Gilbert Ryle’s The Concept of Mind

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Gilbert Ryle’s The Concept of Mind

Gilbert Ryle’s The Concept of Mind (1949) is a critique of the notion that the mind is distinct from the body, and is a rejection of the philosophical theory that mental states are distinct from physical states. Ryle argues that the traditional approach to the relation of mind and body (i.e., the approach which is taken by the philosophy of Descartes) assumes that there is a basic distinction between Mind and Matter. According to Ryle, this assumption is a basic 'category-mistake,' because it attempts to analyze the relation betwen 'mind' and 'body' as if they were terms of the same logical category. Furthermore, Ryle argues that traditional Idealism makes a basic 'category-mistake' by trying to reduce physical reality to the same status as mental reality, and that Materialism makes a basic 'category-mistake' by trying to reduce mental reality to the same status as physical reality.

Ryle rejects Descartes’ dualistic theory of the relation betwen mind and body. According to Ryle, this theory attempts to separate mental reality from physical reality, and it attempts to analyze mental processes as if the mind were distinct from the body. As an example of how this doctrine can be misleading, Ryle explains that knowing how to perform an act skillfully is not a matter of purely theoretical reasoning. Knowing how to perform an act skillfully is a matter of being able to think logically and practically, and is a matter of being able to put practical reasoning into action. Practical action is not necessarily produced by highly abstract reasoning, or by an intricate series of intellectual operations. The meaning of actions is not explained by making inferences about hidden mental processes, but is ...

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...ocesses which are distinct from observable behavioral responses. Acts such as thinking, remembering, perceiving, and willing are defined by behavioral actions and by dispositions to perform behavioral actions. However, Ryle criticises Behaviorist theory for being overly simplistic and mechanistic, just as he criticizes Cartesian theory for being overly simplistic and mechanistic. While Cartesian theory asserts that hidden mental processes cause the behavioral responses of the conscious individual, Behaviorism asserts that stimulus-response mechanisms cause the behavioral responses of the conscious individual. Ryle argues that both the Cartesian theory and the Behaviorist theory are too simplistic and mechanistic to enable us to fully understand the Concept of Mind.

Works Cited:

Ryle, Gilbert. The Concept of Mind. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1949.

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