The Non Being Of Rationality Chap 8 The Implicative Affirmative Of The Not-Me-Self

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By replacing the I/me distinction with the concept of the implicative affirmative of the not-me self self-autonomy and self-reflexivity increases while the novelty and originality that identifies Mead’s I-self, his psychological mechanism for the inner restructuring of experience into self and other, and his theory of developmental stages is preserved and enhanced.

Submitted: October 07, 2009

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Submitted: October 07, 2009



The Not-Me-Self Identifies A Person’s Biography And The Self/Other


In Order To Simplify The Continuity/Discontinuity Distinction, Provide A Theoretically Consistent Interpretation Of Collective Voices Of The Generalized Other, And Account For The Ambivalent-Like Condition Of What Simmel And Thom Suggest Lies At The Seat Of Self-Conscious Activity, I Propose That Mead’s Concept Of The I/Me Couplet Be Replaced With The Concept Of The Implicative Affirmative Of The Not-Me-Self



  Mead reversed the content of the I/Me distinction, which, originally, was a psychological construct created by James to describe a multiplicity of social selves.


[Footnote. James’ multiplicity of social selves preceded Mead’s generalized other.  It was James who said: “...a man has as many social selves as there are individuals who recognize him and carry an image of him in their mind” (James, 1890:294). Hermans and Kempen concede this point and state that in their position, “...the concept of collective voice comes... closer to James than to Mead” (Hermans and Kempen, 1993:119)]


For Mead, the me-self, as it accounts for the rules and conventions of the generalized other, guaranteed continuity of self.  The me-self, for James, on the other hand, since it guaranteed the multiple social selves that are occasioned in a heterogeneous society, accounted for the self’s discontinuities, that is, the multiple varieties of social selves that a person identifies with.  The I-self, on the other hand, in Mead, was identified with novelty and originality and therefore gave an account of the self’s discontinuous nature.  But, for James, the I-self unified all the separate, socially generated me-selves that are occasioned in society (the I takes the position of “mine” for every me-self), thus, the I-self guaranteed the continuity of self.  In order to arrive at his concept of the collective voice of the generalized other, Hermans and Kempen, had to adapt James' version of the continuity/discontinuity distinction of the I-self and me-self.


As has already been noted, the basis for Mead’s social behaviorism resides in his characterization of the logical structure of meaning.  It is in the triadic relation between gesture, adjustive response, and resultant of the social act which the gesture initiates, where socially generated meanings arise.  More specifically, this meaning (the location of the stimulus) becomes processed in the adjustive response, that is, the I/me couplet, where the subject reflexively indicates to herself/himself the significances that her/his actions or gestures have for other individuals.  In order to simplify the continuity/discontinuity distinction, provide a theoretically consistent interpretation of the collective voices of the generalized other, and, account for the ambivalent-like condition that Simmel and Thom suggest lies at the seat of self-consciousness activity, I propose that Mead’s concept of the I/me couplet be replaced with the concept of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self. In other words, a more appropriate interpretation for the adjustive response component of Mead’s triadic relation characterizing the logical structure of meaning will be found in the relational qualities of the concept of the implicative affirmation of the negated me-self.


Put simply, the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self identifies both a person’s biography and the social and psychological mechanism for the inner restructuring of experience into self and other.  By biography I mean any component of self; that is, the expressive and limiting aspects of one’s personal history that can be brought to bear on the present experience of the person.  “The human animal’s past,” according to Mead (1934:116), “is constantly present in the facility with which he acts....”


The Implicative Affirmative Of The Not-Me-Self Affirms Biography


The Implicative Affirmative Of The Not-Me-Self Is Consistent With Mead’s Concept Of Self While It Adds Increased Capacity For Self-Autonomy And Self-Reflexivity




For Mead, a person who acts rationally does so based on her/his ability to indicate the significance of past events to another person or to herself/himself.  From this indicative act emerges the significance of possible future events, events that, via the act of rational reflection, permits the person a certain amount of autonomy and control in the implementation of her/his future.


[Footnote. It is this indicative act based in rational self-reflection that Angyal (1941) identified with the symbolic part of the biological subject. According to Angyal, it was this symbolic state within the biological state that permitted a person to greatly increase her/his autonomy and control.]


The not-me-self, as a linguistic expression, is meant to characterize the functional mechanism relating to how a person is going to respond in terms of her/his substantive identity and behavior in any given situation.


 When Mead describes, in his characterization of the logical structure of meaning, the response on the part of the second organism to the gesture of the first, the second organism is there as a presence-to herself/himself, in addition to being there as, a presence-to the first organism.  The implicative affirmative of the not-me-self is located in this presence-to of the organism, as an affirmation of the organism’s history.


[Footnote. A person’s past experience in the present is what is being affirmed in the not-me-self.  Sartre (1966: 176), in his description of what is implied in the concept of “presence” develops this idea when he says: “Anything which can be present to must be such in its being that there is in it a relation of being with other beings.  I can be present to this chair only if I am there in the being of the chair as not being the chair.  A being which is present to can not be at rest “in-itself....”]



Specifically, in Mead’s context of the relation between gesture, adjustive response, and resultant of the social act, which the gesture initiates, the second organism is called to respond to the first organism’s gesture by first sifting through its own historical experience (memory) in order to come up with an “appropriate response” to the first organism’s gesture.  Once this meaningful historical content is identified (the interpretation of the gesture), then the organism reacts.  After the second organism “responds appropriately,” the first organism is, in a like manner, expected to respond in kind.  This is how the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self substitutes for Mead’s I-self in Mead’s conversation of gestures.


In Mead’s theory of child developmental stages, the concept of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self acts in a similar manner.  In terms of early child development the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self is the same as Mead’s functional mechanism for learning behavior; that is, a child, by engaging in role taking, becomes socialized to cultural norms.  This developmental process is permitted because a person is capable of acting toward herself/himself in the same manner that she/he acts toward other people.  In this respect, it is the generalized other and the social organization represented by the generalized other that gives continuity to the not-me-self.


The implicative affirmative of the not-me-self is consistent with Mead’s concept of self while it adds to Mead’s concept of self an increased capacity for self-autonomy and self-reflexivity.  The implicative affirmative of the not-me-self, in addition to being able to take the role of the “other”, is also able to refrain from taking the role of the “other”.  For instance, in as much as a child learns how to respond to others, ---how to resist, retaliate, giveaway, co-operate, exchange, reward, punish, joke, obey, request, compose, describe, criticize, remain silent, etc., ---the child also learns how to apply these same techniques to herself/himself, and, in as much as she/he applies these same techniques to herself/himself, she/he is reflexively acting out the capacity to negate the me-self.  It is in the utilization of the capacity to negate the me-self where inner self-deliberations are carried on and through these inner self-deliberations a person accesses the strength to reverse the internalization process which, if left unchecked, produces “over socialized agents.”  But, if we are to understand how the individualization process occurs we must first ask what is implied by negation?

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