ryle to dennett “I hae my doots”


Apologies that this post is a touch academic, but the Electronic Journal of Analytic Philosophy (which has some excellent content even if it looks like crap) has published Gilbert Ryle’s last letter to Daniel Dennett. It’s a pretty amazing letter that gets right to the heart of various philosophical problems. Here’s an excerpt:

I thought well of your Fodor-review [just then submitted to Mind , then under Hamlyn’s editorship]; but for reasons that I’ve forgotten, I’m anti-Fodor. But your review leaves me wondering 1) what on earth these ‘representations’ are supposed to be and do. Do I have them? Do I need them? Is their extension identical with that of Locke’s less pompous ‘ideas’? 2) What does ‘internal’ mean? Locke’s usual ‘inner’? If I run through the Greek alphabet a) in a sing-song; b) muttered; c) under my breath; d) merely ‘in my head’, is only d) properly ‘internal’? So when I mutter or intone ‘kappa’ audibly is this noise not a ‘ representation’ of an item in the Greek alphabet ? (On p13 [of the typescript] we hear about ‘representations of rules’. Sort of snapshots or echoes? Pinkish ones, or gruff ones?) Or if after dictating again and again a rule of grammar or chess, etc, the rule-wording goes running through my head by rote (like a maddening popular song), is that wording (or any word in it) a ‘representation’ of the rule–or of any part of it (if rules have parts)? From your review it seems that Fodor beats Locke in the intricacy of his ‘wires-and-pulleys’, when what was chiefly wrong with Locke was the (intermittent) intricacy of his ‘wires-and-pulleys’!