Ryle - Systematically Misleading Expressions
Philosophers say they are analyzing or clarifying the "concepts" which are embodied in the judgements of the plain man, scientist, or artist. But if these people have intelligently used such expressions then they must already know what they mean and do not need the aid of philosophers to understand what they are saying. And if their hearers understand what is being said they don't need this help either. And the philosopher must know what the expressions mean, since otherwise he could not know what he is analyzing. If expressions are not being intelligently used it is fruitless to ask what the expressions mean. Understanding can be done by any ordinary listener and the philosopher can't help and can't begin unless he understood them in the ordinary way. If a speaker only knows confusingly what his expression means, it is not the role or acheivement of the philosopher to provide a medicine against this form of flux. And the philosopher is not ex officio concerned with rovings and ramblings, only expressions intelligently and intelligibly employed. Some expressions could have better substitutes, but the search for such paraphrases that are more stylish, grammatically or etymologically correct is applied lexicography or philology. The purpose of his paper is to show that there is an important sense in which philosophers can and must discover and state what is really meant by expressions of a particular type, and that ordinary speakers fully understand what they mean by their expressions, which are nevertheless couched in grammatical or syntactical forms which are demonstrably improper to the states of affairs which they record. He uses expression to cover single words, phrases, and sentences. "statement" means a sentence in the indicative. When a statement is true it records a fact or state of affairs. False statements do not record. To know that a statement is true is to know that something is the case and that the statement records it. When I barely understand a statement I do not know that it records a fact, nor need I know the fact that it records if it records one, but I know what state of affairs would obtain, if the statement recorded a state of affairs. A significant statement is a quasi-record because it has the requisite structure and constituents to be a record, but we don't yet know if it is a record of a fact. False statements are not records, so they don't state anything if state means records. Records record something being the case. An expression is systematically misleading when the syntactical form is improper to the fact recorded, and causes some (not ordinary people) to think the record is a different state of affairs from the fact. Systematically misleading means that all expressions of that grammatical form would be misleading in the same way and for the same reason. It was only noticed recently that in "God exists" "exists" is not a predicate, so "God" cannot be the subject of predication. This was discovered in examining negative statements about existence. In "Satan does not exist", if there is no Satan how can it be about Satan in the same way that "I am sleepy" is about me. Satan must not be signifying a subject of attributes, but some philosophers have devised theories to be able to allow them to talk about Satan anyway by such a statement, like we are talking about an idea or something in the realm of subsistence, but Ryle dismisses these because of the square-circle. So Ryle says the new analysis says that "carnivorous cows do not exist" means "no cows are carnivorous" or "no carnivorous beasts are cows" but it needs an improvement as "nothing is both a cow and carnivorous" which doesn't imply that anything is either, whereas the first two do imply something exists. Or with "God exists" means "something and one thing only, is omnipotent, omniscient, etc." With "Satan does not exist" means "nothing is both devilish and called Satan" or "Satan is not the proper name of anything". Ryle says that statements like "carnivorous cows do not exist" are systematically misleading but are not false, nor senseless, whereas the paraphrased expressions aren't systematically misleading or aren't to the same extent. The statement is true, and is completely meaningful to the person who uses it the only trap in it traps those who embarks on abstraction assuming that every statement gives clues to the logical form of the fact it records. Ryle gives a list of bogus predicates
238. He concludes there is a class of statments of which the grammatical predicate appears to signify not the having of a specified character but the having (or not having) of a specified status; but the appearance is just grammatical, and the statements can be stated in ways with no such quasi-ontological predicates, which are all systematically misleading. Ryle thinks that philosophers who use real for a predicate, or being or reality for a subject are the greatest sinners. The problem arises when one tries to abstract and generalize to consider what different facts of the same type (about different things) have in common, and uses the common grammatical form to grasp the logical form of the facts themselves because we jump to the concusion that the way a fact is recorded is a clue to the form of the fact. "Satan is not a reality" looks as if it records the same fact as "Copone is not a philosopher" while the first would have been more properly recorded in statements not about Satan but the sound "satan" or the people who misuse it. The world does not contain fictions in the way it contains facts. There is no subject of attributes of which we can say "there is a fiction". Quasi-ontological statements may be true and unvague, but they are formally improper to facts of the logical form which they are employed ot record and proper to facts of quite another logical form.