Anyone who proposes as I do to defend the view of the soul as some reality altogether other than the body must take the closest account of the extensive and vigorous criticisms of dualist accounts of mind and body advanced by some of the most influential and gifted thinkers of our time. So powerful has the onslaught on the dualist position been of late that many now consider it to have been finally and utterly demolished. Forlorn indeed must appear to them any attempt to re-establish a position subjected to such caustic and apparently devastating comment by a number of talented and confident writers. That is nonetheless the course which I believe should be taken. I shall not attempt an exhaustive survey of recent controversies about the mind-body problem. My plan will be to select some typical and influential discussions of the question and subject those to fairly detailed examination.
The first position on which I wish to comment is that of Professor Gilbert Ryle in his well-known work The Concept of Mind and other writings. This work has already been very widely discussed in recent times and it might well be thought that not much would be gained by traversing some of this ground again. There are however weighty reasons for doing so and I hope this part of our task can be accomplished without undue weariness to those who have already heard a great deal in one way or another about The Concept of Mind and the aftermath of its publication in philosophical controversy.
The reasons to which I allude are these.
- Critical discussions of Professor Ryle's work have stayed in the main at the level of general critical comment without coming very closely to terms with details in the presentation of his views. In the light of what I say as point 4 below I shall have reason to consider Professor Ryle's procedures fairly closely.
- Although much in Professor Ryle's position has been formally repudiated by those who share his general approach to philosophical questions the views which prevail among many influential and fashionable philosophers of today in English-speaking countries deviate little in substance from those of Ryle on questions like the nature of our minds and their relations to our bodies. The style of argument remains largely the same and where the conclusions appear to differ the difference is more in method of presentation and language than in the essentials of the positions defended. Issues are joined sometimes with heat and vigour but within the framework of a general agreement about aims and method. The pattern which Ryle laid down in The Concept of Mind and some of the basic assumptions he makes remain legislative for a large and influential body of philosophical writers and teachers. These expend a considerable amount of ingenuity and literary skill in presenting variations on themes which remain in vital respects the ones we encounter in The Concept of Mind. To consider the latter in some detail is thus to investigate at a point where it is seen to the best advantage a vein of philosophical thought which is still very confidently worked. I hope to make this plain in due course.
- Many writers on religious topics have thought that Ryle has rendered their cause a quite signal service whether or not he had that intention by his strictures on dualistic views of mind and body to which many not excluding Ryle himself at one time are very prone. This is also a matter which will be made clearer later.
- I pass now to a point of the utmost importance for the main theme of these lectures. It concerns a peculiarly elusive character of mind or of mental processes. There are various ways in which for ordinary purposes we think of ourselves. I sometimes picture myself mainly in terms of my body although it would certainly be going too far to say that I identify myself in that way with my body. My bodily movements or postures may be uppermost in my thought of myself as when I think of myself singing in the bath or sitting up at the table and I may likewise think mainly of my friend as the person whose hands are engaged in the movements of lighting his pipe just now. ‘Which of you is Brown?’ someone asks. ‘That one just lighting his pipe’ we reply and here it is the physical movement which matters mainly. But we are also apt to think that there is more than the physical movement the motions of the hands are intended and there is much else that goes on in Brown's life at this moment. He may have a far-away look and although he seems to get his pipe to draw we may also say that he is not ‘with us’ he is thinking of the fish he will catch in the lake this afternoon. At these times we are apt to draw a sharp distinction between mind and body Brown is physically here but his mind is ‘far away’ and while we no longer take ‘far away’ in a literal sense we come vividly to think that there is a good deal more involved in being Brown than the movements and location of his body. There is also something ‘going on in his mind’ as well. This may not be the right way to view the matter Ryle certainly thinks it is not but it is a way of talking and thinking to which we are all very prone and Ryle admits that he has had to school himself not to lapse into it. All this has come about according to Ryle through the influence mainly in recent centuries of certain misguided philosophical theories but this is a point where most of Ryle's followers think that he has overplayed his hand. The dichotomy of mind and body comes easily to us in many contexts whether or not it is ultimately warranted. There is also much support for it in our more sophisticated thinking. In our thought of immortality for instance it is natural to suppose that the soul is some entity that survives the dissolution of the body. When Socrates told his friends half mockingly that when he died it would not be easy to catch him they would not find it hard to know what he meant. In some primitive cultures it is thought that the soul may leave the body and return to it and we read today of some paranormal experiences in which a person seems to be observing his own body from a point of view outside it. The true significance of these matters does not concern us now. All that I wish to note is that in some contexts at least it is natural to think of ourselves as composite entities as being (or having) a mind and a body. A person can have a deformed body and an excellent mind and this seems to imply that our minds are quite distinct from our bodies. There appear at least to be reasons for regarding this as a very natural view to take. When clearly presented it is not hard to win assent to it. In what other way it might be argued could we think of ourselves except as some kind of composite beings having a mind as well as a body?
Natural indeed it may be to think in this way but by no means easy if we think hard. For what it may be asked can we say about this mind or soul which is distinct from the body? How do we characterize it? How is it observed of what is it made? There are no doubt ways in which we can distinguish different mental states or activities feeling angry or being afraid or setting out to amuse oneself or to solve a problem. But what is it for these to be mental and not physical? What am I at this moment over and above my body? Where are these thoughts that guide my movements? They are not in my head or elsewhere in my body. No one can see them and the more I try to think of the sort of reality they can have the more they seem to evaporate and be nothing at all. It is not that they are screened or hard to detect. In one sense it is quite easy to describe them. I can tell you what I am thinking and you may discover at least some of it in other ways. But how can there be anything which is so intangible and without location as mental processes altogether distinct from what I am as a body? We seem to be concerned here with something so elusive that it seems like being nothing at all.
This is not unlike the quandary in which Hume found himself in his search for some kind of substantival self. As he put it in his famous affirmation—‘I never catch myself at any time without a perception and never can observe anything but the perception’. Hume was helped to come to this conclusion by the firmness of his adherence in general to a strict empiricism. But he seems in any case to be saying something very plausible to us in certain moods. And in like manner when we try to be down to earth and explicit we find ourselves wondering not only whether there is some abiding soul or self but also how there can be anything so evanescent and unsubstantial as thinking appears to be; and this induces a doubt about the reality of thinking in any way which makes it altogether supplementary to the movements of my body. The most we are disposed to allow in this mood are physical sensations and we remain very uncertain about their status.
