Logic and Language

Michael Kremer (University of Chicago): Ryle’s ‘Intellectualist Legend’ in Historical Context

Speaker: Michael Kremer (University of Chicago)
Title: Ryle’s ‘Intellectualist Legend’ in Historical Context
Time: 16:00 - 17:30
Location: ILLC Seminar Room F1.15

Seventy years ago, Gilbert Ryle argued for a distinction between knowledge-how and knowledge-that by criticizing the “intellectualist legend”: to do something intelligently is “to do a bit of theory and then to do a bit of practice.” But Ryle left his opponent nameless. In the 21st century debate about practical knowledge he is credited with coining the term “intellectualism,” and his position is labeled “anti-intellectualism.” Furthermore, he has been accused of attacking a straw man, notably by Jason Stanley. I examine the use of the terms “intellectualism” and “anti-intellectualism” in a widespread debate over the first half of the 20th century, spanning the human sciences. Placing Ryle’s arguments in this context makes sense of his use of the term “intellectualism,” responds to straw man objections, and illuminates his position on practical knowledge. From his perspective “intellectualists” and “anti-intellectualists” of his time shared a flawed assumption about the nature of intelligence and rationality: that human action must either be guided by conscious thought, or the result of non-rational forces such as instinct and conditioning. Ryle can be seen as providing a third way: human action can be seen as intelligent and responsive to reasons, without the over-intellectualizing of the “intellectualist legend.”