Knowledge, Life and Reality: An Essay in Systematic Philosophy

By Trumbull Ladd George | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX
NATURE AND SIGNIFICANCE OF THE SO-CALLED CATEGORIES

THERE has been from time immemorial a difference of opinion as to the nature and the number of the necessary forms of human knowledge; and as well as to the precise way in which philosophy ought to discover and to criticize them. The sceptical and agnostic positions toward this problem of metaphysics have already been sufficiently discussed. It ought, however, to be recalled in this connection that any proposal to criticize the categories cannot properly imply that it is possible to look on them with a critical eye from a wholly outside point of view. In criticizing them, the mind is compelled to accept them; in criticizing the criticism of others, the mind employs them yet again. It is the business of systematic metaphysics, in spite of the inherent difficulties, to do what human minds well can toward harmonizing the different, and sometimes seemingly conflicting claims of those forms of all cognition; and, also, to expound and amplify their significance as bearing upon the ultimate aim of metaphysics, which is to frame a tenable, consistent, and satisfying theory of reality.

But how many, and precisely what, are those forms of human cognition, of man's way of knowing all things and all selves as real, which deserve to be classed among the categories? In his investigations into the nature of human thought, of argument, and of proof, Aristotle, the founder of logic in its Occidental development, constructed an elaborate doctrine of concepts. The fixing of concepts or definition (ἔρισμόċ), he held, rests in part on direct knowledge, which must be emphasized by induction (so Zeller). In order to attain a correct

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