Our Mind and Body

In the article, Ryle disputes Descartes’s belief. Descartes believes that a person’s mind and body is separated. Ryle is trying to dispute the official doctrine that he states like this: “With the doubtful exceptions of idiots and infants in arms every human being has both a body and a mind. Some would prefer to say that every human being is both a body and a mind. His body and his mind are ordinarily harnessed together, but after the death of the body his mind may continue to exist and function.” (Ryle, 23) He also regards this official doctrine as “ghost in the machine”. Ryle challenges Descartes’s belief by pointing out that the whole official doctrine is a category-mistake. Ryle does several illustrations such as: a foreigner visiting a campus guiding by a student. The library, admission office, museum are all shown to him by the student. But in the end he asks: “Where is the university?” The category-mistake can also be described as: I show my friend a picture of my family. I told her which is my dad, which is my mom and which is my sister. However, in the end she ask me: “ So who is the family?” Ryle points out that Descartes is mixing two things that are on different logical levels and he assumes that these two things are on the same logical level.

According to the official doctrine, I will be able to know my mental state right away. For example, if I hope some one is going to pick me up after class since it is raining and I forgot to bring the umbrella, I will know it immediately since this is my own mental state. Furthermore, no one else is able to know it directly since this is my own private mental state. When I was waiting for some one to pick me up I saw some one standing in the lobby. I heard this person saying that: “I hope some one is going to pick me up.” and “why I left my umbrella at home.” I also saw this person looking at his watch frequently, walking back and forth. I will think that he is in the same situation with me and he is also hoping some one will pick him up. But what I used to deduce his situation all based on public behaviors and I have no clue and will never be able to know what he is thinking in his mind. On the official doctrine, the mental states of other are forever hidden to me and I will have no way to get to know them. According to this, we can say that it is impossible to tell the difference between a man and a robot (Ryle 29) since all we see are the public side of the others and we can’t tell whether they are faking it or not. Just like the person I thought was experiencing the same situation with me might be faking to say those words and do those actions. If we say so, it will be impossible to define some one as idiots. It will be impossible for the hospital to tell whether this patient has mental disorder or not. Or can we say that the patient who we think having mental disorder actually does not and it should be us who have the problem?

Source: http://www07.homepage.villanova.edu/paul.livingston/philosophy_4650_notes-2-1-05.htm

5 thoughts on “Our Mind and Body

  1. I am a little confused by the question at the bottom of your post. Are you saying that if it is possible that the person (whom you thought was in the same situation as you) was pretending to have “forgotten” his/her umbrella and therefore, faking it, it is only logically that we cannot deduce whether or not a human being is an idiot? And then that we are not capable of determining whether we or others have mental disorders? If this is the case, I disagree. It is possible to discern whether or not someone is mentally disabled. We have tools for measuring electrochemical signals within the brain and can then understand if there is an imbalance generating strange outward behavior. We may not be able to read other people’s minds, but we can detect if there is a problem within the chemical makeup of their brain.

  2. I completely agree with Ryle’s opinion on the mind and the body being connected. If they were separate the body would act completely different from the mind, but instead the two are usually related to one another. If a person is feeling sad, their body language and expressions will tend to express the same feelings as their emotional state. The two are completely interdependent on one another and should not be distinct even though they are on different logical levels.

  3. I agree, for the most part, with Ryle that the mind and body are connected with each other. This is so because in most situations, the body seems to reflect what is going on in the mind (unless of course, one is making an active effort to “fake it” and hide their true feelings from being shown). Take, for instance, any type of sentiment or emotion. If I am feeling nervous, my face will show that. Furthermore, I will display physical characteristics via my body – my palms will sweat, my heart will beat faster, etc. If I am feeling happy, my face will show that sentiment through a smile. By this logic, I can say that both the mind and body are connected to some extent.

    However, like Hilleary pointed out, I disagree with your assertion that it will be impossible for the hospital to tell whether or not someone has a mental disorder. Modern science has developed a multitude of guidelines and processes to diagnose mental illnesses and pinpoint what exactly in the brain is causing deviant behaviors in a person. Processes in the brain can be tested and doctors can therefore tell whether or not a patient has a mental illness. When you say that it may be us who has the problem, I agree that it is possible for doctors to misdiagnose patients. However, for the most part, the likelihood of that is pretty low.

  4. Although dualism seems like a great explanation for our mental states, I wanted to take a look at the implications of this statement. To say that mind and body are two separate entities would mean that both would have to work together in order for an individual to perform actions. However, what are the actual mechanics that connect the mind and the body? If the mind is something that is intangible and does not have any physical form, how would it connect to and direct the tangible and physical body? Is the connection found in the brain? Even if this was the case, the brain is part of the physical body and the idea of dualism would still not work.

    Furthermore, as humans reproduce and grow in numbers, bodies are easy to explain; however, where are minds coming from? Even if the reproduction of minds could be explain how does it become related with the body to the point where it controls everything it does? These are simply a couple questions I had when I examined dualism through its implications.

  5. I agree that if the mind and the body were to exist, they would have to be connected. There are obvious connections– when someone experiences a brain injury, for example, even though it is a bodily injury, it will affect the mind as well. However, I do not see a point in having to have the two separate entities be connected. In fact, we can’t even tell how they are connected, so can’t they be one in the same? I think that perhaps the “mind” we keep mentioning is really just the physical brain, and the feelings and thoughts we experience are all just chemical signals from the brain. I do agree that we cannot tell what other people are thinking though, as even if they tell us things, it is true that they could be robots or good actors. But just because we cannot have access to other’s thoughts does not mean that these thoughts are not in the physical realm.

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