Concept of Mind

A discussion of Ryle, Descartes and testing the “Category Mistake”.

This is a short assessment of Gilbert Ryle’s Concept of Mind. Ryle stands as one of analytic’s philosophy’s pioneers in the field of philosophy of mind, and critiques Rene Descartes’ claims of the mind as immaterial “thinking thing”. Ryle’s critique through the use of his Category Mistake, forms a prototypical example of analytic philosophy’s reassessment of traditional philosophical issues and warrants investigation.
“The problem of mind has been one of great importance to philosophy throughout its history. In his work The Concept of Mind, Gilbert Ryle establishes his perspective on this issue. Ryle contrasts his conclusions with French philosopher Rene Descartes, accusing Descartes of what he calls a “category mistake”. Ryle’s justification for this judgement comes from what he identifies as differences in logic between mental and physical words. The concepts we use in our language represent the reality of the mental and physical world in different ways. It is because of this conclusion, that Ryle asserts that the mind is not in fact a substance. In this essay, I will examine Ryle’s understanding of the logic of mental words and the category mistake. Then, we must see how this criticism fares against Descartes “substance model” of mind. Finally, Ryle’s own behaviorism must be checked for any errors that would cause it to be a poor alternative to the dualist model of mind. Only then can we determine if Ryle has been successful in his critique of Descartes.”