There is not however real justification for scepticism of this kind. We lapse into it or are manoeuvred into it when we allow our thought to be imposed upon in a certain way when we get ourselves conditioned to looking for something tangible and manageable as body is in all our search for reality. After all I do know quite well what I am thinking now and that is why I am so confident that I can tell you what I am thinking; and my thinking is certainly not the movement of my hands holding the pencil or anything else of that sort. It seems absurd to deny that there is thinking about philosophy ‘going on’ as we say as part of my experience now. It only seems unreal when I set myself to look for the wrong sort of thing or attempt descriptions in terms that are not at all appropriate. That was the trouble with Hume; and it is much more the trouble with his progeny today who have got themselves into a frame of mind in which the only reality they can recognize has to have something of the character of the objects we find in the world around us. Nothing seems real to them unless it is in some way tangible or substantial in the manner whatever that ultimately proves to be of external things. It is easy to get into this way of thinking. There is a certain imperviousness about external things they cannot be gainsaid and it is natural to assume in the moods in which external things impose most upon us that everything there is must at least have something resembling the seemingly solid tangible character of the world of nature. We look for something of that sort in the alleged world of distinct mental processes and when we fail to find it we lapse into a general scepticism and doubt the reality of things which are otherwise obvious to us like our normal mental processes.
There is the additional difficulty of finding any terms in which we can properly characterize mental activity. We can compare such activities with one another but even for this purpose we have to borrow the terms we use in designation of external things. No metaphor will help us to say what mental activity is as such. There is nothing to regret in that. If there are radically distinct sorts of things in the world—and why should there not be?—they have to be recognized in their distinctness without seeking to find terms common to both or reduce one to the other. By material standards mental activities are odd for although they take time they are not in space or extended at all. This is what makes them so elusive when accustomed as we are normally to be outward looking and coping with the world around us we try to comprehend them; and when we find that to handle mental reality at all we have to borrow terms from the world around us there is the aggravated temptation to suppose that mental realities like external ones must have some kind of quasi-tangible or solid character.
Two things closely related result from this. On the one hand many of us fall into the way of thinking of mental activities in material or quasi-material terms and if we become seriously inclined to do this we are at once open to grievous objections and indeed ridicule. Some of the ways in which we talk of memory as a storehouse if we go beyond obvious metaphor or of the unconscious as a subterranean place or of there being some all-pervasive mind-stuff at once invite the severe censure of our critics. We are invited to produce those quasi-material activities and of course we are unable to do so. Good sense in the philosophy of mind and in psychology turns much on our care in heeding this point. But if we lapse further and allow ourselves to be misled not only when particular concepts are confused by misuse of metaphor but by thinking generally of mental activity in quasi-material terms we expose ourselves to the challenge of those who require us to produce these mythical realities on pain of surrendering all claims to distinct mental existence. On the other hand the critic assuming in what is substantially the same terms that if there are distinct mental processes they must partake in some way of the reality of observable things finds himself unable to detect any entities or processes of that sort or to elicit any plausible account of them from us and he thus concludes that there cannot be any mental reality wholly distinct from what we encounter in the world of observable bodies.
Both these matters are very closely illustrated in Professor Ryle's work. He has undoubtedly helped to disabuse philosophers and others of our proneness understandable in the light of what has just been said to manufacture mythical entities and distort what is true about our minds through misuse of metaphor. He is not of course an innovator here. Other positivist and linguistic philosophers have anticipated him and they have been anticipated by a long line of others reaching back at least as far as Socrates and Plato who have warned us of the deceptiveness of metaphor and of words in general. Many have cut through misleading hypostatizations of metaphors used in psychology or philosophy of mind without recourse to anything partaking more of a philosophical technique than common-sense. But I do not wish to withhold from Professor Ryle the credit for helping to straighten out our thought in this particular way.
The extent of his achievement here and of our debt to him is however uncertain. For his main examples and illustrations do not come from the more obvious misuses of metaphor. They are of a much more questionable nature and concern ways in which it is alleged all references to quite distinctive mental realities or at any rate the presentation of these as altogether other than observable processes come about through the postulation of quasi-material processes for which no evidence can in fact be found. This is what is most distinctive in his philosophy of mind at least on the negative side; and it is this that I wish first to consider.
By doing so I hope that two things will be achieved. We shall in the first place be turning the edge of much confident fashionable criticisms of dualism as a theory of mind and body and dispelling many general doubts and misgivings which many besides professional philosophers may feel about it. In the second place by showing how mistaken it is to take material representations of the life of the mind too seriously we shall throw into prominence and sharp relief the peculiar and elusive inwardness of mental activity and indeed of all experience to which I wish to draw special attention and which will be central to much that I shall want to maintain later.
Let us begin where Ryle himself begins namely with his own reference to ‘Descartes’ myth’ and what he himself also calls ‘the Official Doctrine’. I do not believe that Ryle is altogether justified in claiming that this doctrine ‘hails chiefly from Descartes’.1 Positions very similar to it are common in Oriental thought and in Western philosophy the teaching of leading thinkers like Plato and Augustine about the soul have a great deal in common with that of Descartes and his followers in modern times. There are also thinkers in recent centuries notably Berkeley and Kant and in some respects Leibniz who have defended views which have much in common with those of Descartes without being too obviously indebted to him and with innovations of considerable importance. My own firm impression is that the Official Doctrine has held its place in modern times as also earlier because it reflects what we are much inclined whether rightly or not to think in certain moods.
This point need not however detain us here and we must resist the temptation to deviate into an historical excursus. There can be little doubt about the persistent influence of Descartes in modern philosophy and his view is as firm and precise an example as any of the position Ryle is so anxious to rebut. It does not follow that we have to defend Descartes on all counts although I shall in fact take my stance closer to that of Descartes himself than that of some of his defenders.
Ryle presents Descartes’ doctrine in these terms:
‘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.’2
Let me quote further:
‘Human bodies are in space and are subject to the mechanical laws which govern all other bodies in space. Bodily processes and states can be inspected by external observers. So a man's bodily life is as much a public affair as are the lives of animals and reptiles and even as the careers of trees crystals and planets.
But minds are not in space nor are their operations subject to mechanical laws. The workings of one mind are not witnessable by other observers its career is private. Only I can take direct cognisance of the states and processes of my own mind. A person therefore lives through two collateral histories one consisting of what happens in and to his body the other consisting of what happens in and to his mind. The first is public the second private.’
