Ryle as Reader of Austen
The article offers and discusses a possible understanding of Ryle’s behaviourism against the background of Ryle’s philosophical reflections on the novels of Jane Austen. The first part presents Ryle’s account of Austen’s charaterology as an Aristotelian anthropology (people do not divide into the good and the bad, rather each one presents a concrete exemplification of a series of heterogenous traits) and its philosophical setting in virtue theory. In the second part I examine how Ryle’s dispositional analysis can be applied to more complex character traits too: character traits should be understood as dispositions with an open spectrum of behavioural expressions, to which we lend a certain quality (extending also into behavior that goes “against the disposition”). In the third part, with the help of a (Wittgensteinian) concept of verification, I reconstruct a hypothetical Ryle-Wittgenstein conception of behaviourism as the specific analysis of the relation between non-identical, though inseparable, reports of behavior and reports of the “mental”: reports about concrete expressions and acts are the only means by which a meaningful dispute about the sense and accuracy of reports about character traits can be conducted. In the final, fourth, part I add some notes on the question of how the two types of report can throw light on each other. The ability to know character traits is a specific kind of perceiving or seeing (which exercises itself on people who express themselves in different ways, but which does not amount to a peering “within” their minds or heads), at the root of which is an ability to judge which requires cultivation.
Filosofický časopis, redakce, Filosofický ústav AV ČR, v.v.i., Jilská 1, 110 00 Praha 1, Czech Republic
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