James, William (18421910) 2433

can be known by the knower about the knower
as object. Basically, the knower is the con
sciousness and the changeable memory made
possible by the central nervous system, where
as the Me is that which comes to be known
about the knower through consciousness and
For analytical purposes, James divides the
Me (that which can be known) into the Mate
rial Me, the Social Me, and the Spiritual Me.
Each Me is important because, as known by the
I, through the process of self appreciation (eva
luation), it may arouse instincts, feelings, and
emotions that motivate and direct conduct.
More specifically, if self appraisal indicates that
the self, be it the material, social, or spiritual
aspect of self, is successful and secure, a person
will experience self complacency, and keep
doing what he or she has been doing, or not
doing. On the other hand, if self appraisal leads
to the conclusion that some aspect of the self is
deficient or threatened, it will arouse instincts,
emotions, and feelings that will generate self
seeking and self preserving actions that attempt
to remedy the problem by changing the self
or the situation. Finally, if self appraisal leads
to a sense of hopelessness, the individual may
experience lethargy, angst, depression, denial,
and suicidal tendencies.
Because they are crucial aspects of the self
that guide behavior, James carefully conceptua
lizes each aspect of the Me. The Material Me
or self is not only the physical bodily self, but
also anything that a person can identify with.
This may include family, friends, pets, lovers,
houses, cars, a career, an art form, or a parti
cular locality. However, in that the human
body necessarily has the most direct connec
tion with self, it is the innermost if not most
important aspect of the material self. When
threatened, as a matter of self striving and
self preservation, strong instincts and emotions
such as rage and anger will be automatically
In conceptualizing the Social Me, James
delineates that part of the self that is aware of
and responds to the expectations, influence,
importance, and dependency on other people
and groups. In many ways, his analysis of
the Social Me adumbrates the conception of the
Me that was developed by George Herbert
Mead and later incorporated into symbolic
interactionism. It also foreshadows what sociolo
gists now describe as the social self, role playing,
situated identities, role conflict, and what Goff
man later described as impression manage
ment. That James saw the Social Me and
social motivation as powerful is evident in his
description of the American worship of success
as a Bitch Goddess that creates workaholics.
James defines the Spiritual Me as that part
of the self that, in being aware of itself as a
thinking, feeling, acting creature, can ultimately
deem life itself to be good, bad, meaningful, or
meaningless. As a matter of self striving, it is the
spiritual self that directs conduct in terms of
acquired intellectual, moral, religious, and phi
losophical beliefs and aspirations. However,
while the spiritual self is an important and often
dominant aspect of self, decisions are not always
made by the spiritual self, but rather by that
aspect of self that at a particular moment is the
most engaged or threatened. When physical
survival is at stake, the material self may pre
dominate and overrule the social and spiritual
self, a proposition that indirectly underscores
the dangers of severe social disorganization
and the moral importance of social order.
The Me(s) in Jamess model of self is an
important organizing concept, because, in har
mony with his functionalism and parallelism,
as a matter of self striving (self protection), it
responds when threatened. Consequently, when
faced with a threat of injury or death, the
Material Me, through instinct and emotion,
strives for physical survival. When social rank
is threatened, the Social Me, knowing of its
dependence upon other people, strives for
recognition as a means of security. When
confronted with threats to cherished beliefs
and values, the Spiritual Me attempts to
direct conduct in terms of ideals and morals.
Conceptually, each Me is an abstraction
representing different aspects of the self as
known by the I (the knower) that function
as sources of motivation and direction.
James augments his analysis of the self and
the motivation that springs from self awareness
with his mathematical formula for self esteem
(Self esteem Success/Pretenses to Success).
According to this formula, a persons self
esteem level and the motivation that follows
from it will be a function of the ratio of that
persons actual success divided by his or her