Cartesian Dualism and Gilbert Ryle

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Over the years, many philosophers have tried to answer the elusive mind-body problem. There has been a wide range of approaches to comprehend this matter, but perhaps none as renowned as Cartesian dualism. This theory, proposed by René Descartes in the early seventeenth century, is still central to modern metaphysical discourse. His teachings through the Meditations have been both revered and scrutinized, and still have withstood many other’s attempts to disprove them. One of his biggest critics of the twentieth century was Gilbert Ryle. In his article entitled “Descartes’ Myth,” Ryle profusely attempts to debunk this purported falsehood. However, I would reason that he was not successful in his attempt. In this essay, I will argue how Ryle’s retort to Cartesian dualism is ridiculous and hardly convincing. The basis of my argument lies upon Ryle’s vain assertion that a “category-mistake” was made by Descartes, and also through his use of behaviourism. To begin this analysis, I will first lay out what Cartesian dualism is and what is meant by Ryle in his rebuttal. Following this, I will elaborate on my dispute with Ryle’s accusation of Descartes’ alleged category-mistake. Afterwards, I will debate his use of logical behaviourism, claiming instead that actions do not always define intentions.
René Descartes theorized Cartesian dualism in his legendary works, Meditations II and VI. He argued that the mind and body were two fundamentally distinct substances capable of existing separately. In his view, the mind is an immaterial, indivisible thinking thing, while the body is a material, divisible thing extended in space (Week 3, Lecture 1, Slide 6). He hypothesized that the mind and body were completely separate, but interacted at the...

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...controlling his every move, while the puppet represents the vessel through which the puppeteer’s thought processes are carried out. As you say, the mind is but an aspect of the body. So, does the overt behaviour of the puppet indicate all there is to know about the mental processes of the puppeteer? Can all the activities of the mind be inferred by the puppet’s physical motions? The answer to this proposition is a resounding “no.” Thus, when you bandy about your trivial phrase “the Ghost in the Machine” in academic dialogue, remember how your own philosophy has been deduced to being known as “the Man behind the Puppet.”

Works Cited

Johnstone, M., Primmer, J. (2014). [Lecture]. The Mind-Body Problem. PHILOS 1E03, Problems of Philosophy. Hamilton, ON, Canada: McMaster University.

Ryle, G. (2013). Descartes' Myth. Problems of Philosophy: Custom Publishing , 29-35.

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