Gilbert Ryle's The Concept of Mind

2427 Words10 Pages
Gilbert Ryle's The Concept of Mind

In The Concept of Mind Gilbert Ryle attempts, in his own words, to 'explode the myth' of Cartesian dualism. His primary method in this endeavour is to explain why it is a logical error to describe minds and bodies with semantically similar language; while secondarily, he proposes that even to speak of 'minds' as a second-order ontology is to take the first step in the wrong direction towards intellectual clarity. Thus, with the desire to arrive at this hypothetical locale, the following peripatetic discussion will set out with Ryle at his point of departure, viz. Descartes' Myth; it will then survey the "lay-of-the-land" at Ryle's mapped out midway point, viz. Self-Knowledge; and from there, judge whether Ryle himself is headed in the right direction, or, whether despite the ribbons and fan-fare, Ryle's excursion takes place on a circular track.

Ryle begins by seeking to expose the theory of Cartesian Dualism as an absurd logical error. To do this, he accuses it of having an inherently faulty structure; that it exemplifies "one big category-mistake."1 To understand this claim we must first look at what Ryle deems a 'category-mistake.'

A category-mistake is committed when one accounts for a concept by placing it in a certain logical type, or category, when in fact it belongs to a different division altogether. So to describe or qualify two items or ideas of dissimilar constitution within the same linguistic framework is to commit this mistake. Ryle provides numerous examples for the elucidation of this error, only one of which follows: "she came home in a flood of tears and a sedan chair."2 The absurdity of this statement shows the category-mistake for what it is: a failure to use langu...

... middle of paper ...

...ons it is my considered opinion that despite Ryle's attempt at intellectual clarity, this clarity is an illusion.

NOTES

1 Gilbert Ryle, The Concept of Mind, p. 17.Back to note location in text

2 Ibid., p. 23.Back to note location in text

3 Ibid., p. 15.Back to note location in text

4 Ibid. Back to note location in text

5 Ibid., p.21.Back to note location in text

6 Ibid., p. 23.Back to note location in text

7 I refer to John R. Searle, The Rediscovery of The Mind, in which the author

states: "Mental phenomena are caused by neurophysiological processes in the brain

and are themselves features of the brain." p. 1.Back to note location in text

8 Gilbert Ryle, The Concept of Mind, p. 149.Back to note location in text

9 Ibid., p. 149.Back to note location in text

10 Ibid., p. 162.Back to note location in text
Open Document