Sunday, May 10, 2009

87 Gilbert Ryle

Gilbert Ryle has written about a wide range of philosophical issues, but he has become most famous with his "Ghost in the machine" theory. It is a brilliant refutation of Cartersian dualism.

I'll discuss his book "The Concept of Mind" which was published in 1949, but if you have the chance you really should read the first chapter, named "The Myth of Descartes."

What was the case. When Gallilei proved that his methods of scientific research resulted in a purely mechanistic view of the physical world, Descartes had two big problems.

As a brilliant scientist and mathematician he had to accept the findings of Gallilei, impossible to deny its correctness. But as a religious person he couldnt accept the discouraging consequences of the theory, that is, he could not accept that man was just a machine.

Furthermore, the mechanistic view of the world showed that everything was related to eachother by cause and effect. But if that were true, where to go with something like free will?

There had to be an escape and Descartes created one which would survive many centuries. There existed a generally accepted system of conceptual categories; "thing", "matter", "attribute", "property","condition", "proces","change""cause" and "effect".

To escape from the horrifying idea, that man was just a machine, Descartes used all mechanistic concepts to describe the mind, but just a little different. So, the mind is a thing, but a thing of a different kind than the body.

Mental processes are causes and effects, but different from bodily causation and effect in bodily movements. So the mind , in a way, is just like a machine too, but yet just a little different.

Most interesting is, that the mind mainly is described by what it is not. It is not-mechanical, not-spacial, not-material, not-substance and so on. But this led to all kinds of theoretical problems, for instance, how can a not-material something cause effects in a material body?

In other words, there is a ghost in the machine and not only that, the ghost itself is a spooky machine. We know what it is not, but we dont know what it is. It is a very weird thing. We have access to our own mind, but never to the mind of others. Another weird characteristic.

Ryle goes on and on demonstrating the absurd consequences of this mind - body dualism that had dominated philosophical discourse for such a long time. The way he solved it was brilliant and in the finest tradition of linguistic analysis.

When I say to a friend "Look, I'll show you Second Life!" he'll be enthousiastic and yells "YES, plz do. You told me so much about it." Then I show him my house, how to teleport, how to fly, how to talk to others, how to build and buy things.

But then comes the big question. My friend will look disappointed and say"Wow, yes you showed me really a lot of things, but where is that Second Life?"

That is what Ryle called a category mistake. Concepts that belong to the same category can be put together in a conjunctive proposistion. For instance: I buy a left shoe AND I buy a right shoe.

But things become a little odd, when I come home and say: I bought a left shoe AND a right shoe and a pair of shoes, as if these last words refer to something extra. Just like the words 'Second Life' refer to something extra, which you can find here

There is a strong inclination, and many philosophers are guilty of it too, to believe that when you have a word, you also have a thingto which the word refers. When I show you all the buildings and stores of New York, the question "Nice, but where is New York itself?" makes no sense.

But doesnt it sound familiar to you..."Yes, these are the houses, buildings and so on, but now I gonna show you the real New York." New York doesnt refer to a thing, like the word building refers to a thing.

And in the same way demonstates Ryle how all mechanistic talk about the mind, suggest that there is something that exists apart from the body.

The sentences "There are occuring mental processes" and "there are occuring physical processes" look the same, but it doesnt mean that they both refer to two different things of the same kind.

The belief that there are physical processes AND mental processes suggest that we are talking about two things of the same category. This, Ryle concludes, is a big mistake. of course there are mental processes, but they are not opposed to physical processes, That is nonsense.

Ryle doesnt choose for a materialistic view. That would mean that the disjunctive proposition "There are either spychic phenomena OR physical phenomena." was admissable. But this would be equal to the statement "Either you buy a left and right shoe OR you buy a pair of shoes."

The second chapter of "The Concept of Mind" begins thus: "In this chapter I try to show that when we describe how people use their mental abilities, we are not talking about invisible events, of which their visible actions and responses are the consequences: we are talking about the visible actions and responses themselves."

