Bernard should follow Cooley. But for the trend under consideration he succeeds Baldwin in so many ways that the latter might be considered his prototype. Also the functional treatment which is pronounced in Bernard's work apparently has its most unadulterated expression in Cooley. Mead and Dewey illustrate the behaviouristic conception.[3]

The interdependence of the individual and the group, along with the fact that thought is characteristically social, is now generally recognized by sociologists. But the social nature of the symbolic process becomes more and more apparent as the functional and later the behaviouristic conceptions enter into its explanation.


Baldwin associates the beginnings of conceptual or abstract thought with speech and language, silent thought being internal speech (1908, pp. 141-151). Such forms of expression are social, thus thought is the social stuff (1902, pp. 504M. This is illustrated in the " dialectic of personal growth," the social give-and-take, in which the senses of self and of others grow up in social terms (1902, p. 13 ff).

To explain this process he uses the theory of imitation., Unfortunately, it does not explain. Imitation is too narrow a concept to contain the social process. And this is more to the point : it is the social process of learning and of interaction which must be analysed in order to explain the development of the personality and social life,

( 15) and to explain the basis for whatever incidental imitation may be involved.

Consequently, while he takes the genetic and functional viewpoint, he gives us little information in regard to the actual genesis of thought and its social origin. As a matter of fact, he states that it is really individual in origin (1902, p. 504). Subjective knowledge is somehow " ejected " (1906 a, pp. 119, 321) by imitation.

To explain the social, the person is referred to ; to explain the person we must go to the group-thus each is taken as given. As a result, one gets through the explanation in the same vicinity from which he started. Ellwood (1901), Dewey (1898) and others have showed so cogently some of the fallacies involved that no more need be added here regarding them and the individualistic and subjective character of Baldwin's theories.


The similarity between Bernard and Baldwin is striking. A large body of his work is also functional, shading off into the structural and subjective in one direction, in the other direction it goes into the behaviouristic.

He also gives a great deal of attention to thought and symbolic content under the term "psycho-social," which he uses in much the same sense [4] as we have been using symbolic process (1926, pp. 76, 80-85).

At a certain stage the symbolic and psycho-social are taken as given (1926, Ch. X). Hints regarding its origin point to the individual. The inner neuro-psychic processes particularly the cortical, seem to be the source of the symbolic process. The " psycho-social " developed in symbolic behaviour (1926, p. 81) and the " symbolic psycho-social controls " originated in "verbal or other neuro-psychic symbolic content in the cortical processes of ourselves and others" (1926, pp. 65, 81). The origins of language and thought go together, internal behaviour being conditioned to symbols by the process of conditioned

( 16) responses. Thus, thinking is a name for symbolic response or substitute internal neural organization (1926, pp. 144-149). This is rather more complete than Baldwin's explanation, although it still lacks in the analysis of the actual social process in which language and thought become what they are.

The subjective nature of the symbolic process is indicated by its connection with an inner psychic something shown in his use of "neuro-psychic," "psychic," "psycho" (1923, 1924, Ch. V ; 1926, pp. 81, 284, 330 passim), "neural correlates " (1924, p. 455) and the like. What this psychic is remains unexplained, except that it is connected with the activity of the nervous system and particularly the cortex (1924, p. 87 ; 1926, p. 121). The subjective category is further illustrated by his use of the term itself (1926, pp. 162, 172). Although at one place he makes the significant statement that such uniformities as customs, traditions, mores, public opinion, beliefs, etc., are " as much objective realities as persons, but more abstract realities," he later calls some institutions " primarily subjective," which is " particularly true of morals " ; i.e., the mores (1926, pp. 82 f 542, 580). Also in this connection, conventions, traditions and customs are spoken of as " subjective aspects of institutions." In discussing Ellwood's article on the subjective, Bernard apparently does not take issue with him on the subjective category as such (1919-20).

His treatment of the subjective and psychic does not lead to the conclusion that he regards the psychic as a partially non-causal affair such as Ellwood introduces.

