A Theory of the Mind,The Concept of Mind

Review of Metaphysics 4 (2):259-278 (1950)
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Abstract

In Professor Ryle's words, the aim of the book is to offer "what may with reservations be described as a theory of the mind". But it claims to give no new information about minds but rather to "rectify the logical geography of the knowl- edge which we already possess". The need for rectification comes from a fundamental error underlying the generally accepted or official doctrine about the nature and status of Mind, a doctrine which hails chiefly from Descartes. This doctrine "is not merely an assemblage of particular mistakes. It is one big mistake and a mistake of a special kind. It is, namely, a category-mistake". Hence it is wrong to speak of Minds and Bodies as if they are similar kinds of things that can be coupled in the same phrase; wrong to suppose that there are mental events which are hidden and unwitnessable counterparts of bodily events; wrong to suppose that our mental activities and characters are never known to other people because private and accessible in some privileged way only to ourselves. This is the large and radical undertaking to which Professor Ryle addresses himself. After a description of the Cartesian "myth" and a statement in detail of the nature of the general error underlying it, there follows a series of attempts to grapple with particular aspects of mental life, with the aim of showing in each case why the "official" doctrine is untenable and that mental concepts must be understood in quite a different way.

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