The Discussion

[13:21] Herman Bergson: this concludes the life of the ghost in the machine ^_^
[13:22] Gemma Cleanslate: so the ghost is truely the mind
[13:22] Herman Bergson: Naming Skinner was a right conclusion Athena
[13:22] Laila Schuman: love it... that was really a neat set of ideas to play with... love it
[13:22] Gemma Cleanslate: as separate from the body
[13:22] hope63 Shepherd: did he- could he know at his time- that physical procecesses ARE mental processes?
[13:22] Athena John: :)
[13:23] Herman Bergson: That Hope is the identity still is a thesis
[13:23] hope63 Shepherd: less and less a thesis:)
[13:24] Herman Bergson: yes I agree, but it doesnt solve all epistemological problems
[13:24] hope63 Shepherd: you mean: how can we know?
[13:24] Athena John: How can any of us KNOW anything?
[13:25] Gemma Cleanslate: that is the question that keeps recurring
[13:25] hope63 Shepherd: i know you just said something:)
[13:25] AristotleVon Doobie: we are the trinity...body, brain, mind
[13:25] Herman Bergson: that would be a solution Hope, the one Ryle chose too....mental statements refer to observable behavior
[13:26] hope63 Shepherd: how can i know you have a body ari.. i only know your av:)
[13:26] Herman Bergson: to say that you know somehting means that you show this or that behavior
[13:26] AristotleVon Doobie: common sense I suppose Hope
[13:27] Cailleach Shan: The only thing I really know is 'I breathe in... I breathe out'
[13:27] hope63 Shepherd: show a behavior: means only the OTHER can get knowledge of it...
[13:27] arabella Ella: Cail are you sure you really know that you are breathing ;)
[13:27] Ap4ch3 Xingjian: perhaps mind, counciousness etc are not able to be deconstructed like this..they are fundamental? .. like space,time, matter etc
[13:27] Cailleach Shan: lol absolutely.
[13:28] hope63 Shepherd: common sense-- herman help me-- who was it who brought that up -- 17th century i think..
[13:28] Herman Bergson: With that Ryle disagrees fundamentally Ap4ch3
[13:28] Ap4ch3 Xingjian: :)
[13:28] Herman Bergson: Paine
[13:28] hope63 Shepherd: ty
[13:28] Herman Bergson: Thomas Paine
[13:28] Athena John: Oh, I must go. Sorry. have a great day, all.
[13:29] arabella Ella: bye Athena
[[13:29] AristotleVon Doobie: a very fine man...Thomas Paine
[13:30] Cailleach Shan: What if we are all just here for the experience.... for entertainment.... the 'knowing' is irrelivant!
[13:30] Herman Bergson: the mosst important observation of Ryle was that tho sentences my look the same in grammatical structure they do not necessarily belong to the same category of statements
[13:30] AristotleVon Doobie: sure Cailleach, the knowing may be just a byproduct
[13:30] Herman Bergson: say "The body exists" is a completely different statement from "The mind exists."
[13:31] hope63 Shepherd: what would you call category of statement? how differentiate?
[13:31] Mickorod Renard: maybe we are just collecting information
[13:31] Mickorod Renard: for an unknown recipient
[13:31] AristotleVon Doobie: yes, Herman one can not physically touch the mind
[13:31] Herman Bergson: Ryle never developed a clear system of categories but to give an example
[13:31] hope63 Shepherd: lobotomy can help ari
[13:32] Herman Bergson: one the one hand I have the word 'classroom'
[13:32] Herman Bergson: on the other hand I have the word 'seats', walls, floor etc
[13:32] Herman Bergson: to say The seats exist is something completely different from The classroom exists
[13:33] Herman Bergson: The second statement SUGGEST as if there is some physical thing, named classroom
[13:33] Herman Bergson: in other words...
[13:33] AristotleVon Doobie: still with these components, classroom is an object
[13:33] Herman Bergson: the word seat and classroom belong to different categories
[13:34] hope63 Shepherd: classroom isn't an object - its a concept..
[13:34] Cailleach Shan: So.... our world is simply a collection of 'concepts'.
[13:34] Herman Bergson: you could call it that
[13:34] AristotleVon Doobie: hmmmm I see a hieracrhcy or things
[13:34] Herman Bergson: I would say the opposite Cailleach
[13:34] Ze Novikov: are humans then concepts
[13:34] Cailleach Shan: How so Herman?
[13:34] Herman Bergson: our world is a huge collection of particulars
