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.
First published in 1949, Gilbert Ryle ’s The Concept of Mind is one of the classics of twentieth-century philosophy. Described by Ryle as a ‘sustained piece of analytical hatchet-work’ on Cartesian dualism, The Concept of Mind is a radical and controversial attempt to jettison once and for all what Ryle called ‘the ghost in the machine’: Descartes’ argument that mind and body are two separate entities. This sixtieth anniversary edition includes a substantial commentary by Julia Tanney and is essential reading (...) for new readers interested not only in the history of analytic philosophy but in its power to challenge major currents in philosophy of mind and language today. (shrink)
We falter and stammer when trying to describe our own mental acts. Many mental acts, including thinking, are what the author calls ‘chain-undertakings’, that is, courses of action with some over-arching purpose governing the moment-by-moment sub-acts of which we are introspectively aware. Hence the intermittency and sporadicness of the passage of mental activity which constitutes thinking about something.
Just as there was a vogue at one time for identifying thinking either with mere processions or with more or less organised processions of images, so there is a vogue now for identifying thinking with something oddly called ‘language’, namely with more or less organised processions of bits of French or English, etc.
Res Cogitans is a stimulating and exasperating book. Again and again Vendler makes new breaks through the crusts of meaning-theory, epistemology and Cartesian exegesis; and then, through these breaks, pulls out plums that had rotted off their trees many summers ago. Out of his valuable improvements upon Austin's locutionary taxonomy he rehashes the most romantic things in the Meno and the Meditations . In Chomsky's wake, he effectively assails Skinnerian stimulus-response learning-theory; but then, in Chomsky's wake, he surrenders learning-theory to (...) Skinner, finding a shelter for just a few epistemic pets in a Darwinianized doctrine of racial concept-inheritance that is, pace Chomsky, unfenced even from Book I of Locke's Essay . Vendler's powerful chapter ‘On What One Knows’ blocks for good current attempts to reduce knowing to an élite suburb of believing; yet the book's central concept of Thinking is so glued to the ‘that…’-clause that thinking is, by implication, denied to Beethoven and Capablanca, as well as to us when doing our undoctrinal car-driving, translating, verse-composing and aporia -tackling. (shrink)
There is a certain emotion of repugnance which I, and I hope a good many would-be philosophers, feel when asked the conventional question, “If you are a philosopher, to what school of thought do you belong? Are you an Idealist or a Realist, a Platonist or a Hobbist, a Monist or a Pluralist?”.