Gilbert Ryle: What Does the Ghost in the Machine Mean?

Gilbert Ryle: What Does the Ghost in the Machine Mean?

June 27, 2021 Off By Felso

Ryle, as an important representative of the philosophy of mind, tries to show these mistakes in the relationship between the human mind and body. While rejecting the mind-body dualism of Cartesian philosophy, which he calls the official doctrine, he argues that the causes of this dualism stem from a misunderstanding of the states or activities of the mind.

The tendency to see the mind as an extra or out-of-body entity embedded in the body leads one to believe that there are two separate substances, one abstract and the other concrete. Thus emerges the phantom dogma in the machine, which represents the mind-body separation, which is the opposite of mind-body unity, harmony.

According to Ryle, this situation symbolizes universal falsehood rather than universal truth. Philosophy must remove this illusion of dualism, this forced opposition between mind and body. For this purpose, by making a linguistic analysis of the concept of mind and the mind-body relationship, it should be clarified what kind of wrong construction, what kind of misunderstanding and how the concepts were misunderstood, and a new explanation should be brought.

According to Cartesian teaching, the presentation of an individual as a phantom embedded in a machine is rooted in category errors. Since the official doctrine considers the bodily thing on a mechanical level and assumes that it operates according to its mechanics laws, it has argued that the mind also operates according to non-mechanical laws, since it considers it to be in the same category.

If we try to justify such an inference, it would be impossible for us to describe an individual’s thoughts, feelings, and actions physically, biologically, and physiologically. Therefore, it is necessary to explain the behaviors of the individual in copy terms. If the human body is a complexly organized whole, the human mind is another complexly organized whole, and they are only made up of different kinds of matter and different structures.

Just as the body is a domain of causes and effects, the mind is another domain of causes and effects. But these effects and causes are not of the mechanical kind. Here, although the Cartesian doctrine reduces matter to a single substance and says that it has only a spatial attribute, Ryle states that matter has a mental quality besides its spatial quality, based on its activity. Thus, the mind ceases to be a separate and intellectual substance from the body and becomes a type of matter.

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