Chapter Analysis of The Self from Gilbert Ryle's The Concept of Mind

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  • Topic: Gilbert Ryle, Personal pronoun, Sentence
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Gilbert Ryle

The Concept of Mind

The Self

Many of us have asked the question: „What would it be if I became you and you became me?” This problem has often been depicted in literature and cinema in order to find a solution. Gilbert Ryle in the chapter „ The Self” of his book „ Concept of Mind” offers to resolve one part of enigma which he has called the „systematic elusiveness” of the concept of "I”.

When we are asking ourselves the question „Who or what am I?” we do not want to know our surname, nationality, sex etc. We vaguely feel that beyond the name „I” stands something unique that belongs only to me. When we try to comprehend or express what is the „I” it is like peeling an onion – we take off layer by layer and in the end there is nothing left to be called „I”. Ryle draws attention that the systematic elusiveness of I and other personal pronouns are non-parallel but there are other similarities characteristic to all personal pronouns. He points out that „I” and „ you” are a queer sort of words. It turns out that with the word „I” we tend to indicate only ourselves but with the word „you” we can indicate everybody who is not „I”. They indicate something uncertain that is being understood only in context of that moment. Ryles offers many more words of this type, for example, „today”, „now”, „that”, „ here” and „ then” calling them index words. Ryles classifies these pronouns into two groups – direct and indirect index words. By direct index words he means „I” and „ you” in most cases, but the indirect index words are „he” and „they”, as well as „we” in some uses.

Later in this chapter Ryles demonstrates how the word „I” can be substituted, or not, with the words „my body”. We can talk about parts of our body but we cannot use the words „I” or „me” in this case. But sometimes we use the word „I” to speak about some mechanical parts or extensions, auxiliaries that are ours but are not parts of us. Through explanatory examples like „the...
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