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The Concept of Mind [Paperback]

By Gilbert Ryle (Author)
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Item description for The Concept of Mind by Gilbert Ryle...

This now-classic work challenges what Ryle calls philosophy's "official theory," the Cartesians "myth" of the separation of mind and matter. Ryle's linguistic analysis remaps the conceptual geography of mind, not so much solving traditional philosophical problems as dissolving them into the mere consequences of misguided language. His plain language and esstentially simple purpose place him in the traditioin of Locke, Berkeley, Mill, and Russell.

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This now-classic work challenges what Ryle calls philosophy's "official theory," the Cartesians "myth" of the separation of mind and matter. Ryle's linguistic analysis remaps the conceptual geography of mind, not so much solving traditional philosophical problems as dissolving them into the mere consequences of misguided language. His plain language and esstentially simple purpose place him in the traditioin of Locke, Berkeley, Mill, and Russell.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: University Of Chicago Press
Pages   334
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.12" Width: 5.24" Height: 0.77"
Weight:   0.8 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Dec 15, 2000
Publisher   University Of Chicago Press
ISBN  0226732967  
ISBN13  9780226732961  

Availability  3960 units.
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More About Gilbert Ryle

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Gilbert Ryle (1900-1976) was the Waynflete Professor of Metaphysical Philosophy at Oxford University from 1947-1971.

Gilbert Ryle was born in 1900 and died in 1976.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Health, Mind & Body > Psychology & Counseling
2Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > Consciousness & Thought
3Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > General

Reviews - What do customers think about The Concept of Mind?

MENS SANA  Mar 8, 2006
There is no getting away from the noun 'mind'. It is perfectly intelligible and sensible to say that Newton, Hume and Richard Bentley had fine minds. However we soon get into a muddle when we misunderstand what kind of noun 'mind' is. People possess certain capacities that we call 'mental' by way of distinguishing them from capacities of the senses such as eyesight, or from capacities of the physique like weight-lifting, and anything that is `mental' is of the mind. And immediately we have to watch our step if we want to think clearly. Bentley, Bentley's eyes and Bentley's eyesight can each be said to have had the capacity to read the text of Manilius. Bentley and Bentley's eyes (but not Bentley's eyesight) can each be said to have read Manilius. However what enabled Bentley to correct and edit the text of Manilius was his mind, but Bentley's mind didn't edit Manilius, Bentley did.

There is no such thing as a mind, Ryle argues if I don't misrepresent him, as distinct from things that are of the mind. There is an intelligible entity called a body that we recognise as distinct from any and all of its attributes. The mind is nothing except certain capacities, and the noun 'mind' is the convenient way of referring to these. It is not the same sort of thing as eyesight or hearing, but belongs in the same category of noun as `character' or `personality'. Epistemology like this is often described as the study of knowledge, but it would be better described as the study of understanding. Its aim is to clarify what we think and how we think, and it takes as its basis the way we use language in ordinary day-to-day utterance. Ryle's book was highly influential in its day, and it seems to have retained the status of a kind of classic over the 40-odd years since I last read it. If so, it thoroughly deserves this status. Linguistic philosophy, of the kind predominantly associated with Oxford, can and does sometimes degenerate into what Denis Healey unkindly called `semantic nose-picking'. However in my own opinion it rescued theoretical philosophy from some strange aberrations that had been treated with a respect they did not deserve, and which had confused earnest seekers after truth in a way they did not deserve either. Speech is the main medium of human communication, and we need to think carefully about how we use it if we want to advance to higher levels of theoretical understanding. Examining the use of words on their own is part of the trick, but even more important is sensitivity to how they are used in varying contexts, and surprisingly often the most important thing of all is to consider what the implied alternative may be. Russell illustrated this point wittily when deciding on the title of a book of essays that he thought too heavyweight to be described as `popular'. `If not "popular", then "unpopular"', he reasoned speciously, so `Unpopular Essays' they became.

The book is laid out in a very schematic way, with chapters and sub-chapters dedicated to individual topics. This makes it very convenient for students with an essay to write on this or that topic that the book addresses (experto credite), and similarly will make it easy for the modern reader to consult almost as a reference-book. I should say that the best way to read it is to work through the entire first half or thereabouts, and select as desired from there on. By half-way through an attentive reader will have got the hang of the type of thinking it enshrines if he or she is going to get it at all. For me the most interesting topic other than the mind itself was free will. Ryle is even a trifle summary in his treatment of this, but finds the age-old argument about free will to be a non-question, and so do I. What might non-free will be, do you suppose? There can be enforced actions, but not enforced wishes. My own guess is that `free will' is often confused in practice with free choice. There can be enforced choices in one sense, the performative sense of selecting. More commonly it's a matter of one's choice being thwarted, as when my preferred brand of breakfast-cereal is not in the shop when I go for it; or of my own deliberate act of choosing a second-best if I think the price being charged for my first choice is too high. The other confusion is with some supposed inevitability or pre-programming, by which it is supposed that nothing, our will and our choices included, could have happened otherwise. This seems to me to be true only in the trivial sense that nothing that has happened can be other than what it was. The answers to the question `Why?' I choose a certain kind of breakfast-cereal are usually several and straightforward - I like the flavour, it contains vitamins, etc. The answer to the question `How?' one chooses anything is more obscure, so obscure that I don't even know what it's asking.

