Five Card Story: Gilbert Ryle

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a Five Card Flickr story by Group 1 created Jul 21 2019, 01:52:03 pm. Create a new one!

flickr photo credits: (1) Intrepidteacher (2) Serenae (3) bionicteaching (4) Serenae (5) cogdogblog

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Ryle begins his book by launching a devastating attack on “Descartes’ myth,” characterizing it as the “official doctrine” that has insidiously penetrated the consciousness of academics, professionals, and average citizens alike. According to Ryle, it’s high time that this destructive myth of dualism is debunked once and for all, and replaced with a clearer conceptual and linguistic understanding of the true nature of the self.

The official doctrine, according to Ryle, is derived from the influential thinking of Rene Descartes and contends that every human being has both a physical body and a non-physical mind which are ordinarily “harnessed together” while we are alive. However, after the death of the body, our minds may continue to exist and function. This “dualistic” conception of the mind and body is analogous to the dualism of Socrates and Plato who viewed the self as being comprised of a mortal body and an immortal soul, and is also similar to the neo-Platonist views of St. Augustine and other Christian philosophers in the Middle Ages. According to Ryle, this dualistic “official doctrine” has become the dominant model in academic disciplines like psychology, in many religions, and in our popular culture.

According to Ryle, the practical implications of this doctrine are profound and far-reaching. Human bodies are in space and are subject to the mechanical laws which govern all other bodies in space and are accessible to external observers. But minds are not in space, their operations are not subject to mechanical laws, and the processes of the mind are not accessible to other people—it’s career is private. Only I am able to perceive and experience the states and processes of my own mind. In Ryles words: “A person therefore lives through two collateral histories, one consisting of what happens in and to his body, and other consisting of what happens in and to his mind. The first is public, the second private.”

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