A person ‘may have great or small uncertainties about concurrent and adjacent episodes in the physical world but he can have none about at least part of what is momentarily occupying his mind’.3
This seems to me to put the position well on the whole. I have no quarrel of substance with it as a statement of the position to which I myself subscribe. But there are some points even in these fairly straightforward statements which are worth noting carefully as indication at the outset of some of the ways in which Ryle fails to do justice to the views he attacks.
Note for example the phrase ‘with the doubtful exceptions of idiots and infants in arms’. I am not aware that Descartes himself made any such exception and if he or anyone else defending a dualist view were to do so he would be doing his position a grave injustice. The truth seems to be that Ryle has very much the impression that anyone defending a dualist view must think of mental processes mainly if not exclusively in rarefied intellectual terms. This will become plainer later. But in fact the limited intelligence of the idiot or the infant is found in processes as distinct from the movements of their bodies as are those of the most sophisticated or reflective person. We do indeed speak of one person being intelligent the other not. But this is a distinction which has no relevance except where there is at least some modicum of intelligence or mental activity. The idiot is not very bright but there would be no point in saying this of a being who could not exercise his wits at all. His dim attempt to understand or whatever his mental processes are thought to be are activities as distinct from physical processes as the most abstract operations of a genius. The distinction of intelligent and stupid or unintelligent activity (or beings) cuts right across and presupposes the more basic distinction of mental and physical processes.
A further slight modification of the first statement quoted is possible. We do certainly speak of people ‘having’ a mind—so and so ‘has a very good mind’. This is a harmless way of saying that someone is intelligent but when we get beyond a rough and ready idiom I doubt whether we would want in seriousness to say that someone has a mind—a person is his mind in a way in which he is not his body. I can say in seriousness that I have a body but in serious thought it would be odd to think of my mind as just belonging to me I am my mind in a quite fundamental sense. So in strictness the dualist would not say that ‘every human being is both a body and a mind’.
Consider next the word ‘harnessed’ as it is used in the first quotation. There is no very serious objection to this term in its context. We have to rely on a metaphor of some kind here. Our minds and bodies are united or joined in some very special way and we cannot easily refer to this without some figure of speech derived from the relations of physical objects to one another. All the same the relationship is a unique one and if we are not careful we are apt to lose sight of its quite peculiar character. For this reason we have to be very careful about our metaphors here and it seems to me that Ryle is using a metaphor so strongly suggestive of the relations of physical entities to one another as to give away at the start his inability to appreciate how very special and distinctive the alleged relation of mind and body is taken to be. He is thinking already and no doubt has led many of his readers to think of alleged distinct mental processes as some kind of duplicate of physical ones.
In the second quotation we read of human bodies being subject to ‘mechanical laws’. As a statement of Descartes’ position this is strictly correct. He took over the view which the science of his day appeared to require namely that the entire physical universe or the whole ‘world of nature’ was like one elaborate machine a vast system of parts interacting in accordance with strictly mechanical laws. How far Descartes himself contributed to this view how far he was the victim of it may not be very easy to settle. It was certainly the view which many others some by no means holding his strictly dualist position about mind and body also shared eminent scientists as well as philosophers. Who was most at fault scientist or philosopher may also be hard to say. But to the extent that Descartes was at fault it is well to remember that he was subscribing to if also to some extent shaping the view that was fashionable and in some quarters beyond question in his day. We can certainly not lay the whole blame for it at Descartes’ door; I much doubt in fact whether he was the worst offender; and in any case it is easy to understand how this theory came to be widely held in the circumstances of the time.
Moreover Descartes unlike other eminent thinkers of his day made a firm exception of human activity. Man he held had a ‘liberty of indifference’ that is he could choose what he would do independently of the operation of mechanical laws. These laws did not apply to human volition and if our choices were to be effective in the world there was required an interaction of mind and body. The state of our bodies affected the state of our minds and mental operations in turn had an effect on our bodies. It did not seem possible therefore for everything that happened in the world of nature to be wholly determined by mechanical laws; for there could be a variation of this due to the interference of the different determination of our acts of will. The point will come up again shortly. For the moment it must suffice to note that Descartes would not consider the system of nature to be a completely closed mechanical one and movements of bodies are not therefore exclusively subject to mechanical laws.
This is one of the sharp points of difference between Descartes and Hobbes or Spinoza for both of these thought of the world of nature as such as subject throughout to rigid mechanical determination. The ways in which they supplemented this differ. It was possible for Spinoza to speak of freedom in terms of another aspect which all processes have and we are not here concerned with the adequacy of this conception. Nor is it necessary here to consider how far Descartes’ understanding of the laws of nature in the form in which he accepted them allowed him to make an exception of the interventions of human actions in the world of nature. The point is that he did make this exception and was to that extent much less the slave of the prevailing mechanistic ideas than some of his contemporaries.
Moreover even if Descartes’ position was made difficult or even impossible by his adoption of certain views about the operation of mechanical laws in the world of nature this would not apply to those who sought subsequently to defend his kind of dualism on the basis of a better understanding of how events occur in the external world. What is sound at the centre of Descartes’ contentions is not impaired by error if error there is in a subordinate and relatively incidental feature of it arising from the state of thought in his day about something which is not vital to his main thesis.
Let me refer next to the allusion to ‘the lives of animals and reptiles’. This is also most revealing. It shows how little Professor Ryle is aware of the inwardness of mental activity as something which characterizes experience at all levels. Just as he wonders whether the dualism of the Official Doctrine could be made to apply to infants and idiots so he assumes quite firmly that it could never be extended to sub-human creatures. But as I shall stress again there is an inner non-material character to all experience even the lowest forms of sentient life. ‘Crystals and planets’ (and trees presumably) are not in the same class here as ‘animals and reptiles’. And if Ryle had grasped firmly what was at stake he would have realized that the claim to be rebutted did not concern superior levels of mental activity or turn on the quality which made these superior. It concerns something alleged to belong to all experience as such.
A concession on a historical point may however be made here. For it seems that Descartes himself was so much under the dominance of the mechanistic view of the world of nature that he thought that the activities of all sub-human creatures could be accounted for entirely in the same terms as the movements of inanimate bodies. It is hard to understand how anyone could believe this but for anyone who did so—and Descartes seems to have made no exception apart from human action—it would be a moot point whether anything of a properly mental character even very low-grade mentality could be ascribed to brutes. But here again what we have is a peculiarity a very odd one admittedly of a particular period and fashion in matters of thought. It should not determine what we are to think today about mental and material existence.
