25 Nov 2002 The Concept of Mind Introduction

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with understanding the mind he argued came from the tendency to bring together illegitimately. diverse and conflicting conceptual schemes in trying to set up one comprehensive account of. what it is to be a human being, However the problem of the nature of the human mind was not the only philosophical. conundrum to which he applied the idea of resolving seemingly intractable problems by what. one might almost describe as the Rylean technique All sorts of diverse puzzles could be shown. to be artifacts of the tendency to falsely unify distinctive conceptual frames The puzzles. disappeared once this tendency was unmasked In Dilemmas Ryle 1954 exploited the. technique to great advantage,The Concept of Mind, The plot of the book is straightforward Philosophy of mind has been mired in a persistent. pattern of gross philosophical errors With some historical licence Ryle claimed that these errors. lead from different directions to Descartes and his two substance account of personhood. According to this account the body is made of one substance matter and the mind of another. immaterial stuff This is an ontological error which has had all sorts of unwelcome. consequences However as we shall see it is remediable by attention to the way the words we. use to describe thinking feeling and acting are actually used. Attention to language shows that there is no ground for the presupposition of a hidden. realm of mental states and activities behind those we actively produce and experience in. thinking feeling and acting as we do It shows this by tracking the erroneous path along which. philosophers have led us towards the mentalistic illusion through misunderstandings of the way. key words are used What exactly is the illusion It is that there is an unobservable immaterial. machine the workings of which are responsible for all the phenomena be they the public. behaviour or the private thoughts and feelings which make up the domain of common. experience Material substance comprises the body as a physical machine and a second. immaterial substance comprises the mind as a mental machine. It is not quite clear in which direction the finger of blame points Is the root of our. linguistic muddles an uncritical acceptance of the myth of the ghost in the machine Or is it. these very misunderstandings that lead inexorably to the two substance picture of what it is to be. a human being, There are key words in our psychological vocabulary that are thought to refer to hidden. states of mind Attention to how they are actually used shows instead that they are used to. ascribe to a person certain dispositions to behave in various and particular ways For example. intelligence is a real attribute of some people but is mis assigned as a mental property to the. immaterial ghost inhabiting the human bodily machine If we are convinced that there is no. such machine the temptation to misinterpret words like intelligent is more easily resisted. Oftentimes the discussion in The Concept of Mind seems to move in the opposite. direction The prime mover to error is presented as our tendency to slip into mistakes about the. meanings and uses of words If intelligence is a mental state to what is it to be ascribed The. obvious subject for an immaterial property is an immaterial mental substance invented or just. this purpose For example Ryle insisted that it was a mistake to suppose that there was any such. thing as an act of will that brings about a deliberate human action This gratuitous invention is. the result of a misunderstanding of the everyday distinction between voluntary and involuntary. acts There is no hidden realm of acts of will behind the deliberate voluntary acts we all carry. out However if we were to mistakenly think that there are acts of volition their only possible. site is in an immaterial mental machine, Ryle s book can be read as a kind of philosophical medicine that will free us from an. ancient and long standing metaphysical mistake At the same time it presents a quasi historical. diagnosis of the route by which philosophers for example Descartes have been led to make that. mistake The intersection of these lines of argument in disposing of any vestige of Cartesianism. is the source of the strength of the whole enterprise. The Concept of Mind was widely read At the time of its publication only an inner circle. of devotees knew the later writings of Wittgenstein though Ryle may have had some. acquaintance with them The close link between the Rylean method of analysis and. Wittgenstein s technique of undertaking a surview of the relevant language games was visible to. most people only in hindsight, It must also be said that the fact that Ryle s studies were devoted to the uses of everyday.
English words was responsible for a widespread misunderstanding of the Oxford philosophical. style It came to be called ordinary language philosophy as if the rules for the use of everyday. expressions in the vernacular were to be the touchstone of all wisdom the repository of. philosophical truth On the contrary the temptations to misunderstand the uses of words were not. thought to be confined to the language of everyday life The use of linguistic analysis to reveal. philosophical confusions had an equal place in studies of even the most recondite vocabularies. The ordinary language of quantum mechanics tempted one to misunderstand the import of the. Uncertainty Principle just as the ordinary language of the law tempted one to misunderstand. the legal concept of causation Hart and Honor 1985. The Cartesian category mistake, Ryle s target in accusing philosophers of a profound mistake in the interpretation of our. mentalistic vocabulary was the misassignment of all mental phenomena to an immaterial. substance Mental activities were treated as properties of that substance The mistake lay in. treating the mind as a being of the same category as the body namely a substance Ryle calls the. two substance account of persons the official doctrine The person is thought of as a. conjunction of a mental substance with a material substance This doctrine is the result of a. category mistake, The argument proper of The Concept of Mind begins with an explanation of this fallacy. Ryle examines several examples of common category mistakes pp 16 17 to illustrate the. structure and force of the fallacy A visitor s quest for the University among the buildings of the. city of Oxford is an illusory project because it is based on a category mistake taking the. University to be of the same category as the colleges Colleges are spatio temporally locatable. institutions The University is not another such institution It is in a certain sense the aggregate. of the colleges It has no spatio temporal location Having visited the colleges one has visited the. University, Then there is the child who having seen the battalions of a military division march by. asks when the division is to appear Moreover more to the point of the book there is a third. example A foreign visitor having watched a cricket match and seen the various players batting. bowling fielding and so on asks which person is responsible for the esprit de corps However. displaying team spirit is not another cricketing activity of the same category as batting bowling. and fielding Importantly for the later argument Ryle remarks that we cannot say that the bowler. bowls and displays team spirit even though displaying team spirit is not the same thing as. bowling or batting or fielding, A category mistake arises declares Ryle because the person who makes it does not have. a clear and explicit grasp of how the words University division and team spirit are used In. general people manage their vocabularies very well until they begin to reflect on them in some. abstract way in short until they start to philosophise Then they tend to misinterpret the pertinent. words removing them from the everyday contexts of use Why should that lead to error. Because the fact that a word is a noun for example and so likely to be name of some thing or. substance becomes the dominant feature of its meaning when it has been abstracted from. context Thus to take another of Ryle s illustrations a political philosopher might come to. believe that in addition to the organs and activities of government there was another entity the. British Constitution as if it were of the same ontological type the same sort of existent as the. readily observed governmental institutions scattered up and down Whitehall. Substantival Mind as a Category Mistake, Adopting the mentalistic myth of mind as substance either because of mis assignments of word.
