Tag: Gilbert Ryle

It is easy for me to forget that Gilbert Ryle’s The Concept of Mind was published in 1949, four years before the posthumous publication of Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations. In a letter to Norman Malcolm in 1950, Wittgenstein writes “I can’t say that Ryle’s book worries me. Perhaps it ought to, but it doesn’t.” The worry, it seems, is about some of his own ideas appearing in Ryle’s book rather than in a publication by himself. The view that Ryle had borrowed some of his ideas is perhaps what Wittgenstein is alluding to in a conversation with O. K. Bouwsma. He reports Wittgenstein saying that “Ryle had been good when he was young. Now he just borrowed other men’s thoughts. I suggested this was due to the burden of administrative duties. But W. said it was much worse.” More insight into what Wittgenstein thought of Ryle is found in some other letters that have been collected in Wittgenstein in Cambridge: Letters and Documents 1911–1951, along with the comments by the editor Brian McGuinness.

Gilbert Ryle
Gilbert Ryle

It appears that at one point Wittgenstein had some affection for Ryle. In a letter to G. E. Moore from 1936, he asks Moore “to give him my love.” The sentence that immediately follows expresses a low opinion of his philosophical talent, but a high one of Ryle as a person; referring to a talk that Ryle delivered, perhaps to the Moral Science Club at Cambridge, Wittgenstein writes: “I can quite imagine that he didn’t read a good paper and also that he was nice and decent and agreeable in the discussion.” 


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