I pass now to a point in Ryle's presentation of the Official Doctrine which is already incipient criticism and which anticipates much that he says later in more explicit criticisms. Ryle complains that nothing is said about the way our minds and bodies are alleged to influence one another. ‘The actual transactions between the episodes of the private history and those of the public history remain mysterious since by definition they can belong to neither series.’4 The expectation here seems to be that if there is interaction of mind and body it should be possible to describe the form which this takes the means of communication should be open to inspection. How does the mind send its message to the body and how does the body instruct the mind? These are of course questions to which no answer is ever given the alleged ‘transactions’ ‘remain mysterious’ as Ryle puts it. And it might seem that there is something very disconcerting here. That is certainly the suggestion. If there are these ‘transactions’ between mind and body it should be possible to say something about them and indicate how we came to know them. The conclusion we are expected then to draw is that the influence of distinct mental processes on physical ones and vice versa is a wholly fictitious one.
It should be noted further that if the criticism held it would have a double sting—as Ryle himself is fully aware. For if we could point out certain exchanges or transactions by which the two processes in question affected one another the question would then arise of how these transactions in turn made their impact on the mind on the one hand and on the other on the body—and if answer were forthcoming to this a still further question would arise about the transactions which made the impact possible; link after link would need to be forged different modes of influence or exchange would have to be invented ad infinitum. We shall see how this anticipates similar moves made by Ryle later in the course of his attempted reductio ad absurdum of the Cartesian position.
There is however little in these arguments or their implications to cause us serious anxiety. We only find ourselves in difficulty if we let ourselves be manoeuvred into the position of seeking desperately to supply the necessary ‘transactions’—as some may have done. The ‘transactions’ remain mysterious because they are non-existent we say nothing about them and are baffled if we try because there are none. And why should there be? Even when we think of causal relations in the external world we do not look for links (or ‘transactions’) between cause and effect to explain how the one leads to the other. No one after Hume should make that mistake and if he did he would soon find himself committed to a hopeless infinite regress. We find that things behave in a certain way that given certain conditions something else happens. In terms of what we learn in these ways we can explain a great deal that occurs and we can bring out in ever more detail the way things affect one another but we do not postulate some mysterious medium by which influence is transmitted from cause to effect or speculate about modes of exchange or mysterious messages.
The position is of course more complicated if we assume as Descartes himself seems to have done that there must be some a priori connection between cause and effect or that ‘like is caused by like’. Even this however would not lead to the postulation of mysterious transactions and Descartes himself could get out of the difficulties presented by his special views about causation by insisting that God could cause anything he liked to be related. There is not in any case any need for us to follow Descartes at all points in order to accept the substance of his interactionist theory. If Ryle were just finding fault with an incidental feature of Descartes’ general position that would be one thing. But the impression he conveys and seems plainly to want to convey is that the dualist Cartesian position as such is open to fatal objection because it essentially requires the postulation of the alleged mysterious transactions. We can cope quite well with the point by just noting that there need be no such transactions.
It does not follow that there is no problem about cause and effect. There certainly is. For how is it that we are so confident that things will continue to behave as they have done and that allowing for concomitant variations we can predict the future on the basis of past experience? Am I as Hume supposed simply conditioned to expect the kettle to boil when placed on the fire? Or have I justification for this hope? Is the fact that in endless variations in the past there seems to have been no break in the systematic continuity of events itself part of the justification for assuming that this must continue? Many have sought to solve the famous problem of induction in those terms. Others find this circular or in some other way inadequate and they are either content to leave it that we have found things behaving according to rule or system hitherto and hope that our luck will last or they seek for some foundation for a necessary causal continuity in some way—in religion perhaps—outside the course of events themselves. The problem need not worry us here. For what matters is this that however we deal with the philosophical problems presented by cause and effect the last thing we should try to do is to look for some link or transaction between one event and whatever it necessitates. We do not in the last resort explain causal relations except in the sense of unfolding in greater detail the way things do in fact behave or of providing in some of the ways suggested some general justification for causality itself or for our confidence in it. We do not see why causal relations must be such as they are we just accept what we find subject to the underlying assumption of consistency or continuity. We can on the basis of what we know already insist that certain things must be—and that others cannot be—but there is nothing beyond this in the nature of the processes themselves to show us why they are followed by certain others. To seek for an explanation of causal relations by peering ever more closely at events to discover some occult influences or transactions which account for their interconnections to try to pass to some level beyond that of the way in which we find in fact that things do behave is to follow the wildest will o’ the wisp; and no philosopher should be so led astray today.
But if this holds of cause and effect in the external world why should it be different in respect to the influence of minds and bodies on one another? There could conceivably be some ‘go between’ there could for all we know be some mysterious medium—some ethereal substance—through which the influence of mind on body occurs. But even if there were we would need at some point just to accept it that certain sorts of things influence other things in certain ways. In the meantime there is no evidence to show that any such medium exists or is needed. All we can say is that the state of our minds influences our bodies in certain ways and that the state of my body affects my mind. Why this should happen we do not know it may well be that we shall never know or that there is nothing to know that these determinations are ultimate in the nature of things—at least for finite understanding. We must be content to accept what we find and in that case the search for mysterious transactions or exchanges is an entirely unnecessary requirement. We do not have to postulate or seek for anything of the sort any more than we have to provide some extra-scientific account of the laws of nature. We must go by the facts.
This does not mean that the influence of mind and body on one another is not more remarkable or astounding in certain ways than the influence of one physical thing on another or the inherent determination of our thoughts in accordance with their meaning and logic. The latter determination does in fact to a large extent explain itself it is less brute fact than physical relations. But in the case of mind and body we have determinations in very different media and some find this bewildering. Whether there is a serious problem here will be considered again but it may be well to say now that in my own view there is nothing in the last resort more perplexing or astonishing about my mental processes affecting the movements of my body than about a flame consuming the paper to which it is applied. In the last resort in both cases we simply find that certain sorts of things happen.
I must add that there is nothing out of place in seeking in another way to determine just how the impact of mind on body takes place. This means trying to locate the part of the body which is most directly affected—and the relation between this and the rest. We are all well aware now that the brain is vital in all such operations although nothing in our normal experience suggests this. I decide to write and my fingers move as I wish. But as an educated person I know a good deal more about the way this happens I know that certain changes take place in my brain and that these are ‘relayed’ as we put it along the nerves to the appropriate muscles. A vast amount of detailed information about the physiological process involved here is available now and there are highly complicated studies of the brain. We shall no doubt learn a great deal more in these ways and correct past errors. But all this is a process of filling out in most illuminating ways indeed the details on one side of the interaction; it may give us specific points of contact for example when some parts of the human brain seem more important than others for different mental states or operations like perceiving or remembering. But this tells us nothing about the mode of determination of the strictly mental process on the physical one or the other way round. That is still something we just accept. Nor does new knowledge about the molecular structure of brain cells and the functioning of electrical charges in them affect the substance of this point at all. It still leaves us on one side of the interaction.
