Filippi, P. (2005). Gilbert Ryle: Pensare la Mente. Master Thesis, Università degli Studi di Palermo, Palermo.
This study focuses on the main work of Gilbert Ryle, “The concept of Mind” (1949). Here the author demolishes what he refers to as the cartesian dogma of “the ghost in the machine”, highlighting the absurdity of categorical ordering in dualist systems, where mental activities are explained as separate from physical actions. Surprisingly, the Italian translator of “The concept of Mind”, Ferruccio Rossi-Landi, missed this key aspect of Ryle’s work, writing up what resulted into a significantly misleading translation. This can be clearly noticed from the title already: “Lo spirito come comportamento” [The ghost as behavior]. This erroneous translation affected the interpretation of “The concept of Mind” as a mere study on behavioral reductionism in Italy.
Here, I argue in favor of the originality of Ryle’s approach in pointing out the socio-cultural dynamics as the non - physical dimensions of the human mind, and yet, linked to the human brain. In doing so, I trace the crucial influence of Wittgenstein’s philosophy in Ryle’s interpretation of the concept of mind, which helps in grasping a better understanding of his work. Wittgenstein’s influence shows clearly in Ryle’s conceptual operation of grounding the acquisition of dispositions and competences - which ultimately define the rational subjects as rational agents – in the shared background of social and cultural dynamics. In a nutshell, this social dimension is the defining characteristic of the human mind and of all human actions in Ryle’s philosophy. As Ryle argues in “On thinking” (1979), this intrinsic quality of human actions can reveal itself in actions that one performs absent-mindendly in everyday life, as well as in more complex ones: for instance, when the mind reflects upon itself.