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Gilbert Ryle 1900 - 1976

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Gilbert Ryle Biography

From The Mythos of Man at  lostgraphics.com

Gilbert Ryle lived from 1900 to 1976 and was one of the most impressive British philosophers. He graduated from Oxford University, where he then became a tutor at Christ Church, Oxford, and later was a Waynflete professor of metaphysical philosophy (1945–68)From 1947 to 1971 he was editor of the philosophical journal Mind.   Like Ludwig Wittgenstein, Ryle was concerned with problems caused by the confusion of grammatical with logical distinctions. He pointed out the so-called "category mistake," in which, usually because of a grammatical equivalence, two things are mistakenly treated as belonging to equivalent logical categories. In his Concept of Mind (1949),   Ryle argued that the mind is not a non-physical substance residing in the body, "a ghost in a machine," but a set of capacities and abilities belonging to the body. The "ghost in the machine" is a derogatory term coined by him to abuse Dualism - the theory that human beings are comprised of a tangible body and an intangible mind. More popularly, it is the notion that a person is an ethereal soul that inhabits a physical body. The mind/soul continues after death, enjoying or suffering a conscious existence, just minus a body that can interact with the material world in space and time. He believed all references to the mental must be understood, at least theoretically, in terms of witnessable activities.  Ryle wrote many short essays on this subject. One of these was The Thinking of Thoughts published in 1968.  He also authored an argument against cognitivist theories called Ryle's Regress...

 

Gilbert Ryle Biography

From Garth Kemerling's Philosophy Pages.

Excerpt:

Oxford professor and editor of the journal Mind for nearly twenty-five years, Gilbert Ryle had an enormous influence on the development of twentieth-century analytic philosophy. In "Systematically Misleading Expressions" (1932) Ryle proposed a philosophical method of dissolving problems by correctly analyzing the derivation of inappropriate abstract inferences from ordinary uses of language. Applying this method more generally in "Categories" (1938), Ryle showed how the misapplication of an ordinary term can result in a category mistake by which philosophers may be seriously misled...

 

Gilbert Ryle Biography

From Infoplease.com

Excerpt:

1900–1976, British philosopher. A graduate of Oxford, he became a tutor at Christ Church, Oxford, and later was Waynflete professor of metaphysical philosophy (1945–68) there. From 1947 to 1971 he was editor of the philosophical journal Mind. Like Ludwig Wittgenstein, Ryle was concerned with problems caused by the confusion of grammatical with logical distinctions. He pointed out the so-called “category mistake,” in which, usually because of a grammatical equivalence, two things are mistakenly treated as belonging to equivalent logical categories. In his Concept of Mind (1949), Ryle argued that the mind is not a non-physical substance residing in the body, “a ghost in a machine,” but a set of capacities and abilities belonging to the body. All references to the mental must be understood, at least theoretically, in terms of witnessable activities...

 

Ryle's View of Mind -- Functionalism

From Introduction to Philosophy at Southern Illinois University.

Excerpt:

According to Ryle, to have mental states is simply to have the appropriate pattern of activity in one's body. Often, but not always, this activity includes one's behavior.

How does functionalism avoid the problem of other minds?

Ryle was struck by the ease with which people learn and use mental concepts such as belief, desire, pain, anger, etc. Ryle thought that in order for people to learn these concepts without any difficulty, it was necessary to suppose that they referred to patterns which included bodily behavior which everyone could see, and not to processes in a soul which was hidden from view. Since we observe these patterns in one another's behavior, we can know other person's have mental states like ours...

 

The Thinking of Thoughts

By Gilbert Ryle

Excerpt:

I begin by drawing your attention to a special, but at first sight merely curious feature of the notion of doing something, or rather of trying to do something. In the end I hope to satisfy you that this feature is more than merely curious; it is of radical importance for our central question, namely, What is le Penseur doing?

Two boys fairly swiftly contract the eyelids of their right eyes. In the first boy this is only an involuntary twitch; but the other is winking conspiratorially to an accomplice. At the lowest or the thinnest level of description the two contractions of the eyelids may be exactly alike. From a cinematograph-film of the two faces there might be no telling which contraction, if either, was a wink, or which, if either, were a mere twitch. Yet there remains the immense but unphotographable difference between a twitch and a wink. For to wink is to try to signal to someone in particular, without the cognizance of others, a definite message according to an already understood code. It has very complex success-versus-failure conditions. The wink is a failure if its intended recipient does not see it; or sees it but does not know or forgets the code; or misconstrues it; or disobeys or disbelieves it; or if any one else spots it. A mere twitch, on the other hand, is neither a failure nor a success; it has no intended recipient; it is not meant to be unwitnessed by anybody ; it carries no message. It may be a symptom but it is not a signal. The winker could notnot know that he was winking; but the victim of the twitch might be quite unaware of his twitch. The winker can tell what he was trying to do; the twitcher will deny that he was trying to do anything...

 

Ryle's Regress

Contributed by M.R.W. Dawson

Excerpt:

Ryle's Regress is a classic argument against cognitivist theories, and concludes that such theories cannot be scientific. The philosopher Gilbert Ryle (1949) was concerned with critiquing what he called the intellectualist legend, which required intelligent acts to be the product of the conscious application of mental rules. Ryle (p. 31) argued that the intellectualist legend results in an infinite regress of thought:

"According to the legend, whenever an agent does anything intelligently, his act is preceded and steered by another internal act of considering a regulative proposition appropriate to his practical problem. [...] Must we then say that for the hero's reflections how to act to be intelligent he must first reflect how best to reflect how to act? The endlessness of this implied regress shows that the application of the appropriateness does not entail the occurrence of a process of considering this criterion."

Variants of Ryle's Regress are commonly aimed at cognitivist theories....

 

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