In the light of this consideration the attempt of Descartes naive though it seems to us to locate the precise part of the brain where interaction occurred is not in itself as absurd as some have supposed. It will be recalled that Descartes located the point of contact in the pineal gland situated between the two main parts of the brain. Much scorn has been poured on this supposition from time to time and not least of late. But it was not an inherently absurd suggestion there is some point after all namely the brain where the contact is normally and perhaps invariably made; and we can now make this knowledge more specific. To that extent Descartes was not in error on a philosophical matter or seriously confused philosophically in what he had to say about the pineal gland. He was simply ill-informed about physiological matters and that was not surprising when systematic study of the body was still in its infancy Descartes himself helping much to stimulate it. The same may be said about Descartes’ notion of ‘animal spirits’ which conveyed messages to and from the brain. This could also be mainly a shot at explaining physiological processes in the absence of the physiological knowledge which subsequently became available.
I do not however wish to deny that Descartes himself had further expectations here. He seems to have thought that what he had to say about the unity of the pineal gland and the subtlety of ‘animal spirits’ made these seem more like minds than other material things. This would help him out of difficulties caused by his particular views about causation. To that extent he was also philosophically in error. But there was nothing improper in itself in trying to find out with very limited physiological knowledge just where the impact of mind on body occurred and how it worked in detail.
The reason why all these matters should have been overlooked by Ryle is not far to seek. It is found in a general presupposition of so much of his thought namely that if we are to think at all of some paraphysical reality we must suppose that it somehow resembles the reality of the observable external world. If that is there are two very different worlds operating on one another there must be some medium through which this occurs or some transactions between them to be detected. The modes of the alleged interaction must be witnessable in some way. But the more we realize the quite radically different nature of mental processes and physical processes the less disposed we shall be to look for any explanation of the relations between them on the basis of what either of them are taken to be in themselves.
Professor Ryle also refers to the notion of ‘two different kinds of existence or status’.5 There is physical existence and mental existence. These are somewhat unusual terms but no one could object to them seriously as they stand. They might mean no more than that there are mental realities and physical ones or two sorts of things mental and physical to put it a little more crudely. But Professor Ryle appears to be saying more namely that the existence itself is somehow different there are two ways as it were of existing. This may seem a very slight almost trivial point. But in the light of what we find Ryle saying later about the occurrence of mental events it is not without significance; and we have thus to protest that it is not the existence that is different but the nature of the things that exist. There may be some context in which we find it proper to speak of different ways of existing for example when we contrast the necessary being of God with contingent being. But even here existence as such means the same. To say that something exists is simply to say that it is or is real; and at the finite level at least there is no difference in the existence of entities as such but only in the nature of the entities. They may differ radically but this does not preclude us from meaning the same thing when we say that they both are.
Two points of greater substance as it seems to me at least remain to be noted in Ryle's first approach to his subject. They both concern the claim that we have direct cognizance of our own minds. If this holds it is urged in the first place we cannot be mistaken about ourselves. ‘Mental states and processes are (or are normally) conscious states and processes and the consciousness which irradiates them can engender no illusions and leaves the door open for no doubts.’6 This is how Ryle understands the Official Doctrine and he is not slow to point out that in fact we are often mistaken about ourselves. Men are sometimes ‘thoroughly gulled by some of their own hypocrisies and they successfully ignore facts about their mental lives which on the official theory ought to be patent to them’.7 The teaching of Freud has made this particularly plain.
This is not the place at which to consider closely how much Freud has accomplished or what must be conceded to him. It may well be that he and others who share his views have exaggerated or distorted the ways in which we may be deluded about ourselves. But we can certainly allow that there are some ways in which we may be mistaken about ourselves and that our friends and others may understand us better than we do ourselves. Nor do we need the help of Freud to teach us as much as this. It is common knowledge. But what follows? Is there anything here to embarrass those who maintain that in some way we have immediate awareness of what goes on in our own minds?
I do not think there is. The dualist can readily accept what we commonly believe about self-deception. For there are many ways in which this may happen. We may be in error for example about what we were like on some past occasion perhaps in the very recent past. The liability to error here diminishes other things being equal with the nearness of the event to be recalled but logically at least it is always present. One may likewise fail to anticipate what he shall feel or do on some future occasion since a person may prove to be bolder or more afraid as the case may be than he expects when in danger. Here it is a case of understanding or failing to understand what our own natures are like. We have more or less permanent tendencies to react or behave in certain ways and these tendencies or dispositions guarantee the continuity of our conduct. Ryle himself as we shall see makes a great deal of our dispositions in the more positive features of his own teaching. But obviously a disposition is not something to be inspected or known about directly. We cannot peer beyond our actual states of mind or conduct at the structure of our character as we might examine some mechanisms like the engine of a car to determine what it can do or where it is likely to fail us. We learn about character from what we or others know of our actual states of mind. To allow that we may be mistaken about our own dispositions is not therefore disconcerting for those who affirm that we have immediate and privileged access to our own states of mind while we have them. The claim need not be extended to what lies behind these states or determines them in the way of permanent tendencies—and it would be most unwise to do so.
It is worth adding that most of what Freud and others have to say about the way we may not always understand ourselves concerns mainly at least our dispositional tendencies. Freud himself may not always have thought very clearly about this; he sometimes writes as if unconscious tendencies were some sort of existent realities. But this is usually ascribed to his anxiety to maintain the genuineness of the forces in our nature which he claimed to have revealed. The confusion so far as there is one has been largely but not perhaps entirely dispelled by his followers. The serious claim made is that we have certain tendencies of which we are not aware and that these are often due to events in our past which we have forgotten. But there is no reason why teaching of this kind and further ramifications of it should not be fully accepted by those who claim immediate awareness of our own mental states. The dualist need have no serious quarrel with Freud.
A further point to be stressed here is that it is very misleading to think of mental states as quite distinct isolable episodes. The life of the mind as I shall stress again is more like a stream with many currents and eddies in it. There is a great deal which is happening to us at a particular time and it is not odd if some of this fails to arrest attention and that our over-all picture of ourselves at any time should sometimes become easily dimmed. Mental events merge into one another and their outlines may thus become easily blurred. It is only if we take or are manoeuvred into taking a crude and over-simplified episodic view of mental occurrences that the complexities of our mental life and the confusion not however as extensive as some suppose to which we are liable about ourselves becomes hard to understand or acknowledge.
