Thoughts, writing & snippets

Marguerite Koole, PhD

G. H. Mead: Quotes on Temporality & Symbolism

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(Note: Converted from Livescribe Pen via MyScript. Possible typos.)

INTELLIGENCE ”is the process of delaying, organizing, and selecting a response or reaction to the stimuli of the given environmental situation” (p. 100).

“The traces of past experience are continually playing in upon our perceived world’ (p. 113).

“ . . . The relation of the temporal character of the nervous system to foresight and choice. . . That which takes place in present organic behaviour is always in some sense an emergent from the past, and could never have been precisely predicted in advance… (p. 98-99).

TEMPORAL Dimension: ”the things we are going to do can be arranged in a temporal order so that the latter processes can in their inception be present in determining the earlier processes; what we are going to do can determine our immediate approach to the object.” (p. 117).

Symbolism:  “To be able to identify ‘this as leading to that., and to get some sort of a gesture, vocal or otherwise, which can be used to implicate indicate the implication to others and himself so as to make possible control of conduct with reference to it, is The distinctive thing in human intelligence which is not found in animal intelligence.’ (p. 120)..

Symbols allow us to “hold on to these given characters and to isolate them in their relationship to the object, and consequently in their relation to the response.’ (p. 121).

Example provided:

  • One is not afraid of the footprint, but of the bear.

Meads notes the difference between:

Thinking with symbols VS. Conditioned response (p. 122)


“We have to recognize that language is part of conduct. Mind involves, however, a relationship to the characters of things . . . Mentality is that relationship of the organisms to the situation which is mediated by sets of symbols ‘ (pp. 124–125)

“Our symbols are all universal. You cannot say anything that is absolutely particular; anything you say that has any meaning at all is universal.” (p. 147)

“A person who is saying something is saying to himself what he says 10 others; otherwise he does not know what he is talking about.’ (p. 147)

Example: Helen Keller

  • “As she has recognized, it was not until she could get into communication with other persons through symbols which could arouse in herself the responses they arouse in other people that she could get what we term a mental content, or a self” (p. 149).



Mead, G. H. (1934). Mind, self & society: From the standpoint of a social behaviorist. (C. W. Morris, Ed.) (Vol. 13). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.


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