[13:35] arabella Ella: I think it is more the case of looking for something tangible called 'mind' but just finding actions or dispositions to act in certain ways
[13:35] arabella Ella: so the mental can be understood as disposition to behave in a certain way
[13:35] Herman Bergson: yes arabella
[13:35] Cailleach Shan: The only problem is that I have no idea what you see through your eyes.... and your cannot know what I see through mine.
[13:35] Gemma Cleanslate: i like that arabella
[13:35] Herman Bergson: no we cant Cailleach...the only thing you see is my behavior
[13:36] Mickorod Renard: cail,,that may be posible soon
[13:36] Cailleach Shan: Really Mick?
[13:36] Mickorod Renard: but thats another story
[13:36] Herman Bergson: quite a different story Mickorod
[13:37] Mickorod Renard: but how we interpret what we each see may be different
[13:37] Herman Bergson: for we even dont know what the word to see means
[13:37] arabella Ella: i think one of the examples which Ryle gives is a university - you say here is the library, here is the admin, here is chemistry, here is language etc - should you then say you still do not know what 'university' is?
[13:37] Herman Bergson: because we have a history too
[13:37] Herman Bergson: that is the classic one Arabella, indeed :-)
[13:37] Cailleach Shan: And a general consensus.
[13:38] arabella Ella: Ryle was one of my fav philosophers Herman ;)
[13:38] hope63 Shepherd: we are not even conscious of what to speak to someone means-- because part of our brain is considering the reaction of the other..
[13:38] arabella Ella: easy to understand and writes well too
[13:38] AristotleVon Doobie: concepts are little storage bins of objects
[13:39] arabella Ella: but Ryle is not refering to concepts he is relating to category mistakes
[13:39] Herman Bergson: as long as you are using a metaphor you are right Aristotle
[13:39] AristotleVon Doobie: houses contain furniture...are made of wood etc
[13:39] Gemma Cleanslate: is the chapter of the book you recommended on the web Herman?
[13:39] arabella Ella: looking for 'government' in a town would be another good example
[13:39] Herman Bergson: I have looked for it, but havent found it
[13:39] Gemma Cleanslate: i will look at the library
[13:39] Herman Bergson: Unfortunately it wasnt in the Adeleide collection..
[13:40] Herman Bergson: Oh maybe the gutenberg .org??!
[13:40] Ze Novikov: can we say the same then for humans
[13:40] Ze Novikov: just aconcept?
[13:40] hope63 Shepherd: no ze..
[13:40] Herman Bergson: what do you mean Ze?
[13:40] AristotleVon Doobie: of course my 'storage bin' is the concept
[13:41] Ze Novikov: well are we as human beings filled with particulars ?
[13:41] hope63 Shepherd: but of course we have a concept of what is human..
[13:41] arabella Ella: I think it is resally that the mental and the physical are different types of categories Ze and we are mistaken if we try to look for and identify the mental as though we were searching for something physical
[13:41] Cailleach Shan: There is something that puzzles me though... I have read that a balanced 'state of mind' has a beneficial effect on the health of the body... that seems at odds with Ryle.
[13:41] Herman Bergson: the word 'human' is a concept
[13:41] hope63 Shepherd: ara-- mental is physical...
[13:41] Ze Novikov: yes so we are a form of concept
[13:42] hope63 Shepherd: what you think of you being a human-- that is a concept..
[13:42] arabella Ella: hope - mental is physical only for SOME philosophers but it is a category mistake for Ryle to search for the mental within the realm of the physical
[13:42] Herman Bergson: no Ze....for now you make the mistake of speaking about objects and concepts at the same time
[13:42] hope63 Shepherd: ara.. this is scientific and not philosophy..
[13:42] Herman Bergson: And your statement Cailleach wouldnt be a problem for Ryle at ll
[13:43] AristotleVon Doobie: fascinating to think about
[13:43] arabella Ella: hope - even scientists cannot yet explain everything about mind
[13:43] hope63 Shepherd: lol... they try.. as much as philosophers:)
[13:43] arabella Ella: yes they do no doubt
[13:43] Herman Bergson: Ze, I could disect you into ultimately molecules, but still have the question where is the human?
[13:44] AristotleVon Doobie: invisible little bags of stuff
[13:44] Ze Novikov: that is what i mean we are made up of particulars
