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Dilemmas: The Tarner Lectures 1953 Paperback – January 1, 1954

4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521091152 ISBN-10: 0521091152

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Editorial Reviews

Review

'The great merit of this book is that it grasps philosophical problems at that critical stage when they are just casting off their connexions with everyday life, just about to launch on their long academic flight, and that it attempts to deal with them then and there, before they can become airborne. Brisk, homely and almost practical, it really challenges everyone to try to be his own philosopher ... the peculiar, penetrating simplicity of this kind of philosophy is exceedingly hard to achieve.' The Times Literary Supplement

Book Description

Examines the pairs of theories which compete for every man's allegiance, and shows that the either/or which they seem to insist on is in fact a false dilemma.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 136 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (January 1, 1954)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521091152
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521091152
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,226,498 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By D. S. Heersink on January 27, 2001
Format: Paperback
Philosophy has spent the better part of its history spinning its wheels with little traction in answering some of the most perplexing and provocate issues about life. Then came Wittengenstein and the only person Wittgenstein believed truly understood his work, Gilbert Ryle (Elizabeth Anscombe should also be considered, but only Ryle is mentioned by name.) Ryle's most successful and enduring book is "Concept of Mind," which does much if not all of debunking nearly all philosophy from Descartes to date with wit, style, and grace. "Dilemmas" is a different sort of book, and in my opinion, the more enjoyable of the two. First, it's considerably shorter. Second, it goes to the heart of dilemmas that have perplexed agile and senile minds for centuries. It takes into consideration about five seemingly irresolvable problems and demonstrates how these dilemmas are neither a dilemma nor even challenging dilemmas.
It what is clearly one of the best books on "deconstructing" problems that are artificial and mind games, and demonstrating how using language in its ordinary, not extraordinary, ways, Ryle shows how many philosophical problems are nothing of the sort. They are problems of language, not true problems of substance. Anyone who asks a stupid question will get a stupid answer, but Ryle goes beyond this platitude. He takes several very perplexing issues that have haunted philosophy from its nascent stages and debunks them through the use of "ordinary language.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By miles@riverside on May 10, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In this short (129 pages) book, Ryle applies his idea of the Category Mistake to 7 thought-problems:
1) Fatalism: If I sneezed this morning, then was it true 1000 years ago that I would sneeze this morning?
2) Achilles and the Tortoise: The famous Zeno paradox where Achilles can never quite catch up, because the tortoise had a head start.
3) Pleasure: I can have an acute, throbbing pain behind my eyeballs, but can I have an acute, throbbing pleasure there?
4) The World of Science and the Everyday World: Which (if either) do we mean when we speak of "the real world"?
5) Technical and Untechnical Concepts: If the Queen of Hearts acts as part of a Royal Flush when I play Poker, then is it the same card when I use it as a trump in Bridge?
6) Perception: Sometimes I see words on a page, but other times I can also see spelling errors in the words. Which perception is more real?
7) Formal and Informal Logic: Mathematics is more consistent and precise than philosophy, so we want philosophy to be more like mathematics ... right?
Gilbert Ryle was the greatest at showing how our use of language affects our thinking. I can recommend this book to people who have never read him before because of the book's brevity and because of its colorful range of subjects.
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By L. King on October 25, 2014
Format: Paperback
For such a short book Ryle takes awfully long to state his points. Granted it's a transcript of a series of public lectures and not a set of polished essays but a red pencil would have come in handy.

Potentially a rich topic, the issue is recognizing the nature of choices between different world views and Ryle chooses eight examples to illustrate his arguments- A: science vs religion, B: fatalism vs free will, C: Zeno's paradox of Achilles racing the tortoise, D: hedonistic vs utilitarian ethics, E: scientific rigor vs. everyday pragmatism, F: technical vs non-technical frameworks, G: whether reality needs to match the world we perceive and H: the logician's choice between applying formal logic vs informal rhetoric. Ryle confesses he's less interested in the outcome of the dilemmas than in how one chooses between them.

Zeno's non-paradox could have been dismissed in a paragraph or two - mathematically it's simply a question of mathematical limits where time and the traversal of space are reduced at the same rate to the infinitesimally small. The reason Zeno never catches up to the tortoise is that he's never given enough time to do so.

The other dilemmas resolve into utilitarian choices as to which interpretation works best for a particular end. Cases E, F, H and arguably A are highly similar pitting rigorous frameworks which while exacting and precise are too detailed for everyday use. G revolves the philosophical concerns as to whether or not we can believe our senses or our judgement about them as to the nature of the world. Yet, Ryle argues, that we know from the start that our senses are flawed and our interpretations are error prone, does not negate that they are connected to and serviceable approximations of reality.
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1 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 18, 1999
Format: Paperback
Gilbert Ryle's philosophical pamphlet "Dilemmas" is enlightening, but somewhat perplexing. The grandiloquent claims on the back cover draw you in and start you reading, but by the eleventh page I found myself with an almighty headache! Congratulations to the authour on attempting to simplify such a complex subject (namely Determinism), but it is a task which I feel is well nigh impossible! One day I will attempt to read it cover to cover. In the meantime, I will grapple with my own views on a Newtonian universe
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