The second main point which Ryle makes at this stage is that if the Cartesian view is right it must be impossible for anyone to know any mind other than his own. ‘The workings of one mind are’ on the view in question ‘inevitably occult to everyone else.’8 ‘Absolute solitude is on this showing the ineluctable destiny of the soul. Only our bodies can meet.’9 The Cartesian is bound to be a solipsist.
This is obviously a very serious accusation. No theory which failed to rebut it could stand at all. For it is certain that we do communicate and have fellowship with one another. If we had no knowledge of other people's thoughts and feelings life would become impossible. A highly sophisticated person might manage to cope in some fashion with a solipsist position. But most persons would find it intolerable and some we are told have been driven mad by trying to hold it. It is certainly not a position of which a philosophical defence can be offered with any consistency. For to whom would the defence be addressed? At best we would be trying to account to ourselves for the illusion of communication with others which had made life possible hitherto. I do not know if anyone would care to undertake so forlorn and quixotic a task. We all of us normally assume that we know a great deal about one another and this assurance is not seriously upset by any difficulties we meet in trying to account for knowledge of other minds. We conclude that there must be something radically wrong with a theory which rules out the possibility of such knowledge and if Professor Ryle's accusation at this point held most philosophers would at once concede to him a total victory.
But has the point any substance? Is there any reason to suppose that a Cartesian must be a solipsist? None to my mind. There are two aspects of a Cartesian view firstly that mental processes are distinct from physical ones and secondly that we have some direct access to our own mental processes. Neither of these closely related assertions preclude at all the possibility of knowing the minds of other persons in some wholly reliable indirect way. This is surely how we normally think of the matter. I know that I have pain the moment I feel it I learn that you are hurt from your behaviour or what you tell me involving in the latter case hearing the sounds you utter and interpreting them or some equivalent. There may be difficulties in accounting for this indirect awareness we have of one another and there may be certain ways in which it seems odd; philosophers have been much concerned about such questions for a long time. But it is quite another matter to hold up the dualist to scorn on the grounds that his view involves the repudiation of all communication. That is not how the dualist himself understands the matter and the fatal consequence which his view is alleged to have is by no means evident; it is not something immediately involved in claiming direct or private access to one's own states of consciousness. For the claim would always carry with it the insistence that in another way we do have the sort of knowledge we normally think we have of one another. There is thus no way of putting the dualist out of court from the start by accusing him of the absurdity of solipsism. The absurdity is clearly not so evident that it can be boldly proclaimed from the start. It must at least be shown that contrary to what we normally suppose and what the dualist himself maintains the private access theory involves the absurdity in question.
What attempt does Ryle himself make to substantiate his criticism? Very little. His procedure—as we shall see—is in the main to just let it be assumed that a dualist view is tantamount to the repudiation of all communication and thus to make such a view seem immediately ridiculous. He does however offer with the utmost brevity one argument in support of his procedure at this stage. It is the following:
Ryle declares that ‘the supposed arguments’ which people may use ‘from bodily movements similar to their own to mental workings similar to their own would lack any possibility of observational corroboration’.10 I do not think a dualist would admit that this contains a satisfactory statement of his position. But in any case the substance of Ryle's complaint seems to be defective. He assumes that we have no warrant for any affirmation of fact without ‘observational corroboration’. If pressed this assumption would make it very difficult—to my mind impossible—to account for our knowledge of the past. I believe that Napoleon lost the battle of Waterloo but we cannot have the scene itself re-enacted as we may put on a film at will. We draw our conclusion and we do so with every confidence on the basis of the evidence available to us now. It is likewise claimed that we have good reason for supposing that the bodily movements of other persons are of such a nature as to afford us perfectly reliable evidence as a rule of thoughts and intentions which we cannot know as they are known by the persons having them. If there is error in this assumption this must be clearly shown and arguments must be carefully advanced to counter those of thinkers who defend the alleged indirect knowledge of one another. Simply to state that the claim lacks ‘observational corroboration’ is to restate what the theory essentially maintains; it is no rebuttal of it.
This brings us to the close of Ryle's general presentation of the position the official doctrine in his terms which he hopes to demolish; and it is evident already I hope that Ryle has brought little openness of mind or care to his examination of the themes to which he is opposed. The opening presentation already contains much misrepresentation and anticipation of the distortions on which subsequent criticisms are made to depend. We are well prepared in this way in the opening pages of the book for the declaration made in proceeding to more explicit criticisms and exposure of ‘The Absurdity of the Official Doctrine’11 that the author intends to speak of the theory ‘with deliberate abusive-ness’.12 In the latter respect I do not think it can be doubted that Professor Ryle succeeds. Whether this contributes to better philosophical understanding or is consistent with the attitude we expect from a philosopher is another matter. We can judge better when we see how Ryle proceeds and I believe it can be shown when we look more closely at Ryle's procedures that he is especially liable to error through his proneness almost deliberately cultivated to look for nothing which is not in some fashion like the impression we have of the natural world which we come to know from observation of it. Let us then pass to Ryle's criticisms of the Official Doctrine which he associates especially with Descartes.
At the start of his criticism of the ‘Official Doctrine’ also described as ‘the dogma of the Ghost in the Machine’ Professor Ryle introduces us to a notion which has since become very familiar namely the notion of a category-mistake. This is the mistake of presenting something as if it belonged to one logical type or category when in fact it belongs to another. There is no doubt that philosophers and others do fall into error in this way at times. One familiar example is that known as hypostatizing an abstraction. This happens when we speak of an abstraction as if it were a particular entity. Many instances of this may be found in the history of thought and controversy. During the nineteenth century it was often the tendency of political thinkers especially post-Hegelian idealists to write of the State as if it were some entity or super-structure over and above its individual members organized in a certain way. Much of the work of writers like L. T. Hobhouse in his Metaphysical Theory of the State turned on the exhibition of that fallacy in the political theories of idealist writers. Traditionalist theologians have likewise been led to write on occasion as if our lives or the lot we have in this world belonged to some all-inclusive ‘man’ who had a Fall and a subsequent history throughout the ages. Many traditionalist errors in respect of sin and responsibility have been ascribed in fact to that misconception. Others have been induced in a similar way to think of values as if they were some peculiar sort of entity with a ‘realm’ of their own. These are familiar errors and although the thought of recent times preoccupied with clarity and much afraid of being misled by abuse of metaphor has been much concerned with the exposure of such errors the commission and the exposure of them is by no means the monopoly of our day and they are persistent features of intellectual controversy. We need not then question the idea of the category-mistake in itself but we must not suppose that there is anything very novel in the discovery of it today. There is nothing new in it beyond the name and we have also to be on our guard against looking for it and thinking we have found it where there is no genuine evidence of it. We must not become obsessed with the category-mistake.
