In Descartes’ Myth, Gilbert Ryle states that the central principles of the doctrine from Descartes, which explain the relationship between the body and the mind, are unsound. According to Ryle, Descartes’ belief makes a “category mistake” by putting “the mind and body in the same logical type or category when they actually belong to another” (Ryle). Ryle believes that although the body exists in space and time, the mind only exists in time and not space. Therefore, there is a distinction between mind and body. Also, as a behaviorist, Ryle believed that the mind was not something behind the behavior of the body; the mind was part of that physical behavior.
The category mistake is when one incorrectly categorizes something as if it belonged to a different group. For example, if I go around the campus telling everyone that my pain is red, this idea is false because pain cannot have a color “blue.” Since the feeling of “pain” and the color “blue” does not belong to the same logical type, this can be seen as a category mistake.
Additionally, contrary to our classroom discussion of free will, Ryle is completely against the belief of Descartes’. He believes that the problem of free will was that the idea of “free will” was made as an excuse. In another words, free will was invented to answer the moral responsibility and ethical actions of what is right and wrong. He also states that since the mind is an entity outside and not related to the body, there cannot be free will. If the body is separate from the mind, then how can each and every human being think and act differently? Ryle’s view of free will gives a different view of the question asked in class: “if someone commits chains of murder, do we put the murderer into jail concluding that he or she is a maniac?” The answer will be no, since the mind is separate from the body.
There is another philosopher who agrees with Ryle’s beliefs. Arthur Koestler published a non-fiction book that discussed the view that the mind is not related to the body and is temporarily inhibiting in the body (NYTimes). Koestler gives an example of the evolution of the human brain. As the brain evolved, they have improved upon earlier, primitive brain structures.
On the contrary, the identity theory discussed by Churchland rejects Ryle’s beliefs. Identity theorists believe that the “mental state” is the same as “brain states.” However, Ryle would accuse this belief as a “category mistake,” since the mind is abstract and information is not matter. This can be also known as the “Ghost in the Machine,” a term that Ryle uses to poke fun at identity theorists, which implies that physical body is like a machine that is controlled by a nonphysical, ghostly mind.
After reading from proponents of different spectrum, what do you think?
Fleck, Susan. “Behaviorism and Identity Theory.” Behaviourism & Identity Theory. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.
Lifton, Robert. “Man As Mistake.” The New York Times. The New York Times, n.d. Web.