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Category mistake

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A category mistake is a semantic or ontological error by which a property (or some category of being) is incorrectly ascribed to a particular ontological type or token in a proposition and therefore is meaningless or nonsense. For example, the statement "the business of the book sleeps eternally" is syntactically correct, but it is meaningless or nonsense because it incorrectly ascribes the property, sleeps eternally, to business, and incorrectly ascribes the property, business, to the token, the book.

The term category mistake was introduced by Gilbert Ryle in his definitive work The Concept of Mind to remove what he argued to be a confusion over the nature of mind born from Cartesian metaphysics. It was alleged to be a mistake to treat the mind as an object made of an immaterial substance because predications of substance are not meaningful for a collection of dispositions and capacities.

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