Philosophy Index

Gilbert Ryle

Gilbert Ryle (1900–1976) was a British philosopher who focused on philosophy of mind, and of language.

He famously coined the term “the ghost in the machine” to refer to the soul in the dualism promoted by René Descartes. Ryle believed that the mind is not a distinct entity, seperate from the body, and that mental processes are merely a description of the physical processes within the physical brain.

Ryle also introduced the term “category mistake” when describing the problems of dualism. He saw mind-body dualism as redundant in its description, and that when speaking of mind as a seperate entity, philosophers were making a mistake of category by placing mental events on the same level as physical ones.

In The Concept of Mind, Ryle provides other examples of category mistakes to illustrate his point. He supposes that someone is being shown around a university. During the tour, the person is shown the various academic departments, libraries, museums, sports fields, classrooms and offices. The person then responds, “I've seen the departments, libraries, museums, sports fields, classrooms and offices … but where is the university?”. In this example, the person commits a category mistake by supposing that the abstract concept of the university is something separate, in the same category (or on an equal level of existence) as the classrooms, libraries, etc.

Works

  • The Concept of Mind (1949)
  • Plato's Progress (1966)
  • On Thinking (1979)

Vitals

Name: Gilbert Ryle
Born: August 19, 1900, Brighton, England
Died: October 6, 1976, Whitby, England