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Old 07-13-2010, 07:32 PM
njtt njtt is offline
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"Ghost in the Machine" origin?

To the best of my knowledge, the phrase "the ghost in the machine" was first coined by philosopher Gilbert Ryle, as a description of Cartesian dualism, in his 1949 book, The Concept of Mind. Wiki seems to agree. However, for an expression from a relatively recent, academic philosophy book, it has had a remarkable degree of penetration into pop culture. Does anyone here know of any earlier incarnations of the phrase, before Ryle?

Last edited by njtt; 07-13-2010 at 07:33 PM..
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Old 07-13-2010, 09:19 PM
JWT Kottekoe JWT Kottekoe is offline
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I don't know anything about it, but it sounds like a play on "Deus ex Machina," which dates back the ancient greeks.
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Old 07-13-2010, 10:21 PM
John H John H is offline
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There is a phrase "give up the ghost" with usage going as far back as 1535 (to die) and 1832 (to stop working). source

Its usage of ghost seems similar as in "ghost in the machine," though I don't know if there is any relation otherwise.

Last edited by John H; 07-13-2010 at 10:22 PM..
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Old 07-13-2010, 11:03 PM
Peremensoe Peremensoe is offline
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It's a great turn of phrase, and if it was Ryle's first, I'm not surprised to see that it's resonated widely. Anyway, most of the pop culture references follow after the Police used it for the title of a #2 pop album in 1981.
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Old 07-13-2010, 11:19 PM
GameHat GameHat is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JWT Kottekoe View Post
I don't know anything about it, but it sounds like a play on "Deus ex Machina," which dates back the ancient greeks.
Maybe, but the meanings are quite different. At least in my definitions

Deus Ex Machina means, in my mind, "A seemingly unsolvable problem is solved by God (or some other greater force) just jumping in and waving his (or her, or their, or its) hands"

Ghost in the Machine means "The paradox involved in having inanimate matter (organic or mechanical) possessing consciousness or a soul."

Last edited by GameHat; 07-13-2010 at 11:22 PM..
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Old 07-14-2010, 12:47 AM
code_grey code_grey is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John H View Post
There is a phrase "give up the ghost" with usage going as far back as 1535 (to die) and 1832 (to stop working). source

Its usage of ghost seems similar as in "ghost in the machine," though I don't know if there is any relation otherwise.
"give up the ghost" reflects the somewhat archaic use of "ghost" in the generic sense of "spirit" as opposed to the modern much more restricted sense of "apparition of presumably dead person". Hence we have the archaic phrase "ghostly father" that shows up in Romeo and Juliet as well as the not so archaic name "Holy Ghost" for the 3rd member of the Trinity.

Of course, the rationale behind formation of "ghost in the machine" phrase need not have been love for creative anachronisms. Leaving aside facetiousness, you could argue that "ghost" is something much more definite and empirically provable than "spirit". Kind of like "electricity" is just an abstract notion in the textbook while the "spinning electric motor" or "sudden death through electrocution" have a certain undoubtable reality to them.
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Old 07-15-2010, 11:50 PM
Measure for Measure Measure for Measure is offline
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Those interested in this stuff should read the related entries Ghost in the Shell and Ship of Theseus.
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