The "ghost in the machine
" is a philosophical term introduced by Gilbert Ryle in his 1949 book, The Concept of Mind
relating to Cartesian mind- brain duality. The phrase was introduced in Ryle's book The Concept of Mind
(1949) to highlight the perceived absurdity of dualist systems like Descartes' where mental activity carries on in parallel to physical action, but where their means of interaction are unknown or, at best, speculative.
Gilbert Ryle (1900–76) was a philosopher who lectured at Oxford and who made important contributions to the philosophy of mind
and to "ordinary language philosophy
". His most important writings include Philosophical Arguments
(1945), The Concept of Mind
(1954), Plato's Progress
(1966), and On Thinking
Ryle's The Concept of Mind
(1949) is a critique of the notion that the mind is distinct from the body
, and a rejection of the theory that mental states are separable from physical states. In this book Ryle refers to the idea of a fundamental distinction between mind and matter as "the ghost in the machine". According to Ryle, the classical theory of mind
, or "Cartesian rationalism", makes a basic category mistake
, because it attempts to analyze the relation between "mind" and "body" as if they were terms of the same logical category. This confusion of logical categories may be seen in other theories of the relation between mind and matter. For example, the idealist theory of mind makes a basic category mistake by attempting to reduce physical reality to the same status as mental reality, while the materialist theory of mind makes a basic category mistake by attempting to reduce mental reality to the same status as physical reality
Ryle states that (as of the time of his writing, in 1949) there was an "official doctrine
," which he refers to as a dogma
, of philosophers, the doctrine of body/mind dualism
There is a doctrine about the nature and place of the mind
which is prevalent among theorists
, to which most philosophers
and religious teachers subscribe with minor reservations. Although they admit certain theoretical difficulties in it, they tend to assume that these can be overcome without serious modifications being made to the architecture of the theory.... [the doctrine states that] with the doubtful exceptions of the mentally-incompetent and infants-in-arms, every human being has both a body and a mind. ... The body and the mind are ordinarily harnessed together, but after the death of the body the mind may continue to exist and function.
Ryle states that the central principles of the doctrine are unsound and conflict with the entire body of what we know about the mind. Of the doctrine, he says "According to the official doctrine each person has direct and unchangeable cognisance
. In consciousness
, he is directly and authentically apprised of the present states of operation of the mind.
Ryle's estimation of the official doctrine[edit
Ryle's philosophical arguments in his essay "Descartes' Myth" lay out his notion of the mistaken foundations of mind-body dualism conceptions, comprising a suggestion that to speak of mind and body as a substance, as a dualist does, is to commit a category mistake. Ryle writes:
Such in outline is the official theory. I shall often speak of it, with deliberate abusiveness, as "the dogma of the Ghost in the Machine
." I hope to prove that it is entirely false, and false not in detail but in principle. It 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.
Ryle then attempts to show that the "official doctrine" of mind/body dualism is false by asserting that it confuses two logical-types, or categories, as being compatible. He states "it represents the facts of mental life as if they belonged to one logical type/category, when they actually belong to another. The dogma is therefore a philosopher's myth." Arthur Koestler
brought Ryle's concept to wider attention in his 1967 book The Ghost in the Machine
, which takes Ryle's phrase as its title.
The book's main focus is mankind's movement towards self-destruction, particularly in the nuclear arms
arena. It is particularly critical of B. F. Skinner
's behaviourist theory
. One of the book's central concepts is that as the human brain has grown, it has built upon earlier, more primitive brain structures, and that this is the "ghost in the machine" of the title. Koestler's theory is that at times these structures can overpower higher logical
functions, and are responsible for hate
and other such destructive impulses.Popular culture[edit
- Author Stephen King used the concept of the ghost in the machine to refer to his character Blaine the Mono, the train with a split mind that runs the town of Lud in his 1991 novel The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands from his series The Dark Tower.
- Arthur C. Clarke's novel 2010: Odyssey Two contains a chapter called "Ghost in the Machine", referring to the virtual consciousness inside a computer.
- Ryle, Gilbert, "Descartes' Myth," in The Concept of Mind, Hutchinson, London, 1949
- Jump up^ Tanney, Julia "Gilbert Ryle", in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy; Dec 18, 2007; substantive revision Mon Nov 2, 2009 (accessed Oct. 30, 2012)
- Jump up^ de Morais Ribeiro, Henrique, "On the Philosophy of Cognitive Science", Proceedings of the 20th World Congress of Philosophy, Boston MA, 10–15 August 1998 (accessed 29 October 2012)
- Jump up^ Jones, Roger (2008)"Philosophy of Mind, Introduction to Philosophy since the Enlightenment", philosopher.org (accessed Oct. 30, 2012)
- Jump up^ Ryle, Gilber