Kenneth J. Gergen Quotes

Why should I know Kenneth J. Gergen?

Kenneth J. Gergen is an American psychologist and professor emeritus at Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania. Gergen is the author of 'Relational Being', 'The Saturated Self' and 'An Invitation to Social Construction'.

Born January 01, 1935

Books by Kenneth J. Gergen


Best 10 Quotes by Kenneth J. Gergen

“You might sit at your computer, thinking you own and control your own ideas but it doesn't take long before you realize that you're part of a bigger network. You're fully wrapped up in relationships out of which you come and in which you participate. To look at yourself as a single being is absurd. The new way to look at it is, 'I'm connected, therefore I am.'”

Kenneth J. Gergen

"Relational Being" Quotes

“Consider the power that even a single word or phrase may have in a given context: "You are fired," "I quit," or "we are finished." The same holds true of one's movements: a raised fist, a derisive laugh, an embrace. Even one's physical presence may alter the confluence. Depending on the circumstances, simply standing there as an observer, a demonstrator, or a mourner may all change the definition of the situation. And we must also consider the objects that are present. A vase of flowers, a menorah, a dog, a weapon on the wall all are subtle means of shifting the potentials of the situation. To be sure, it may be useful to distinguish between constituents of a confluence that are central to its form as opposed to peripheral. But people can also be enormously flexible and creative in sustaining a given definition of the situation as various people, objects, and actions shift over time.”

Kenneth J. Gergen
Relational Being

“Generative ideas emerge from joint thinking, from significant conversations, and from sustained, shared struggles to achieve new insights by partners in thought.”

Kenneth J. Gergen
Relational Being

“Let's return to the construction of the self. Through co-action we come into being as individual identities, but the process remains forever incomplete. At any moment there are multiple options, and self-identity remains in motion.”

Kenneth J. Gergen
Relational Being

“Mary and I once puzzled over the fact that every Christmas time we labored to decorate the house. The decorating cost us time and money; there was no obvious gain. Nothing dire would befall us if we failed to do so. Why, we asked, do we do it? We now see this as a misleading question. We decorate neither for a reason that lies somewhere inside, or pressures from the outside. Rather, we decorate because we exist within a confluence - an array of mutually defining relationships with each other and our surrounds. When the season is upon us, such actions are obvious ways of going on; they are congenial within the confluence. If we were at a dinner party we would eat, if we were at a concert we would applaud. We do not do so for reasons of private origin, or because someone "makes us do it," but because we are participants in a confluence of relationships in which these are intelligible actions.”

Kenneth J. Gergen
Relational Being

“My hope is to demonstrate that virtually all intelligible action is born, sustained, and/or extinguished within the ongoing process of relationship. From this standpoint there is no isolated self or fully private experience. Rather, we exist in a world of co-constitution. We are always already emerging from relationship; we cannot step out of relationship; even in our most private moments we are never alone.”

Kenneth J. Gergen
Relational Being

“Speaking of our thoughts, emotions, intentions, and the like is not required by the facts of nature. If we fail to speak in these terms, it is not that we fail to grasp reality. Rather, the language of the interior issues from a particular tradition of relationship. By the same token, we can also create together new ways of speaking and acting. We must not remain forever bound by history.”

Kenneth J. Gergen
Relational Being

“The assumption of an internal or mental world invites alienation, loneliness, distrust, hierarchy, competition, and self-doubt; favored is a society in which people become commodities and relationships are devalued.”

Kenneth J. Gergen
Relational Being

“The reality of the mind is also the reality of bounded being. Mental states constitute the very ingredients of the individual interior. One's ability to think, and feel, and choose are the very marks of being fully human. Would a child be normal without the ability to feel pleasure and pain, happiness or anger? Doesn't normal development include expanding one's capacities for abstract reasoning, conscience, and long-term planning? Could one function properly in society without having values, attitudes, and opinions? All such suppositions support and honor the tradition of the bounded self.”

Kenneth J. Gergen
Relational Being

“The world is awash in conflict between those clinging to tradition versus those careening toward the new. Yet, if there is no intelligibility outside constraint, how are we to account for change? The major answer lies in our movement from one relational context to another. As we move from the home, to the office, to a visit with friends, to the sports field, and so on we carry with us patterns of speaking and acting. These practices are now inserted into the new contexts, and supplemented in new ways. The words and actions now acquire different functions. They become increasingly meaning/full.”

Kenneth J. Gergen
Relational Being