René Descartes had naturalized the theological idea of a soul as a separate non-material substance called "mind." The mind-body problem asks how a non-material mental substance can causally influence the material body. Ryle's 1949 book The Concept of Mind is regarded by many thinkers as having eliminated the immaterial mind and "dis-solved" the mind-body problem, which Ryle saw as the result of what he called a "category mistake." In some ways influenced by Ludwig Wittgenstein, who thought many philosophical problems were caused by misuse of language, Ryle said the category mistake was applying properties to a non-material thing that are logically and grammatically appropriate only for a category including material things. With his remarkable ability to turn a phrase, what Ryle even more famously did was to stigmatize "mind" as the "Ghost in the Machine." Unfortunately, the phrase greatly advanced the enlightenment idea of "Man a Machine." And it helped prepare the way for today's revolution in cognitive science based on the "computational theory of mind," with the digital computer the model for intellectual operations. Not that Ryle himself thought of man as a mechanical system or machine. Far from it. Though he described both body and mind as a "field of causes and effects" and likened the motion of the planets to a "clockwork," he thought minds were "not bits of clockwork, they are bits of non-clockwork." (p.20) Since biology established its title as a science, he says,The subtle verbal distinctions between know how, know that, and know what in English language debates about epistemology are more evidence of the failure of language analysis. Knowledge has become propositional knowledge, truth claims about a proposition. A subject S is said to "know" a proposition P if and only if, Gilbert Ryle was best known for his criticism of what he called the "Official Doctrine" of "Cartesian Dualism" as a theory of mind. He thought
The Newtonian system is no longer the sole paradigm of natural science. Man need not be degraded to a machine by being denied to be a ghost in a machine. He might, after all, be a sort of animal, namely, a higher mammal. There has yet to be ventured the hazardous leap to the hypothesis that perhaps he is a man. (p.328)Ryle thought that the problem of free will was a "tangle of spurious problems." Minds, as entities outside the causal system, do not exist. He said the "myth" of volition belongs with concepts like phlogiston and "animal spirits." For Ryle, free will was invented to answer "the question whether human beings deserve praise or blame." He conflates free will with moral responsibility, committing the ethical fallacy," assuming with Immanuel Kant, Robert Kane, and many others that our actions must be moral to be free. Perhaps the best known compatibilist philosopher, Daniel Dennett, was a student of Ryle's and cannot separate free will from moral responsibilty. Dennett offers a "free will worth wanting" that is simply moral competence. But this is what Ryle would have identified as a "category-mistake." Whether deterministic laws of nature mean that every human action is pre-determined is a scientific problem. Whether we can generate "uncaused causes" and genuinely new thoughts in our minds depends on the indeterminism and ontological chance of quantum physics. Moral responsibility, on the other hand, is a societal and cultural problem. Free will has traditionally been connected to moral responsibility. But it is wrong to say that free will simply is moral competence, as Dennett says, or is "ultimate responsibility" as Kane says. Sadly, free actions are also likely to be evil i.e., immoral actions.
Know-How and Know-ThatEpistemologists make important distinctions between knowing how (technical ability), knowing that (facts and propositions), and knowing what (acquaintance with things and persons). In his presidential address to the Aristotelian Society in 1945, Ryle insisted that knowing that (some fact) is empty intellectualism without knowing how to make use of the fact.
Effective possesion of a piece of knowledge-that involves knowing how to use that knowledge, when required, for the solution of other theoretical or practical problems. There is a distinction between the museum-possession and the workshop-possession of knowledge. A silly person can be stocked with information, yet never know how to answer particular questions. The uneducated public erroneously equates education with the imparting of knowledge-that. Philosophers have not hitherto made it very clear what its error is. I hope I have provided part of that correction.
(i) P is true,The modern definition of knowledge as "justified true belief" comes from Plato's Theaetetus, where "belief" was "opinion" (doxa), "true" was "right" (orthe), and "justified" was an "account" (logos) - a reason or explanation or story. Plato's word for "knowledge" was episteme, from which modern philosophy gave us epistemology. But the meaning of the Greek word is closer to "know how," which makes it supportive of Ryle's point that knowing involves an ability and not just an intellect.