Best Review of Dilemmas: The Tarner Lectures 1953 (cambridge Philosophy Classics):
Most helpful customer reviews 18 of 19 people found the following review helpful. Dilemmas of our own making By D. S. Heersink Philosophy has spent the better part of its history spinning its wheels with little traction in answering some of the most perplexing and provocate issues about life. Then came Wittengenstein and the only person Wittgenstein believed truly understood his work, Gilbert Ryle (Elizabeth Anscombe should also be considered, but only Ryle is mentioned by name.) Ryle's most successful and enduring book is "Concept of Mind," which does much if not all of debunking nearly all philosophy from Descartes to date with wit, style, and grace. "Dilemmas" is a different sort of book, and in my opinion, the more enjoyable of the two. First, it's considerably shorter. Second, it goes to the heart of dilemmas that have perplexed agile and senile minds for centuries. It takes into consideration about five seemingly irresolvable problems and demonstrates how these dilemmas are neither a dilemma nor even challenging dilemmas.It what is clearly one of the best books on "deconstructing" problems that are artificial and mind games, and demonstrating how using language in its ordinary, not extraordinary, ways, Ryle shows how many philosophical problems are nothing of the sort. They are problems of language, not true problems of substance. Anyone who asks a stupid question will get a stupid answer, but Ryle goes beyond this platitude. He takes several very perplexing issues that have haunted philosophy from its nascent stages and debunks them through the use of "ordinary language." No linguistic acrobatics of the existentialist ilk, no grand metaphysics of the Scholastic ilk, no analytical positivism according to the Austrian ilk -- all of which have lead nowhere, but, instead, a refreshing reexamination of the dilemmas themselves, and clear-headed, simply examined, ordinary explanation of things in an ordinary way.This ingenious little book is not a tome of how the world looks, but is what philosophers call "techne", or "art," of how to dissolve problems that do not exist. Ryle doesn't ask and answer every question posed since the beginning of the world; rather, he takes a few isolated, but well-worked problems, and artfully and clearly shows how these "problems" aren't problems at all. They are confusions originating in linguistic abuse. Using five examples, he assumes that the reader can take with him the technique and apply it to other irrestible problems that really don't exist at all. Not that every philosophical question is a chimera in linguistic clothing, but that a substantial bulk of them are just that. In an entertaining, amusing, and charming way, Ryle uses his "techne" on five such irrestible problems and shows how they are solved. He leaves it to the reader to go from there.There are a great many good books about ordinary language philosophy, but few match the stature and eloquence of Ryle's "Dilemmas." J. L. Austin appears confused and convulated compared to Ryle, whose technique is what we learn, and in the process bring fresh insight to old problems that aren't all that problematic after all. 8 of 8 people found the following review helpful. More Category Mistakes By miles@riverside In this short (129 pages) book, Ryle applies his idea of the Category Mistake to 7 thought-problems:1) Fatalism: If I sneezed this morning, then was it true 1000 years ago that I would sneeze this morning?2) Achilles and the Tortoise: The famous Zeno paradox where Achilles can never quite catch up, because the tortoise had a head start.3) Pleasure: I can have an acute, throbbing pain behind my eyeballs, but can I have an acute, throbbing pleasure there?4) The World of Science and the Everyday World: Which (if either) do we mean when we speak of "the real world"?5) Technical and Untechnical Concepts: If the Queen of Hearts acts as part of a Royal Flush when I play Poker, then is it the same card when I use it as a trump in Bridge?6) Perception: Sometimes I see words on a page, but other times I can also see spelling errors in the words. Which perception is more real?7) Formal and Informal Logic: Mathematics is more consistent and precise than philosophy, so we want philosophy to be more like mathematics ... right?Gilbert Ryle was the greatest at showing how our use of language affects our thinking. I can recommend this book to people who have never read him before because of the book's brevity and because of its colorful range of subjects. 0 of 0 people found the following review helpful. On the Horns Of By L. King For such a short book Ryle takes awfully long to state his points. Granted it's a transcript of a series of public lectures and not a set of polished essays but a red pencil would have come in handy.Potentially a rich topic, the issue is recognizing the nature of choices between different world views and Ryle chooses eight examples to illustrate his arguments- A: science vs religion, B: fatalism vs free will, C: Zeno's paradox of Achilles racing the tortoise, D: hedonistic vs utilitarian ethics, E: scientific rigor vs. everyday pragmatism, F: technical vs non-technical frameworks, G: whether reality needs to match the world we perceive and H: the logician's choice between applying formal logic vs informal rhetoric. Ryle confesses he's less interested in the outcome of the dilemmas than in how one chooses between them.Zeno's non-paradox could have been dismissed in a paragraph or two - mathematically it's simply a question of mathematical limits where time and the traversal of space are reduced at the same rate to the infinitesimally small. The reason Zeno never catches up to the tortoise is that he's never given enough time to do so.The other dilemmas resolve into utilitarian choices as to which interpretation works best for a particular end. Cases E, F, H and arguably A are highly similar pitting rigorous frameworks which while exacting and precise are too detailed for everyday use. G revolves the philosophical concerns as to whether or not we can believe our senses or our judgement about them as to the nature of the world. Yet, Ryle argues, that we know from the start that our senses are flawed and our interpretations are error prone, does not negate that they are connected to and serviceable approximations of reality. B, fatalism vs free will rests on the difference between looking forward into the future vs. looking backwards into the past, or in Ryle's language, the difference between anterior and posterior truths. Before an event occurs the outcome, though anticipated is largely unknown, and one cannot make true or false statements about the unknown. Since future events are unknowable, neither idea can be validated, making the issue moot. As for D, Ryle believes that the arguments were done to death in the 19th century, a simple way to resolve a dilemma by declaring it uninteresting.Yet there are other kinds of dilemmas that Ryle ignores such as choosing between alternate aesthetic goods - say a Cezanne vs. a Kandinsky, or between alternate moral evils, choosing under uncertain outcomes such as hiring one contractor vs another; the relatively trivial but at often time consuming dilemmas of choosing an outfit; the dilemma of action vs. inaction. Categorizing these and the basis of response could have been quite fruitful.Perhaps I'm guilty of here presentism and should not have been so harsh in projecting my expectations. Writing a review is partly a dialog with the author, fellow readers and oneself and since Ryle passed away nearly 40 years ago it's somewhat unfair that he can't have the last word. There has certainly been a lot of work on Decision Theory from an Engineering perspective since publication of the book. I still have my copy of Ryle's THE CONCEPT OF MIND which I thought very highly of when I was in university, but has anyone else since considered this problem from a purely philosophical POV? I don't know but I'd be interested in finding out. See all 4 customer reviews...
"The great merit of this book is that it grasps philosophical problems at that critical stage when they are just casting off their connexions with everyday life, just about to launch on their long academic flight, and that it attempts to deal with them then and there, before they can become airborne. Brisk, homely and almost practical, it really challenges everyone to try to be his own philosopher ... the peculiar, penetrating simplicity of this kind of philosophy is exceedingly hard to achieve." The Times Literary Supplement About the Author Gilbert Ryle (1900-76) published widely on a variety of philosophical topics, including philosophy of mind and philosophy of language, but was perhaps best known for his work on philosophical behaviourism and his critique of Cartesian dualism.
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