Terrapin Station wrote: ↑
May 15th, 2020, 10:04 am
It's just that it's important to realize that (a) they're not something that exists extramentally, and thus (b) they're not something that we can be correct or incorrect about. Categories (qua the particular categorizations that they are, the content of those particular abstractions) tell us something about how individuals think. Not something about what the world is like independently of us. All sorts of errors hinge on people projecting those abstractions onto the world at large.
Brian Carr distinguishes between Aristotelian categorial realism
and Kantian categorial conceptualism
. The problem with the latter is that it psychologizes ontology, with categorial ontology
thereby being replaced by categorial psychology
: The study of categories of being
or existential categories
is replaced by the study of categories of thinking
or representational categories
, such that the subject matter of categoriology is no longer existence or reality (itself) but our thought about it.
"Metaphysics, in its minimal form, is the activity of categorial description. Its subject matter is the most fundamental aspects of the way we think about and talk about reality, the most fundamental features of reality as it presents itself to us. We divide the world into horses and trains, people and mountains, battles and towns, and a whole complex structure of different things; our language is the repository of this enormously rich furnishing of the world. But we can discern within this richness some overall divisions, between things and their properties, for example, or between events and the times and places in which they happen, and it is with the overall pattern of our categorising of elements of the world that metaphysics concerns itself. The basic divisions which our thought and talk about reality entail are the quarry of categorial describers."
"[T]he important thing for us now is to stress that Kant is not going beyond thought to reality to find his categories. They are the fundamental forms of thought, embedded in the forms of judgement. This puts Kant in stark opposition to Aristotle, for whom the categories, however identified, were natural, real divisions among things in the world. I will put this opposition by saying that Aristotle was a categorial realist
whereas Kant was a categorial conceptualist
. A categorial realist is someone who takes the categories, which he seeks to describe, as marking real kinds to be found in the things which collectively make up reality, and so takes categorial description as indistinguishable from (or at least an important part of) the grand traditional task of metaphysics. For the categorial conceptualist, the task is to describe the fundamental features of our conceptual scheme, of our thought and talk about reality, with no assumption made about the way reality exists independently of that manner of thinking and talking."
(Carr, Brian. Metaphysics: An Introduction.
Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1987.)