Oct 042009

I have not read Douglas Hofstadter very thoroughly, but I have perused some of his work and I enjoy and recommend him. He whets the appetite for something more, which is a good thing. He stirs the passion of the subject…

What am I?

After reading large chunks of I am a Strange Loop, I found another book, The Concept of Mind which I have not yet read, but look forward to. The author, Gilbert Ryle is the father of the concept of a category mistake.

Ryle alleged that it was a mistake to treat the mind as an object made of an immaterial substance because predications of substance are not meaningful for a collection of dispositions and capacities.

This notion of a category mistake is an extremely important idea to digest, for it has the potential to solve so many so-called paradoxes in philosophy. It also serves as cure for some poorly-formed questions, such as “what is the meaning of life?” When we fail to recognize that this question makes the category mistake, we fall into a trap from which it is impossible to escape until the feedback loop is broken. Life cannot have meaning any more than red can have distance. MY life and YOUR life and the life a TURTLE may have meanings, but LIFE, an abstraction, cannot.

In other words, when we wrongly classify abstractions as objects, we make the “category mistake” and can fall prey to paradox. This is a common pitfall experienced by today’s young object-oriented computer programmers (like me) when first learning about classes and objects.

More on this in my post, Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.