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PHIL110A Study Guide - Final Guide: Thomas Nagel, Thought Experiment, Reductionism

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Jacqueline Feke
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PHIL 110A Selena Latchman
4. What is the nature of the mind?
What is the nature of memory, perception, reason, personal identity, consciousness, AIs, brain?
Gilbert Ryle (born in Brighton, England in 1900) was interested in logic and both classic
and contemporary philosophy. He was appointed to the Waynflete Chair of Metaphysical
Philosophy at Oxford where he published The Concept of Mind. He was also the editor of a
journal titled Mind.
We studied the first chapter of The Concept of Mind called Descartes Myth where he attacks
and reconstructs the traditional view of Descartes known as the “official theory of the mind”.
On page 421, he states his thesis will argue that the central principles (fundamental
claims a theory is built upon) of the traditional theory are false and conflict with the
whole body of what we know about minds when we are not speculating about them.
This will prove the traditional theory is unsound.
His description of the official theory of the mind is as follows…
Every human being is a combination of a body and a mind. But there is an idea that
the two are distinct because after the body dies, the mind continues to exist and
function. Therefore, the identity of human beings is their minds.
He describes the body as something that exists space (3 dimensions), is subject to
mechanical laws (forces and motion), and can be perceived by other people.
He describes the mind as something that does not exist in space, is not subject to
mechanical laws, and can only be perceived by the self, not by other people.
He concludes that a person therefore lives through two collateral histories happening
independently and in parallel: a public life (physical world, external) and private life
(mental world, internal).
Recall Descartes argument in his Meditations on page 147. He concludes that his existence is
that of the mind. He says the only thing he can be certain of is that “I think, therefore I am”.
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PHIL 110A Selena Latchman
This thinking part of himself that imagines and processes things he labels as the mind. He
can’t yet be certain he has a body, but he later goes on to prove this.
Ryle finds a problem with the official theory as the interactions between the mind and body
belong in neither the external nor internal category. They are not wholly bodily or wholly
mental. It is therefore saying that the mind and body are separate and do not interact with
each other, however we know there is certainly a connection between the two.
Descartes tried to solve this problem by locating where the mind exists in the body,
saying it resides in the penial gland. This case is unconvincing because this would
imply the mind exists in space which the doctrine says is untrue.
On page 423, Ryle looks at an epistemological view. “Direct access to the workings of a
mind is the privilege of that mind itself.
On page 424, Ryle discovers the contradiction underlying the official theory. The philosophy
of minds is motivated by the fact that we can correctly and effectively make claims about the
minds of other people, however the doctrine is saying that is impossible!
Ryle aims to prove that what he accurately labels that the “ghost in the machine theory” is
entirely false because it makes a category mistake (by misclassifying the mind).
He gives an example of a category mistake where a tourist is shown many buildings
in the university, and then asks “so where is the university?” as he assumes the
university to be under the category of a building, where the university is actually a
different thing altogether.
He speculates on the origin of this mistake, thinking it comes out of the mechanical
physics we discuss. Individuals characterize the mind as a counterpart to the body, as
it’s not mechanical framework.
Mistake 1: He says the human mind and body are both complex units but consist of
different stuff.
Mistake 2: thinking both the mind and body are both a field of causes and effects, but
the mind is just non-mechanical causes and effects.
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