[13:44] Herman Bergson: yes we are
[13:44] hope63 Shepherd: good question herman.. shall we look at darwin to fiond an answer? or to augustinus....
[13:44] Ze Novikov: so each group then is a concept?
[13:45] Ze Novikov: each group of particulars?
[13:45] Herman Bergson: yes you could say that
[13:45] arabella Ella: i feel that using the term concept confuses Ryle's ideas
[13:45] Herman Bergson: in fact we have seen this debate all through history: think of UNIVERSALS
[13:45] hope63 Shepherd: shall we agree that a CONCEPT is a product of the mind?
[13:45] Ze Novikov: lol
[13:45] Mickorod Renard: I like that hope
[13:46] Herman Bergson: Yes...a concept could be regarded as a logical construct
[13:46] arabella Ella: hope - why are you using the concept 'mind' if you only seem to believe in 'brain'?
[13:46] hope63 Shepherd: when i was young we were talking about the capacity to abstract thoughts...
[13:46] Cailleach Shan: If everything can be reduced to 'invisible little bags of stuff' .... then we are just dancing molecules bumping into each other...
[13:46] Qwark Allen: NO
[13:47] arabella Ella: lovely description Cail ;)
[13:47] Qwark Allen: cause we are more then the addiction of moleculels
[13:47] hope63 Shepherd: what is the difference for you ara.. between mind and brain? ( question i asked about 6 month ago)lol
[13:47] Mickorod Renard: since coming to philo classes I dont know what to believe anymore
[13:47] Herman Bergson: no Cailleach that is to rough....we are behavior at least too
[13:47] Cailleach Shan: lol.... good one Mick.. I love chaos.
[13:47] Gemma Cleanslate: lol join the crowd mick
[13:47] Ze Novikov: lol
[13:47] Gemma Cleanslate: i have a book of questions
[13:48] Herman Bergson: Yes Mickorod
[13:48] Mickorod Renard: concepts to consider?
[13:48] Ze Novikov: lol
[13:48] arabella Ella: well hope, brain is definitely physical substane, mind is often still inexplicable and it gives rise to thoughts, beliefs, etc ... consciousness which most scientists accept cannot solely emerge from physical matter of the brain
[13:48] Herman Bergson: In that staement you describe your belief ^_^
[13:48] hope63 Shepherd: cal.. you are the true philosopher.. you have the questions..:)
[13:48] AristotleVon Doobie: our mind are great organiser of empirical data, filing the necessary componets into the approiate concepts
[13:49] Herman Bergson: not according to Ryle arabella ^_^
[13:49] hope63 Shepherd: most scientists?lol
[13:49] arabella Ella: that was in response to Hope's question Herman asking what the difference is between mind and brain ;)
[13:49] Herman Bergson: it would be a mistake to say that we have a brain AND a mind, in Ryle's opinion
[13:50] Gemma Cleanslate: how would he put it??
[13:50] Herman Bergson: brain belongs to the physical objects and mind.....??????
[13:50] Mickorod Renard: I guess he means the brain is body?
[13:50] hope63 Shepherd: we have a brain.. and some of it is very human personal functions we call brain....:)
[13:50] hope63 Shepherd: sorry-- mind...
[13:50] arabella Ella: did Ryle not just speak of the mental and the physical and NOT of brain and mind?
[13:50] hope63 Shepherd: lol
[13:50] Herman Bergson: I guess he would say that talking about mind is talking about behavior, inclinations, etc
[13:50] Ze Novikov: so he a strict materialist in that sense
[13:50] AristotleVon Doobie: the difference between mind and brain are like smoke and water
[13:51] arabella Ella: or like water which is H2O but which could also be invisibl air
[13:51] hope63 Shepherd: why not steam and water, ari.. same source.. different shape..
[13:51] Herman Bergson: In a way he is, but personally he did not claim to be a materialist
[13:51] Ze Novikov: umm
[13:52] Cailleach Shan: Sorry, I have to leave..... great discussion..... I am taking my mind out to consider the daffodils.. Bye
[13:52] Ze Novikov: lol
[13:52] Herman Bergson: but I comes close to materialism
[13:52] Ze Novikov: bb
[13:52] Herman Bergson: Bye Cailleach
[13:52] AristotleVon Doobie: bye Cail
[13:52] Ap4ch3 Xingjian: oops... core router went awol...gotta run :/ ..bye all
[13:52] arabella Ella: the beauty in Ryole's views is that he does not eliminate the mental but there are some mental thoughts which are never translated into either behavior or dispositions to behaviour (to act)