The division between the internal, inner, psychic, and the external, overt, muscular ; between the individual and the environment, and the division between subjective and objective seem to be a species of inner-outer dualism. Apparently at the bottom of his structural tendencies, this tends to make of social life a set of interacting structure rather than an ongoing process. In fact, his exposition of the environmental conception of social life hardly does justice to his conception of its dynamic character (1926,

( 17) pp. 84, 270). The structural nature of the symbolic process is also illustrated by the concept of the psychosocial environment as being " objectified neuro-psychic behaviour " (1926, p. 83 f), an inner content pushed out in some manner, quite similar to the " ejective stage " of Baldwin (1902, p. 14).

The subjective aspect is not to be overestimated. Bernard accepts a behaviouristic position and places emphasis upon the behaviouristic interpretation. But his disclaimer of clarity for using introspective terminology hardly seems sufficient to account for the elaboration of five types of "consciousness " based upon the objects involved, together with another category of " forms of consciousness " (1926, Chs. XI, XII).

Of course it must be recognized that while the use of such words as " consciousness " and " psychic " may keep one out of "Behaviourism's" heaven, one might still be a behaviourist, providing these terms are not used as explanations. Science is also profane. But it is difficult for one to employ these expressions frequently and not become guilty of, or content with, using them as explanations, instead of using them only as pointers to a more definite description in terms of behaviour. Less is apt to be told by their use than is already known about the thing explained. Bernard's shift toward the objective and behaviouristic is indicated by his use of internal behaviour processes in various descriptions instead of the so-called psychic. There is evidence of the shift in his Social Psychology, where symbolic behaviour begins to take a definite place in his terminology and as a behaviour concept. It was not indexed in Instinct.

Bernard makes considerable use of the imitation theory to explain the integration of personality, although not as uncritical a use as Baldwin makes of it. This is at least partially responsible, however, for some sparse places in the analysis of the social process of learning and integration required before imitation can occur, or before the uniformity called " imitation " appears as a result. Bernard recognizes that such integration must occur (1926,

( 18) page 277), and does go into some phases instructively.

However, the actual genesis [5] of the symbolic process and its relation to such conceptions as the development of " selves," " persons," and " human nature," receive a remarkably small amount of clarification, although he discusses processes which are useful in an understanding of these phenomena.


In discussing Baldwin and Bernard, another phase of our problem begins to stand out more clearly. This is the question of process and content. As indicated by the treatment so far, an analysis of the process has been uppermost. But this is too simple a statement of the case. There are processes and processes. The more specifically and deeply the content of a process is gone into, the more it is found to consist of processes. ' Another way of stating this is that we have a process containing in co-relation processes as content-a process of processes. Recognition of this would have clarified at least some sociological work.

The structuralist thinks of some of these processes as structures. The relativity of change does vary greatly. And it is legitimate and necessary to hold things relatively still for purposes of analysis. Yet it must be remembered that our universe is a changing one. The functionalist looks at things from this second point of view. The structuralist sees structures functioning, the functionalist sees structures as themselves functional processes. Thus imitation may satisfy when society is seen as a " cake of custom," or as uniform results, but not when society is seen as a process whereby these results are possible.

Keeping the above distinction in mind, we may continue with the development from a functional to a behaviouristic view of the symbolic process.

( 19)

Cooley is a good example of the social functionalist. He cannot be called a behaviourist, although it is probable that a functional explanation gets its clearest statement in terms of behaviour.

According to Cooley's conception, which shows similarity to Baldwin's in this respect, the social process is practically coincident with the symbolic process. Thought and the social are matters of imagination (1902, pp. 56, 60, 100 ; 1920, p. 6). The social self and human nature are imaginary processes and their results.

Such a conception, on its face, is decidedly subjective, even fantastic, particularly if one holds the common view that imagination is unreal and arbitrary. Thus those who explain the social in such terms are apt to be judged or misjudged.

