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Ryle and Category Errors

"Colourless green ideas sleep furiously" is meaningless because it contains category errors, in which one category of thing is presented as belonging to another category, or put alongside something of a different category.

Dooyeweerd's aspects can help to prevent category errors in our thinking.

Ryle [1949] introduced the idea of category mistakes with examples, including:

Claiming that Descartes made a category error in his thinking about body and mind, Ryle traces its origin to a mixing-up of types of "causality", of laws, and to a misunderstanding of the relationship between what we call aspects. The Cartesians tried to apply ideas of causality found in physics to the non-physical functioning-repercussion agency, assuming they operate by similarly determinative laws, to argue that there must be two distinct kinds of entity here (bodies, minds). The third kind of mistake is not because of laws nor agency but mixing up kinds of meaningfulness, using the same preposition, "in".

By reference to the roles of aspects as modes, along with inter-aspect irreducibility and dependency, we can see that Ryle seems to have been reaching for Dooyeweerd's notion of aspects, which are irreducibly distinct in their laws, their functioning and repercussion, and their meaningfulness. It appears that his suite of aspects can help us both account for and perhaps avoid category errors.

One important type of category error arises when meaningfulness from a different aspect is smuggled in, as in the case of emergence theory.

Ryle G. 1949. The Concept of Mind. Penguin, London, UK.

See also: Richard Gunton's essay on category errors and ontological confusion

This page, "", is part of a collection of pages that links to various thinkers, within The Dooyeweerd Pages, which explain, explore and discuss Dooyeweerd's interesting philosophy. Email questions or comments would be welcome.

Written on the Amiga and Protext.

Copyright (c) at all dates below Andrew Basden. But you may use this material subject to conditions.

Created: 27 September 2018 Last updated: