category mistake

Term introduced by English philosopher Gilbert Ryle (1900-1976) for cases where we talk of something in terms appropriate only to something of a radically different kind.

For example, 'The Prime Minister is in London, and the Foreign Secretary is in Paris, and the Home Secretary is in Bristol, but where is the Government?'

The Government is not another person alongside its members.

Ryle used the notion primarily to claim that mind and body cannot be spoken of in parallel ways, but are in different 'categories'.

One problem is to say when things are indeed in different categories.

G Ryle, The Problem of Mind (1949), ch. 1

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