It will be well to note here the examples of the category-mistake with which Ryle himself introduces us to this idea. He refers to the visitor to Oxford who after being shown the colleges and so on asks to be shown the university oblivious of the fact that the university is just ‘the way in which all that he has already seen is organized’.13 Again someone who has seen battalions batteries etc. march past might request to see the division unaware that these make up the division. Another when watching a cricket match might request to be shown the team spirit or those whose role it was to display it as the bowler does the bowling and so on. In the same way someone might suppose the British Constitution to be of the same logical type as the Home Office or the Church of England or we may suppose that the Average Taxpayer is like an individual we may encounter somewhere.
These are reasonable instances of a category-mistake. But there is one thing we should note about them. The likelihood of anyone making them except in make-believe or jest of the Lewis Caroll type is remote; and I think it is only by stretches of his own imagination that Ryle can make out that the mistake has been seriously made in the alleged instances of it he detects in philosophical arguments.
The commission of a category-mistake by Descartes is thought to have started with his adoption of the mechanistic explanation of events in the external world. It was deemed improper to regard mental events as ‘just a variety of the mechanical’14 for that would put religious and moral concerns in jeopardy. Recourse was thus had to ‘non-mechanical causes’ to the notion of ‘minds as extra centres of causal processes rather like machines but also considerably different from them’.15 This gives us the ‘paramechanical hypothesis’.
I see however little evidence in fact for the supposition that Descartes’ thought moved in this way. True he accepted the mechanistic views of physical processes as we have seen; and it is plain that he also wished to exempt human beings from the operation of such laws. That was the point of insisting on ‘liberty of indifference’. But this gives us no reason for supposing that Descartes would not in any case have wished to regard mental processes as quite distinct from physical ones. He could well have done this as his direct impression of what in fact he found to be the case and this seems to me the natural and plausible account to give of the matter. He would also in the interest of liberty and human dignity have wished to show that mental processes were not subject to the mechanistic determinism which he thought prevailed in the external world. But this would be a subsequent consideration which itself presupposed initial detection of the radical difference between extended or spatial physical entities and ‘the non-spatial workings of minds’. It can only be on the assumption that the Cartesian position is inherently implausible that it becomes sensible to look for an explanation of it on the basis of some alleged postulation of quasi-mechanical processes for which there is little evidence and which seems so much out of accord with Descartes’ concern to stress the radical difference between mind and body.
Ryle adds as a reflection which he believes much strengthens his case that ‘there was from the beginning felt to be a major theoretical difficulty in explaining how minds can influence and be influenced by bodies’.16 I am not sure how far this was ‘the notorious crux’ it is alleged to be. True it is strange that processes as different from one another as mental and physical ones should affect each other. But this is not very much stranger than other forms of causation and in any case to be amazed that there should be some variety of causal determination tells us nothing in particular about our recognition of it and does nothing to call it in question. Even if it can be shown that some thinkers including Descartes have wished to have a further explanation of how the interaction of mind and body took place this would be a separate error which casts no doubt on the soundness of the belief in interaction as such.
Ryle further contends that Descartes having some general adherence to mechanistic notions was driven to ‘avert disaster’ in respect to human understandings and worth by adopting an ‘obverse vocabulary’ still to that extent determined by ‘the grammar of mechanics’.17 In this way ‘the workings of minds had to be described by the mere negatives of the specific descriptions given to bodies; they are not in space they are not motions they are not modifications of matter they are not accessible to public observation’.18 But just how did Professor Ryle expect Descartes to describe his theory except in these terms? If one holds a dualist view what can one say in presenting it except that mind is radically different from body in the ways indicated—and that we know positively what mind is like in having mental experience? That is what the theory means and what Descartes thought was the case. If there are two ultimate sorts of things in the world as we find it what can we say of the one in relation to the other except by pointing the contrast? Descartes took the only course open to him and this affords us no warrant for supposing that in adopting the alleged ‘obverse vocabulary’ he was somehow proceeding under the spell of the mechanistic theories and having his views shaped by this. True he would have thought that minds ‘are not bits of clockwork’ but just what is the justification—or the point of suggesting—that he thought of them as ‘just bits of not-clockwork’?19 I suspect that it is Ryle who is really obsessed with the mechanistic notions in question and finding some baleful influence of them in matters susceptible of a much simpler explanation.
Further reference is also made here to the Freedom of the Will. It is suggested that a problem arises about this solely because our thought is shaped for us throughout by mechanistic models. We assume that ‘minds belong to the same category as bodies and since bodies are rigidly governed by mechanical laws it seemed to many theorists to follow that minds must be similarly governed by rigid non-mechanical laws. The physical world is a deterministic system so the mental world must be a deterministic system’.20 A solution is found by supposing that laws governing mental processes are ‘only rather rigid’. ‘The problem of the Freedom of the Will was the problem how to reconcile the hypothesis that minds are to be described in terms drawn from the categories of mechanics with the knowledge that higher-grade human conduct is not of a piece with the behaviour of machines.’21
Now it is undoubtedly the case that anyone who supposes that certain processes are determined in mechanistic ways is liable to look for some means of exempting mental processes in the interest of their worth and of freedom. But it does not follow that this is the only way in which a problem of freedom arises. Even when it has been shown that our activities are not subject to any mechanical determination there remains the question and this is the serious problem of the Freedom of the Will whether in other ways we are not bound to act according to the sorts of persons we are. This is an additional problem it has force on its own account and not as any kind of legacy from the adoption of mechanistic ideas in respect to other processes; and it is thus a sad mistake to suppose that the postulation of mental processes of a para-physical nature only comes about as an attempt to extricate ourselves from a bogus difficulty created by supposing that all activities must at least be quasi-mechanical. The existence of a problem of freedom is by no means the grist to Professor Ryle's mill that he takes it to be. It arises in quite other ways than the one he supposes.