kinds or as a long standing error seemingly supported by Cartesian arguments leads to several. consequential errors First of all there is the idea that people live in two worlds There is the. physical world of bodily states and happenings the world of material substance There is also the. mental world of cognitive and emotional events The mistake is to construe the mental world as. consisting of a mental substance paralleling the material substance of the body The one is said. to be outer and publicly visible to all The other is said to be inner and its properties are. known wholly or in part only the person to whom such events as forming a thought. recollecting a past experience suffering a pang of hunger and so on are occurring Physical. being is in space and time while mental being is only in time Thus there are two realms or. insulated fields the physical realm and the mental realm. An important and seemingly intractable problem stems from this way of thinking that is. treating the difference between the material and the mental aspects of a person s life as grounded. in a radical difference between substances The way that events as pairs of states one from each. of the two incommensurable substances can influence one another then becomes a seemingly. irresolvable mystery How is it possible for a state or process occurring in a mental substance to. affect the state or condition of a material or physical substance if the substances of which they. are properties have nothing in common How could a thought influence the making of a sound. How could a sound influence what someone thinks or feels Yet it must be admitted that people. can influence one another s thoughts and feelings only via the mediation of some process in the. physical realm This is an important aspect of the traditional mind body problem. Ryle s diagnosis is that this traditional philosophical problem is not a problem at all It. appears so only because of the root category mistake which segregates the mental and physical. as attributes of distinct and diverse substances, What exactly is Ryle denying in rejecting the myth of the ghost in the machine He is. not denying that there is a domain of personal and private experience He is denying that there is. a realm of cognitive entities and processes beyond the realm of experience be it private or. public the behaviour of which explains the psychological phenomena of which we are witnesses. He argues mostly by the piling up of examples on examples that the concepts appropriate to the. private and personal domain of experience are continuous with and subject to the same logical. grammar that is the same general rules of use as those which are displayed publicly and. In a curious way Ryle s target was an approach to psychology that had not yet been born. Many of the theses the fatal flaws of which he diagnoses are the very principles on which a. certain strand of so called cognitive science has been built See particularly the writings of J. A Fodor 1975 for the idea of a cognitive realm unknown to those who think feel and act. intentionally and yet determining what those thoughts feelings and actions will be Ryle s. argument would seem to show that there is no language of thought no mind behind the mind. Though Ryle never says so it surely follows that the only domain behind the mind is the. domain of neural activity Psychology terminates in the public and person activities in which. people engage, Consistently with his general line Ryle also denies that our private experiences are. processes in and properties of that same immaterial mental substance In this vein he seems to be. saying that the content of our mental lives are acts we perform things we do rather than static. properties of something mysterious Imagining something privately that is in the mind s eye is. just as much a matter of something someone does as drawing something publicly on a sheet of. paper According to this line of argument the concept of a mental substance is intelligible but as. it happens there is no such thing We do not need to invoke that hypothesis to explain all that. needs to be accounted for in our thoughts feelings and actions. Ryle sometimes seems to suggest that the hypothesis of the mind behind the mind is. arrived at by faulty reasoning On this reading it would be a matter of fact that the hypothesis of. a hidden mental realm a mind behind the mind is false It is false in the same way that the. hypothesis of a luminiferous aether is false That hypothesis central to nineteenth century. physics was arrived at by faulty reasoning based on the mistaken principle that light waves. required a medium It turned out that the hypothesis though meaningful was false as a matter of. fact There is no such thing, Sometimes Ryle seems to be suggesting that the very concept of a substantival . The Concept of Mind The plot of the book is straightforward Philosophy of mind has been mired in a persistent pattern of gross philosophical errors With some historical licence Ryle claimed that these errors lead from different directions to Descartes and his two substance account of personhood

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