But for Cooley, imagination is " real " and made up of substantial substance, the ongoing organic body of social intercourse in its extended interrelation (1909, p. 61 ; 1920, p. 3 f). Thought is not complete except in social expression, it is " never isolated." Facial expression, vocal tones, symbols and the like are also a part of thought (1902, pp. 32, 56, 81 ; 1909, pp. 3, 61). It involves action as " a part of its very nature."

Thus the elusive process has a tangible basis in interconnected social action and behaviour. If one wishes to look for it, a unification of the subjective and objective may be found in the act, particularly when viewed from such a dynamic conception as that of Cooley regarding the social process. The combination can lead to a behaviouristic viewpoint, but Cooley does not follow to this point. There is even the atmosphere of a disconnected subjective at some places in his writing, as illustrated by the idea that symbols, traditions and institutions are " projected " from the mind (1909, p. 64.).

Cooley develops in a very suggestive manner the rise of the social self with the symbolic process. Social interaction and experience, the reflection of the self in the minds and actions of those around-the " looking-glass self "are the means of its development, not imitation. Cooley

( 20) makes little use of imitation. For instance, he does not think that imitation can account for the acquirement by the child of the correct use of the self pronouns to designate itself, nor does a person understand a dog by imitating his bark or facial expression (1902, pp. 71, 158).

Human nature is another phase developing along with the self and thought process (1909, pp. 28-36), based upon a sympathetic understanding between people. By sympathy he means converse by symbols; i.e., getting on a common ground and sharing a mental state (1902, p. 102) --" a fusion of persons."

Cooley is on solid ground in his functional emphasis and in his attempt to see the world as a working whole. His little use of imitation along with more definite information about the social contact and interaction which go on in the symbolic process contribute to a more genuine understanding for which he should be given full credit. However, his substitution of and continual reference to imagination in his discussion and description partake of the type going with imitation-descriptions which do not describe. Thus, in regard to an analysis of the immediate social mechanism whereby thought actually becomes thought and symbols symbolic-it is left to the imagination. Furthermore, indefinite symbols such as this which are now in process of redintegration make poor tools in scientific analysis. Nor does his apparent limitation of the social to the human animal ring true on the register of the "world as a whole."

Mead has filled in some of the gaps in the genesis of the symbolic process. Recently he has also given a behaviouristic account of it.

The development takes place in a social world. The acting organism by its behaviour " cuts out " of the world objects of immediate experience (1922, p. 158). For example, food is food on account of the relation and action of the organism to certain substances. The

( 21) animal creates its world as truly as does the reverse occur.

Among these objects of immediate experience are social objects because organisms live together in group life. The social act which creates social objects is one which has its occasion or stimulus in the character or conduct of another living organism belonging to the proper group (1925, p. 263). Thus a social object is one that answers to all the parts of the complex act, though these parts are found in the conduct of different individuals (1925, p. 264). The behaviour unit or action sequence may be or become a social object.

The social is not limited to the human animal nor the symbolic process. In such a social world the symbolic process originates with the rise of selves in behaviour, effected by the individual taking the -role of another in a. social actor object (1922, p. 160 ff). This is accomplished by the individual furnishing or producing a stimulus corresponding or answering to the complex act which releases its own response and at the same time releases tendencies to respond as another in the complex social act (1925, p. 265).

From the standpoint of the individual organism, the distance-receptions, use of the hand and other bodily mechanisms, are important in giving a foundation for this activity. However, more immediately associated with it, and helping to make this sort of stimulation possible, are the vocal gesture and the auditory apparatus. The cortex and the central nervous system also provide at least a part of the mechanism which might make this possible by enabling the individual to take these different attitudes in the formation of the act (1925, p. 266).

But according to Mead, if the cortex has become an organ of social conduct making possible the appearance of social objects, " it is because the individual has become a self, that is, an individual who organizes his own responses by the tendencies on the part of others to respond to his act" (1925, p. 267). Thus, while these and other mechanisms are not to be depreciated, the social role is

( 22) of prime importance in the origin of selves and symbols --a new type of social object.

