Gilbert Ryle: Dispositions and Formations

Gilbert Ryle: Dispositions and Formations

June 27, 2021 Off By Felso

After showing the category errors in philosophy, Ryle moves on to the main task of philosophy, namely the correct use of concepts. This task is not to introduce a new teaching about minds, but to locate the concepts of mind and mentality.

For this, it will be necessary to resort to language analysis and conceptual analysis. The philosopher, who does not like neurophysiological explanations in the field of philosophy of mind, deals with the phenomenon of mind and mentality in the context of its linguistic uses. Ryle’s aim is not to fall into the discriminatory mistake that traditional philosophy has fallen into, and to approach the mind-body relationship in terms of unity by eliminating this discrimination. Mentioning that there are two groups of propositions for human beings, Ryle explains the first as the bodily states and predispositions of the person, and the second as propositions related to the person’s experiences and actions such as thoughts, feelings, fears, expectations and character traits. According to dualism, they cannot be reduced to each other because they are different in meaning. Some philosophers approach the subject in terms of either purely mental or purely physical, which Ryle does not admit. However, according to him, mentality should be sought in observable behaviors and activities. Since the observables belong to the physical realm, we encounter the problem of distinguishing the mental from the physical.

Ryle tries to solve this problem by thinking of it as a disposition or complex of dispositions that serves to characterize behavior in a certain way. When we describe a behavior with qualities such as clever, adept, a certain level of mentality is realized in that behavior. Since mind and intellect are inherently complex dispositions, it is a summary term describing the totality of these complexities. We can talk about predisposition or formation about all beings in the universe. While our actions such as eating, going to work, sleeping are undoubtedly describing factual situations belonging to formation, but knowing two languages ​​is an unrealistic action. Ryle, who calls such propositions conditional propositions, defines it as a tendency to do certain things in certain situations. For example, if we think of a smoker who smokes, when we talk about that person smoking, we are talking about that person who smokes from time to time.

It refers not to a current factual state, but to a predisposition state included in the smoking habit. Predisposition is not a current phenomenon, but a situation that occurs from time to time and manifests itself with facts. We make future predictions about individuals and life with words such as knowing, believing, wanting, honorable, emotional. The human mind expresses extremely complex dispositions, that is, the mind appears as a bundle of dispositions. In this sense, the mind is not a substance because it does not have an ontological dimension. It is another logical category of expressing or comprehending existing behavior. Mental and physicality are nothing more than two different structures, two different categories, like two sides of a coin.

Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook