Gilbert Ryle and Philosophy as Cartography

Time and again I find that philosophers are just rearranging what's already there, the array of events that were known for quite some time, but that now are seen from a new globalizing perspective. It's the task of Metaphysicians par-excellence. Philosophers come up with new conceptualizations that frame the already known into a (hopefully) more coherent and harmonious whole, which has (hopefully) higher explanatory power. I liked the analogy (simile) proposed by the British philosopher Gilbert Ryle (1900-1976), who asserts that philosophers are like cartographers who codify the knowledge of villagers that know very well how to go from one place to others, but perhaps have no skills in drawing a map for general reference, and to find relationships among the buildings, etc. Ryle was surely thinking more in the Philosophy of language in the Wittgensteinian tradition, but I'd like to extrapolate the analogy to metaphysicians in particular:
The philosophical arguments which constitute this book [The Concept of Mind] are intended not to increase what we know about minds but to rectify the logical geography of the knowledge we already possess.
and also:
[t]here were reasoners before Aristotle and strategists before Clausewitz. The application of rules of reasoning and strategy did not have to await the work of their codifiers. Aristotle and Clausewitz were, in fact, only able to extract these rules, because they were already being applied.
This thought also echoes Quintilian who had asserted while demarcating his (heuristic) rules for framing arguments and discourses that:
... the discovery of arguments was not the result of the publication of text-books, but every kind of argument was put forward before any rules were laid down, and it was only later that writers of rhetoric noted them and collected them for publication...The creators of the art were therefore the orators, though we owe a debt of gratitude also to those who have given us a short cut to knowledge (per quos labor nobis est detractus). (Institutio, V, x 120-121)


Gilbert Ryle entry in Wikipedia.
Tanney, Julia, "Gilbert Ryle", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2009 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <>

No comments:

Post a Comment