Ryle also observes that the alleged attempt to ‘avert disaster’ in the way indicated is in a further way ‘broken-backed’. The postulation of ‘spectral machines’ which are in some way like but not quite like material ones fails of its purpose because we ‘could never get access to the postulated immaterial causes’22 of our observable behaviour. ‘Save for the doubtful exception of himself’ no one ‘could ever tell the difference between a man and a Robot’.23 Those who seem intelligent may really be idiots and vice versa. But all this of course turns on the assumption that if we have no direct access to other minds such as we claim for ourselves there is no way at all in which other minds are known. This we have already urged is quite gratuitous. We do have good reason for supposing that other minds are known indirectly although by no means always without error—the apparent idiot may be a clever actor and so on. Professor Ryle's point would only hold if he had already and independently shown that the account of our knowledge of one another in indirect or analogical ways could not be sustained and this he has not really begun to do he has just dismissed the supposition with scorn although it is the essential feature of the view he opposes.
The truth is that Descartes and others were not seeking at all to avert the particular disaster which Ryle has in mind. They thought on quite other grounds that mental processes were other than physical ones. But Ryle supposes that they were misled by asking the wrong questions. We already know he declares ‘how to apply mental-conduct concepts’ and although it is not clear what that means at this stage it becomes evident later that Ryle is thinking of what we normally intend when we speak of someone being intelligent someone else not so bright or stupid and so on. We decide this in terms of what people do; some people solve puzzles more quickly than others or see the point of a joke more readily and so on. That and a host of kindred things is why they are said to be intelligent or to ‘have intelligence’. Ryle assumes that this answers all the problems we could have about what is involved in being intelligent and then he contends that Descartes instead of giving this sort of straightforward answer in terms of what we would normally say and do mistook ‘the logic of his problem’ and on finding that the principle of mechanical causation affords us no criteria for distinguishing intelligent from non-intelligent behaviour asked what other causal principle could do this. ‘He realized that the problem was not one of mechanics and assumed that it must therefore be one of some counterpart to mechanics.’24 This is where the category-mistake is most lurid.
Now it seems to me that if anyone is a victim of a category-mistake here it must be Professor Ryle himself. He starts with the question of how we normally apply the word ‘intelligence’ and determine what is intelligent and what is not and he assumes that this is the only question to ask and that it was in some way the question which philosophers like Descartes were trying in a very confused way to answer. They were in fact concerned with a quite different question and it is Ryle who has here got the logic of the philosophical problem mistaken. Descartes was trying to say something not about why one person is thought clever and another not so but about what it means to be exercising intelligence of any kind at all. This is not a question we ask from day to day and it is not for that reason reflected in what we normally say in our standard or paradigm use of terms as it is sometimes put. It is the philosopher's question and it applies as much to the low grade intelligence of the stupid or slow-witted person as to the high grade intelligence of the person of whom we go out of our way in ordinary parlance to say that he is intelligent. A person would not be unintelligent unless he had intelligence in the general sense in some measure. Stones are not stupid they just do not have understanding at all; and what philosophers have been concerned about is what is involved in having mental powers of any kind. It was about this that Descartes was seeking to say something and what is sound or mistaken in his views is not affected at all by whatever is relevant to a very different sort of question and one which is normally of less interest to philosophers. In failing to recognise this and have a grasp of properly philosophical procedures Ryle himself seems to be mistaking considerations of one logical type for those of another.
This becomes especially evident when he complains of the futility of Descartes’ procedure in asking questions about minds and machines when ‘everyone already knew how to apply mental-conduct concepts’.25 The questions were superfluous and the answers in consequence bound to be distorted. But the upshot of this is not to ask philosophical questions at all and instead to be content with finding what is most appropriate to say for ordinary non-philosophical purposes; in short Professor Ryle is giving up the ghost at the start of his book in more senses than one.
It is not surprising therefore that he should proceed to flourish very boldly before us still further instances of the alleged category-mistake. It would be absurd to say of someone that he had bought a left-hand glove a right-hand glove and a pair of gloves; and if we say of someone that she came home in a sedan-chair and a flood of tears we do not mean that these are disjunctive terms to be used and conjoined in the same sense. To come in a flood of tears is not the same thing as coming in a chair or a box. In the same way Ryle argues it is absurd to ‘maintain that there exist both bodies and minds; that there occur both physical processes and mental processes’.26 It is not altogether clear how this is to be understood. For Ryle insists also that he is ‘not for example denying that there occur mental processes’.27 We do long divisions and we make jokes. This seems to take the sting out of his earlier statement; he is not it would seem after all denying anything we are seriously concerned about and his position is quite innocuous. Much of his case throughout the book owes much to his skilfully conveying the impression that he is not calling in question the sort of things he seems at first to be doubting. But under cover of seeming to grant us all that we are properly concerned to defend Ryle does in fact put forward views of a highly controversial kind which are quite out of accord with what many others think and consider important. That certainly happens in the present context.
For while he is prepared to say that in one sense there are or there occur mental processes he is equally insistent that these do not exist or occur in the same sense as physical processes. ‘I am saying that the phrase “there occur mental processes” does not mean the same sort of thing as “there occur physical processes” and therefore that it makes no sense to conjoin or disjoin the two’.28 ‘It is perfectly proper to say in one logical tone of voice that there exist minds and to say in another logical tone of voice that there exist bodies. But the expressions do not indicate two different species of existence for “existence” is not a generic word like “coloured” or “sexed”. They indicate two different senses of “exist” somewhat as “rising” has different senses in “the tide is rising” “hopes are rising” and “the average age of death is rising”.’29
This is an issue we have already met. I can only add here that the use of the words ‘are’ ‘occur’ ‘exist’ just do not seem to me to belong to different logical types when applied to bodies and to minds. Mental processes are real they ‘are’ or they go on just as physical ones do. My mind is very different from my body and to that extent they exist differently but I mean substantially the same thing when I say that they both exist. My thoughts at the moment are as real (they go on) as the movements of my hands. My thoughts are not abstractions they do not exist in some sense similar to that in which there is an average taxpayer. They occur as particular occurrences distinct from the physical occurrences which go on at the same time and which affect and are affected by them. To question this is to question something substantial and we cannot redeem that situation by allowing that in some other ambiguous or esoteric sense it may be said that there are minds and bodies. Professor Ryle must stand by what he seriously maintains without being allowed to make it appear more innocent than it is.
Where he does stand might seem plain in the declaration that ‘the hallowed contrast between Mind and Matter will be dissipated’ but how are we to understand the reservation that follows— ‘but dissipated not by either of the equally hallowed absorptions of Mind by Matter or of Matter by Mind but in quite a different way’?30 It is perhaps plain already that the different way is not so very different after all except in the curious procedures by which the denial of the reality of mental processes is sustained. We can now look more closely at some of these procedures.