The vocal gesture or any other act or object which embodies this characteristic type of social reaction is a significant symbol. It serves to distinguish the self from others and to give the meaning of the individual's act in terms of another's behaviour (1922, p. 161).

The occasion for such symbolic behaviour is an interrupted act or action process in which a definition of the situation, the stimulus or object involved in further action, is called for. It is a continuation of the process by which individuals create the world and of course are reciprocally created by it. In such symbolic behaviour the analysis takes place in the object while the conflict of responses takes place in the individual. " Mind is then a field that is not confined to the individual, much less located in a brain." Significance belongs to things in relation to individuals (1922, p. 163).

The social objects which are thus created are real, and exist in the same sense as muscles, fearful or attractive objects, and the like of our so-called physical world. Nor can we deny " this sort of objectivity to imagery, because access to it is confined to the individual in whose world it is." This does not make it less objective. (1925, p. 258.)

The manner in which an object becomes subjective according to Mead is by its being referred by an individual to his self (1912, 1922, p. 159).

Concerning the adjustment or analysis situation, Mead has given an earlier account of it under the conception of the psychical state (1903), a cogent analysis regardless of some subjective terminology. Other writers have given useful treatment of it ; for instance, Thomas and Znaniecki (1909, 1920) a functional rather than a behaviouristic account. Dewey develops the conflict conception in this connection.

( 23)

Mead and Dewey show the social objective behaviouristic conception of the symbolic process more clearly perhaps than any other writers. Their work is supplementary.

Dewey is similarly insistent upon the fact that speech and knowledge are social in origin and essence.[6] Ignoration of this fact has made the behaviouristic explanation appear arbitrary. "Failure expressly to note the implication of the auditor and his further behaviour in a speech reaction is, I think, chiefly responsible for the common belief that there is something arbitrary, conceived in the interest of upholding a behaviouristic theory at all costs, in identifying thought with speech. For when speech is confined to mere vocal innervation, the heart of knowledge is not there. But neither is the heart of speech." (1922 b, p. 565.) The origin of language is in the social use of gestures and cries. It is a mode of interaction between at least two beings (1925, p. 185). The object of knowledge or speech is the ultimate consent of the two co-ordinated responses of speaker and hearer. Without this confirmation and correspondence of co-respondents neither speech nor knowledge is present (1922 b, p. 566).

Real speech and knowledge develop and operate in an adjustment situation. The speech reaction which constitutes knowledge is such because it serves to supplement or complete behaviour which is incomplete or broken without it. It is " back into " the thing for which it answers (1922 b, p. 563). Speech is not merely additive, a supernumerary. [7]

The more complex development of the higher animals, particularly the human animal, makes a more complex adjustment necessary and possible. Simple organisms have an immediate contact-activity. "There is present immediate sensitivity or feeling, but no " knowledge " (1925, p. 256 ff ). But the organism, particularly the more complex it is, also responds to these qualities of immediate feeling, so that they become productive of results and hence potentially knowable or significant (1925, p. 269).

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In higher animals, locomotion, distance-receptions, etc., prolong the break between the beginning and final response. Thus the activities fall into those having preparatory and those having consummatory status. This series forms the immediate material of thought when social communication and discourse supervene. It should be recalled that the series has already developed in interdependent social action. The first term gains the meaning of subsequent activity, and the final term conserves within itself the meaning of the entire preparatory process (1925, p. 270). The organism, then, has an immediate sense of feeling, and having, also through the aid of others, the social mechanism of language, is able to know the other terms of the whole activity. Immediate having is and is complete in itself, it is the using of symbols for other parts of the action which makes correspondence, meaning, and knowledge (1925, p. 331). Thus immediate having brings the organism into direct contact with experience, feeling, satisfaction, enjoyments, etc., while knowledge serves to enlighten, and vivify by bringing past and present together at this point through the terms of social intercourse upon which knowledge is dependent.

