re-reading Ryle’s “Descartes’ Myth” I was struck by the following passage
…the Dogma of the Ghost in the Machine does just this. It maintains that there exist both bodies and minds; that there occur physical process and mental process; that there are mechanical causes of coporeal movement and mental causes of coporeal movement. I shall argue that these and other analogous conjunctions are absurd…the phrase ‘there occur mental process’ does not mean the same sort of thing as ‘there occur physical process,’ and, therefore, that it makes no sense to conjoin or disjoin the two. (this is from page 37 in the Chalmers anthology)
I have always been sympathetic to the category mistake move and have viewed it as a precursor to the claim that it is simply question begging to treat mental terms as synonymous for ‘non-physical’. I also think that a lot of my complaints about the intelligibility of substance dualism originate in Ryle’s discussion of the origin of the category mistake.
Re-reading this today I started thinking that maybe one could use this kind of claim to cause problems for the Zombie argument. The first premise of the zombie argument employs the conjunction (P & ~Q) where P are all of the physical facts and process and Q is some qualitative fact like that I feel pain. If it is really logically illegitimate to conjoin these terms then the zombie argument cannot even get off the ground. So what is the response that the dualist will make here? It seems to me that all of the examples of category mistakes involve concepts that have fairly straightforward conceptual entailment relations between them. So, a pair of gloves just is a left glove and a right glove and we can tell this just by analyzing the concept of PAIR OF GLOVES. The same can be said for teh University, and the battalion. But if course it is not obvious, to say the least, that the same is true for PAIN or SEEING BLUE. To many, myself included, it seems as though there are no conceptual entailment relations between my “pure” phenomenal concept of pain and physical processes (for me the ‘seems as though’ part is especially important). But maybe it is at just this point that I myself, as well as the dualist, commit the category mistake!
Whoa…I’ll have to come back to that because now I’m off to Miguel’s CogSci talk