The book is maybe a little too long, but I think if so that that's because it is partly a great manifesto of a certain type of thinking, partly (in its later stages) something that degenerates slightly into a bit of a reference-manual. A lot of topics get covered, and some semi-giants e.g. Descartes are slain, while some real giants e.g. Hume are put in their place too. I have no real difficulty with Ryle's view that `the self' will be better understood from the uses of `I' than the way Hume went about it. I also probably agree that whatever the deficiencies of `phenomenalism' it had the benefit of showing up the greater deficiencies of arguments resting on `essence'. I just hope he doesn't sweep aside with the latter Plato's doctrine of the Forms, which I, like Russell, take as quite literally true. Whatever - this book is all about how to think, not what to think.
One of the best book of the ordinary language philosophy  Jan 3, 2005
Gilbert Ryle shows a great skill in condensing his whole argument in a succinct metaphor. On page 16, he writes: "A foreign stranger visiting the Oxford campus is shown libraries, department buildings, and museums. Then he asks "But where is the University?". This is the "category mistake". Cartesian question "Where is the mind?" has a same confusion, he asserts.

A famous epigram "Ghost in the Machine" is sometimes misinterpreted. His point is that there is NO "ghost". What we think ghost (spirit) does not exist (therefore ghost!).

Although the philosophy of ordinary language and the logical behaviorism, the British school represented by Wittgenstein and Ryle, had an its apogee in 50's, its crux of reasoning still has an important element. I still feel the current dominant school in cognitive science such as functionalism has a long way to go, before it can make it acceptable for broader spectrum of scientists whose prime mode of thinking is purely materialistic or physicalistic.
A Matter of Mind  Jan 26, 2004
"The Concept of Mind" is one of the essential works of philosophy and one of the great books of the twentieth century. Western thought took a horrendous wrong turn with Cartesian dualism and it was not until Ryle's book in 1949 that we got back on track. Or at least should have done, for the idea that we are two separate entities - mind and body - still pervades, and muddies, our thinking, whether philosophical, theological or everyday.

Some of Ryle's followers have extended his ideas to the point of distortion, and would have us believe that mind and consciousness actually do not exist. Don't let such behaviorist extremism put you off. Ryle's feet were always more firmly on the ground. He defines the concept of mind, not invalidates it.

He has a lively, readable style (of how many philosophers can you say that?) and although a lot of his ideas do not have the novelty that they would have had half a century ago, this is still the best book with which to begin an investigation of the nature of mind and consciousness.

Ghosts  Apr 22, 2003
Gilbert Ryle wrote this classic exposition on the mind-body problem in philosophy with a view to dissipate a myth fundamental to religion and philosophy. His cogent exposition leads us to see mind in persons as other than a "Ghost in a Machine." More than this, though, his comprehensive scrutiny of the many elements of the life of the mind constitutes an incisive study of the synergy of mind and body in an integrated life. Ryle exercises consummate skill in avoiding technical jargon to present a refreshing style for treatment of a difficult and elusive subject. One of his favorite analogies is to compare a study of thinking as "like trying to catch a jellyfish with a fine hook." A thoughtful and careful reader will revel in Ryle's success with his daunting task.
A Classic of Philosophy of Mind  Jul 13, 2001
Gilbert Ryle's classic philosophical work, The Concept of Mind, is now best remembered for the least philosophical part of it, the rhetorical dubbing of Descartes mind/body dualism as the "dogma of the ghost in the machine." Ryle's own particular brand of philosophical behaviorism hasn't weathered all that well, and so this book's surviving interest is primarily as a negative work. Nevertheless, the book is interesting as a crucible for Cartesians and those interested in the philosophical merits of the Cartesain theory of mind.

Ryle's book is chauk full of arguments, long ones, short ones, simple ones, subtle ones, with a particular predominance of infinite regresses. Even if you think, as I do, that many of these arguments are misguided, you will still be put through a variety of mental gymnastics as you try to diagnose the various faults they hide.

One note of caution, because many of Ryle's arguments are of the ordinary language variety, his linguistic distance from us (the book is over 50 years old, and British to boot) does hinder understanding. It was not always clear to me whether Ryle was misusing a word, or whether its use is different for us than it was for him.


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