Ghost in the Machine Day
annually on June 12th
Literature & Writing
Science & Technology
Weird & Obscure
Is your mind within your body? Does it exist in your brain or is it separate from it? These are a few of the questions we ponder today on Ghost in the Machine Day. "Ghost in the machine" is a philosophical phrase having to do with the relationship between the mind and body. It critiques the idea that the mind is a distinct entity from the body, by saying that such an idea is like believing there is a "ghost in the machine." Gilbert Ryle came up with the phrase and first used it in his 1949 book, The Concept of Mind. In it, he called René Descartes' belief of mind-body dualism the "ghost in the machine." Others besides Descartes also believed there is a mind that is separate from the body, and that it can live on after the body dies. Ryle's belief contrasted with this: he believed consciousness and the mind are dependent on the brain and are not apart from it.
Nowadays, there are other uses of the phrase in mainstream English. If a device has a ghost in the machine, it means it may have a consciousness that causes it to operate in a way that is contrary to the way that its human operator wants it to function. The term is used by computer operators, to describe when a computer runs contrary to how they expect it to. It is not known why Ghost in the Machine Day takes place when it does, but it is the perfect day to contemplate the interconnectedness of your mind and body and to think about devices that seem to have minds of their own.
How to Observe Ghost in the Machine Day
You could celebrate the day by reading The Concept of Mind by Gilbert Ryle, or by reading The Ghost in the Machine by Arthur Koestler, in which Ryle's concept appears. You could also read a book by or about Descartes and his views on mind-body dualism. There are also many films, television episodes, and musical pieces named "Ghost in the Machine" that you could enjoy.