[13:53] Mickorod Renard: try roses cail,,the smell is good for your body
[13:53] arabella Ella: bye Ap bye Cail
[13:53] Mickorod Renard: bye ap
[13:54] Mickorod Renard: how do u mean ara
[13:54] Herman Bergson: Well...Skinner is on the list too
[13:54] AristotleVon Doobie: I supose you could take the concept to the next step up with houses being part of the concept subdivision
[13:54] Herman Bergson: so we'll see if it is possible to uphold a strict behaviorism
[13:54] Gemma Cleanslate: have to get going now as usual 2:00 obligation
[13:54] arabella Ella: he does not say the mental does not exist, it exists for Ryle as something which causes us to act or disposes us to act in certain ways Mick
[13:54] arabella Ella: bye Gemma
[13:54] AristotleVon Doobie: a concept made up of concepts
[13:55] Herman Bergson: Bye Gemma
[13:55] Mickorod Renard: bye gemma
[13:55] AristotleVon Doobie: bye Gemma
[13:55] Ze Novikov: bb
[13:55] Gemma Cleanslate: will have to miss sunday
[13:55] Gemma Cleanslate: theatre
[13:55] hope63 Shepherd: did you get sand from africa today ara?
[13:55] Mickorod Renard: mmm ok ta Ara
[13:55] Gemma Cleanslate: :-0
[13:55] Hello: Qwark Allen donated L$50. Thank you very much for supporting us, it is much appreciated!
[13:55] arabella Ella: not as far as i know hope - why do you ask?
[13:55] AristotleVon Doobie: later on Qwark
[13:56] Qwark Allen: thank you herman!! good class as allways
[13:56] Herman Bergson: No Ryle doesnt deny the existence of mental events, what he denies is the way we talk about it, as if they are entities
[13:56] hope63 Shepherd: saw it on tv.. sandstorm sweeping over the meditteranian..
[13:56] Qwark Allen: cya later my friends
[13:56] Qwark Allen: :-))))
[13:56] Qwark Allen: work calling :-)
[13:56] Herman Bergson: Thx Qwark
[13:56] Ze Novikov: bb
[13:56] arabella Ella: oh no then it must still be coming this way and it can be terrible hope when that happens
[13:56] arabella Ella: thanks for the warning
[13:56] hope63 Shepherd: question again,herman: when did he write that'
[13:56] arabella Ella: i just hope it gets better for the weeken
[13:56] arabella Ella: weekend
[13:57] Herman Bergson: 1949
[13:57] hope63 Shepherd: OK,TY
[13:57] Mickorod Renard: do you mean how we recolect the events?
[13:57] hope63 Shepherd: i think we have to be concious of what has happened in the 60 years since then..
[13:58] Herman Bergson: what do you mean Hope?
[13:58] hope63 Shepherd: thinking about the devellopments in physics- neurology..etc...
[13:59] Herman Bergson: yes..that is true
[13:59] arabella Ella: must go now
[13:59] Ze Novikov: Off to RL see everyone again soon ty herman
[13:59] arabella Ella: bye all
[13:59] AristotleVon Doobie: bye arabella
[13:59] Herman Bergson: Ok.....class dismissed..:-)
[13:59] AristotleVon Doobie: bte Ze
[13:59] Herman Bergson: Bye Arabella
[13:59] Mickorod Renard: but I dont think the latest developements have addressed it any better than then anyway
[14:00] Herman Bergson: watch out for the sandstorm
[14:00] AristotleVon Doobie: Thank you Professor
[14:00] hope63 Shepherd: as i mentioned last time on the side.. when i read about popper i found it fascinating that he was involved with heisenberg and studied the quantum theory ...
[14:00] Mickorod Renard: yes, thankyou Herman,really great tonite
[14:01] Herman Bergson: thank you Mickorod
[14:01] Mickorod Renard: luv quantum theory stuff
[14:01] Herman Bergson: Keep believing in your own mind, Mickorod..^_^
[14:01] Mickorod Renard: ok , will do Herman
[14:01] AristotleVon Doobie: hmmm all very stimualting
[14:01] Mickorod Renard: ok gotta go,,see you all,,
[14:02] Herman Bergson: be well Mickorod
[14:02] Mickorod Renard: ta,,
[14:02] hope63 Shepherd: sorry for talking as much tonight without raising my hand,herman-- but as i missed tuesday's lesson i had to catch up:) wenjoyed every second beeing here tonight:)
[14:02] AristotleVon Doobie: almost pscyodlelic to think about concepts
[14:02] Herman Bergson: You did fine Hope..^_^
[14:02] hope63 Shepherd: grin--- ty:)
[14:03] AristotleVon Doobie: well I am off....good by all
[14:03] Herman Bergson: Bye Aristotle..:-)
[14:03] hope63 Shepherd: much better than in golf on tuesday i think lol-- played like a beginner..

Posted by herman_bergson on 2008-09-27 08:42:07

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