Charles Horton Cooley was a sociologist whose insights into human nature were far reaching. He understood that human beings are essentially social creatures. He believed that human beings are primarily social in nature, and that interaction with others was an essential aspect of their growth and development.
Many of Cooley's ideas are congruent with the Unification thought view of human society:
- Cooley regarded "primary groups" such as the family, in which intimate, social interactions occur, as foundational to the fabric of society. Through such interactions individuals become part of the larger whole, the "we," and are willing to sacrifice individual desires for the good of that whole. They learn to live for the sake of others.
- His view of society was that of an organic whole, in which all people play a significant role, dependent on all others for their own success and happiness.
- Cooley also regarded self-centered individualism, the lynchpin of many economic and social theories, as detrimental to the growth of human society, limiting it from achieving its true potential.
Additionally, Cooley believed that people develop not only knowledge about others through interacting with them, but also knowledge about themselves. His concept of the "looking glass self" is based on this idea. While many of Cooley's ideas focus on the fact that people are part of a larger whole, and exist in constant relationship with others, the looking glass self, as its name implies, reflects attention back on the individual. Somehow, the idea that one’s image of itself comes from their imagination of how others see them, and therefore guides their behavior so that they appear good in the eyes of others, reduces his view back to self-centered motivation. Indeed, people are aware of how they appear to others, and that is, and should be, important to them. However, as children of God, it is more important how people appear to God than to other people. Humans are endowed with a conscience, which is the ultimate guide to how they appear, and how they should behave. Thus, although Cooley had many deep insights into the essentially social nature of human beings, he did not understand the role of the conscience and its relationship to God, and thus his account leads back to selfishness rather than freeing human beings to act as true members of the ideal society Cooley envisioned.