A philosophical term of art
, introduced by Gilbert Ryle
in his influential book The Concept of Mind
; it is intended to point to a certain kind of confusion
about how to use language
Ryle pictures a stranger wandering around on a campus, asking passers-by if they can point him to the university. The academics enquire if it is perhaps the library or the bar he is after, but he persists in his confusion: "no, I want someone to show me the university!"
The stranger is confused about how to use the term university because he is expecting the university to be something like a campus building, rather than a collection of buildings. A similar thought, perhaps, lies behind the phrase "can't see the woods for the trees."
Ryle employed this notion as an analogy in his book to suggest that the picture of a mind as something other than the brain and dispositional states (tendencies to certain behaviours) of its supposed owner is similarly flawed
(see The Concept of Mind for the details.)
Fortunately, here in E2 we don't have this problem. If you are reading about the Rowan Tree, the kernel source tree, the Whitten tree or the Shittah tree, but you really want to see the woods, then you just go to the woods node, and no mistake about it!