CATEGORY (κατηγορέω, to predicate), a class to which things or thoughts may be
The categories are the highest classes under which objects of
knowledge can be arranged in subordination and system. Philosophy, in
seeking to know all things, finds it is impossible to know all things
individually. Things and thoughts are, therefore, arranged in classes,
according to common properties. When we know the definition of a class,
we attain a formal knowledge of the individual objects of knowledge
contained in that class.
This attempt to render knowledge in some sense universal has been
made in all ages of philosophy, and has given rise to the categories
which have appeared in various forms.
The earliest table of categories known is
that of the Pythagoreans, preserved by Aristotle in the First
Book of his Metaphysics, ch. V. p. 3. It consists in a
series of opposites or contraries, as Odd, Even,
&c. Aristotle makes them ten in
possession, or manner of holding;
The categories of Aristotle are both logical and metaphysical,
and apply to things as well as to words. Regarded logically, they are
reducible to two,
substance and attribute. Regarded metaphysically, they are
and accident. The Stoics reduced them to four, viz., substance,
quality, manner of being, and relation. The categories of
Aristotle were generally acquiesced in till the time of Bacon, who
recommended observation rather than classification, and regarded "the
distribution of things into certain tribes, which we call
categories or predicaments," as "but cautions against the
confusion of definitions and divisions" (Adv. of Learning, bk.
The Cartesians arranged all things under three categories— Substance, Attribute,
and Mode; Locke also under three— Substance, Mode, and Relation; Leibnitz under
five—Substance Quantity, Quality, Action or Passion, and Relation.
The categories of Kant are quantity, quality, relation, and modality. According
to Kant, the manifold is arranged by us in accordance with the logical functions
of our judgment. "The categories are nothing else than these functions of
judgment, so far as the manifold in a given intuition is determined in relation
to them" (Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, Meiklejohn, p. 88; Werke, Kosenkranz,
II., supplement 14, sec. 20, p. 740).
Kant professes to give a complete and systematic table of categories (deducing
all from the unity of a single conception), in place of the incomplete and
haphazard table of Aristotle.
According to Ueberweg and Hamilton, however, the difference between the Kantian
and Aristotelian categories is more fundamental, the former being merely
subjective or bearing reference to knowledge, the latter objective or bearing
reference to things. No doubt the primary reference of Kant's categories
is to knowledge, of which they are the elementary constituents; but the result
of his critical analysis of knowledge being this, that objects owe their
essential constitution to the knowing subject, it will follow that for him the
categories of Knowledge are at the same time the categories of Reality.
Hegel signalised this result of the Kantian criticism, and proclaimed the
identity of Thought and Being. He also sought to remedy the defects of Kant's
table by adding higher categories to which Kant had not advanced, and by
exhibiting the dialectic evolution of the categories of thought, as at the same
time the evolution of actual existence.
Hamilton (Reid's Works, p. 687) gives the following simplification of the
categories of Aristotle:—(1) Being by itself; (2) Being by accident, the last
including Quantity, Quality, and Relation (see also Discussions, pp. 26, 27, 2nd
ed.; Logic, I. 199).
Mill (Logic, bk I. ch. III. sec 3) gives the following classification of all
nameable things:—(1) Feelings or state of consciousness; (2) the minds which
experience these feelings; (3) the bodies or external objects which excite
certain of these feelings, together with the power or properties whereby they
excite them; (4) the successions and co-existences, the likenesses and unlikenesses, between feelings or states of consciousness (see Ueberweg's
Lindsay's transl, 114).