His aim in this book is not a close-knit propositional framework but a set of tentative and partially continuous explorations that are provocative and inviting, like the movements of a musical suite. Polis and Praxis is evocative, erudite, and philosophically rich. Its message will be pondered seriously by persons of good will who are ready to engage, with 'rebellious gentleness,' in the necessary work of rethinking our political lexicon.
Seyla Benhabib and Fred R. Search Search. Search Advanced Search close Close. Preview Preview. Request Permissions Exam copy. Overview Author s Praise. Summary The touchstone of these seven original essays is the relationship between polis and praxis - the public-political space and the political action that maintains and is conditioned by that space. The orginator of the original stimuli in terms receives stimuli, and develops a response.
Note that there may be several stages or rounds of such action, stimuli, and interaction, plus reflection and delay in responses, perhaps developed into particular patterns, resulting in coordination or accommodation. John Dewey.
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John Dewey was an important American writer and public intellectual who spent most of his academic life at Columbia University. Dewey attempted to work out principles for a democratic and industrial society, and was an opponent of authoritarian methods in education. He participated in social and political reform movements and defended academic freedom. As founding president of the American Civil Liberties Union , Dewey was an important intellectual influence in American life.
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Knapp, p. Dewey argued that the various types of human activity are instruments that are developed to solve problems faced by humans in dealing with the natural and social world. The human mind was not just a thing or a structure, but an active process whereby the individual imagines, interprets, decides, defines, and acts in the world. For Dewey, there is no eternal or absolute truth, rather our knowledge is based on experience; others who investigate similar experiences and phenomena can test, verify, or alter this knowledge.
The following notes are based on pp. Habit is an issue discussed by Dewey and one that Weber and Parsons had difficulty explaining in their theories of social action. Further, humans are not able to consciously reflect on every possible form of social action.
Habitual and reflexive actions form a large part of social interaction, but not usually in a conscious manner. It would take too much time and energy to reflect on each action, and if the high expectations for considering courses of action oriented toward some goal are to be maintained, it might not be possible for humans to carry out actions on a regular basis. Dewey argued there are cycles of habit, reflection, rational consciousness, behavioural change, and new habits. Much of human action and interaction may be habitual and reflexive, with only occasional reflection and consideration e.
These periods of reflection and consideration may lead to continuation of similar habits or they may lead to change in habits. The world around may change, or habitual actions may become too routine and unconscious. In either case, the individual is prompted to devote some conscious thought to habitual behaviour, using practical reason and imagination to improve individual forms of response and social action. Given the diverse ways in which impulses are dealt with by humans, Cohen argues that impulses cannot drive human action and conduct.
In the second edition of the text, Cohen focusses on the problems of habit for Dewey, arguing that it is a normative problem, not an analytic one p. Dewey is concerned that the repetition, monotony, and routine of modern society may dull human consciousness and creativity. Dewey adopts and uses a praxis perspective — that is, he moves from enacted conduct to a theory of social action.
Habit is observed to exist in many social actions, and has relevance for a study of human interaction. In the praxis approach, action may be logically prior to subjective consciousness in that people develop certain habits, and only periodically examine and alter these. The line of explanation runs the opposite direction from that of Weber and Parsons, with habit stimulating consciousness, rather than the other direction.
Polis and Praxis
Perhaps humans are creatures of habit. Dewey presents a reasonable explanation for habits, and changes or continuation of habits, as being a legitimate subject for sociological study. George Herbert Mead.
In North America, Mead particpated in the development of a pragmatic approach to the study of society — this was during approximately the same time period as when Weber, Durkheim, and Simmel were developing their theoretical perspectives in Europe. Mead is often considered the founder of the symbolic interaction approach; he argues that social interaction creates mind and self, and it is through symbolic forms of communication that the self and community are constructed. Dewey helped Mead obtain the Chicago posting and the two remained good friends and exchanged ideas throughout their lives.
University of Chicago students of sociology in the early part of the century studies with Mead and integrated his approach into sociology. The Mead web site contains full texts of many of his papers and other writings. Mead's major work is Mind, Self and Society a series of his essays put together after Mead's death and originally published in , a work in which he emphasizes the importance of the social world as leading to the development of various mental states and the self through social interaction.
For Mead, it made no sense to discuss action apart from social interaction. Stimulus, Interpretation, Response. For Mead, what distinguishes humans from non-human animals is that humans have the ability to delay their reactions to a stimulus. Intelligence is the ability to mutually adjust actions. Non-human animals also have intelligence because they often can act together or adjust what they do to the actions of other animals.
Theories of Action and Praxis – II
Humans differ from non-human animals in that they have a much greater ability to adjust to each other and achieve interaction meaningful to all parties invovled. While humans can do this through involuntary gestures, Mead thought it more important that only humans can do this through gestures and symbols that are significant or meaningful. As a result of this greater intelligence, humans can communicate, plan, and work out responses, rather than merely reacting in an instinctive or stimulus-response manner. The difference in humans and non-humans can be illustrated with the following diagram.
Non-human animals primarily respond to stimuli, whereas humans attribute meaning and interpretation to possible responses. Humans can and do rehearse their responses in their imagination, and have an internal conversation in which the attitude and possible response of the other can be considered or contemplated before taking action. Humans can respond to the primary stimuli or can respond to lesser stimuli. For example, anger or aggressive behaviour on the part of one individual may be met with anger and aggression from the other, but when responding the other may consider other possibilities such as ignoring the original anger and aggression, or looking for ways to reduce it.
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While Mead considers humans more intelligent than other animals, this intelligence is social, that is, it is not only inborn and inherent in humans as biological entities. Communication and Praxis. Human communication with other humans uses significant symbols — these may be gestures, language, or other symbols that are understood by others and produce some form of meaningful response. Since humans can delay responses, and various responses are possible, humans can develop alternative responses to mere reaction.
It is communication using significant symbols that allow this to occur and develop. These must be commonly understood symbols, or at least commonly enough understood, so that expected responses can be gauged. If responses are not as expected, then the actor can consider other possibilities, rehearsing these in his or her mind, by the actor considering how the gestures will be interpreted and responded to by others.
Praxis or Consciousness? While Cohen classifies Mead as one of the theorists of praxis, subjective consciousness also plays a major role in the approach of Mead. Both approaches are apparent in the handout. Perhaps the clearest evidence for praxis is how the mind and the self are products of social interaction.
The self is a process through internalization of the conversation of gestures lines 1 and 2, 1 st page of handout. In the last two paragraphs p. In fact, the self is a social process 1 st line of handout , and this process is communication and the enactment of responses as well as the internal conversation. At the end of the middle paragraph of p. What I am pointing out is that what occurs takes place not simply in his own mind, but rather that his mind is the expression in his own conduct of this social situation, this great cooperative community process which is going on.
The actual social practices, interaction, and experiences that take place are those that define society, mind, and self.
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