Meaning and knowledge are not, then, something subjective. " Meaning is not indeed a psychic existence ; it is primarily a property of behaviour, and secondarily a property of objects "--a method of action (1925, pp. 179-188). The qualities of organic action ` objectified' by language are immediate traits of things. This is not " a miraculous ejection from the organism or soul into external things, nor an illusionary attribution of psychical entities to physical things. The qualities never were ‘in ' the organism ; they always were qualities of interactions in which both extraorganic things and organisms partake." (1925, pp. 259, 291.)

The case is further illustrated in regard to mind, consciousness and ideas. Mind, according to Dewey, is the whole system of operative meanings. Consciousness in a being with language denotes awareness or perception of meaning, i.e., it is having ideas (1925,

( 25) pp. 303-8). It is the intermittent series of here-and-now aspect of mind. If one goes so far as to ignore the locus of discourse, institutions and social arts and limits the question to the organic individual, the " nervous system is in no sense the ` seat ' of the idea." The nervous system is the mechanism of the connection and integration of acts. Ideas are qualities of events in all parts of the organic structure, including the glandular and muscular mechanisms, which have ever been implicated in actual situations concerned with extraorganic friends and enemies (1925, p. 292 f). The locus of the mind-the static aspect-are these qualities of action in so far as they have been conditioned by language and its consequences.

The sense in which imagination or consciousness may properly be called subjective is that it involves a dissolution, a redirection, a transitive transformation of objects or meanings in a medium which, since it is beyond the old and not yet in a new one, may be termed subjective (1925, pp. 220, 38), a conception much the same as Mead's (p. 22). Subjective and objective thus used to distinguish factors in a regulated effort at modifying the environing world do have intelligible meaning (1925, p. 239), and the subjective process has some particular reference to individual behaviour systems. Different temporal events of social activity are thus brought together.

Such a conception as we see is at variance with the common one regarding the subjective living is an empirical affair, not something which goes on " below the skin surface " of an organism.

A further point regarding perceptive awareness is necessary in order to emphasize the real and objective character of meanings and ideas. The notion is current that the cognitive perception of a physical object is intrinsically different from the perception of an idea. This is a fallacy. " The proposition that the perception of a horse is valid and that a centaur is fanciful or hallucinatory does not denote that there are two modes of awareness, differing intrinsically from each other. It does, however, denote something with respect to causation . . . the specific

( 26) causal conditions are ascertained to be different in the two cases " (1925, p. 322). Thus, so-called sense perception is not primary in knowing (1925, pp. 332-339). Knowledge consists of objects, i.e., events with meaning obtained in the social community of intercourse, so that all objects are known in the same manner through overt acts of taking and employing in social interaction. This holds for behaviour objects as well as physical objects. Apart from "considerations of use and history there are no original and inherent differences between valid meanings and meanings occurring in revery, desiring, fearing, remembering, all being intrinsically the same in relation to events." This fact is the gist of the condemnation of introspection (1925 p. 339). Introspection assumes a direct knowledge of events.

Dewey also gives considerable attention to human nature and the development of the self (1922 a, 1925, Ch. VI) as well as other facts which serve to indicate the content of the symbolic process. For this process is replete with human significance.


  1. Bodenhafer (1920-21) comes to a similar conclusion. l lc gives a pointed discussion of the individualistic tendencies of Ward, among others, in relation to the group concept.
  2. Similar classifications with variations may be found in Ross (1919, p. 98), Giddings (1920, p. 146 f), and others.
  3. A more extensive summary, including other writers in both of these sections, might have been made ; for instance, including Park, Burgess, Thomas, Faris, Royce, Bogardus, and others who have given attention to various aspects. However valuable this might be, it was not feasible within these limits. The present purpose is to show a main trend of development rather than to give an extended survey of writers.
  4. Some contradiction exists between the definition and use of neuropsychic (1924, p. 87), psycho-social and bio-social (1926, p. 81 ff), which need not be gone into here. A careful reading will make it evident.
  5. It will be interesting to note whether this genesis is more adequately discussed in his forthcoming book on the social self and personality.
  6. At times he unduly identifies social with communication (1916, p. 5 f.)
  7. Speech or vocalization for its own sake may show different aspects, but it does not contradict the above.

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