Theory of Categories

Theory of Categories

Key Instruments of Human Understanding

By Dr. Patrick Grim & Dr. Nicholas Rescher

This book offers a revisionist approach to categories, arguing that the standard philosophical approach is substantially correct in some respects, but markedly mistaken in others. The result is a distinctly pragmatic approach to categories and categorization, with implications regarding philosophical problematic and paradox in philosophy of mind, epistemology and metaphysics, philosophy of science, social philosophy and ethics.

Hardback, 176 Pages


September 2023

£80.00, $110.00

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About This Book

Categorization is an essential and unavoidable instrumentality for conceptually navigating a world—indeed for being able to conceptualize a world to be navigated. Classification is a pivotal instrument for scientific systemization, featured as a basis for the philosophical understanding of reality since Aristotle, but classificatory concepts of sorts, types and natural kinds inevitably pervade our understanding of ourselves and our position in the social as well as the natural world at all levels. The authors argue that the character, purpose, context and culturerelativity of categories and categorization have been widely misunderstood—that standard philosophical views are substantially correct in some respects but markedly mistaken in others.

The book offers a comprehensive survey of basic principles of classification and categorization, with a multitude of illustrative examples accompanied by instructive analysis of ways and means. Initial chapters include a critical examination of previous work on the nature of categories, a wide-ranging survey of the ways in which categories have been conceptualized in the history of philosophy and a survey of relevant empirical work and scientific theory regarding both perceptual categories and categorization in general. In later chapters, the authors argue that the long-seated misunderstandings of categories that they identify underlie paradoxes in logic regarding vagueness and identity, puzzles in philosophy of science regarding induction, essences, natural laws and natural kinds, and problems in social philosophy and our ethical lives as well. A more adequate grasp of the nature of categories and categorization offers a better understanding of a range of classical philosophical problematics and the promise of alternative approaches.



“Grim and Rescher’s Theory of Categories is a philosophically sophisticated and historically informed study of categoricity in virtually all its aspects. It has insightful treatments of categories in metaphysics, scientific inquiry, philosophical analysis, and other areas, and it is particularly informative on specific issues such as the problem of induction and, throughout, in distinguishing defensible generalities from convenient stereotypes”— Robert Audi, John A. O’Brien Professor of Philosophy, University of Notre Dame, USA.

“Patrick Grim and Nicholas Rescher wrote a fascinating and engaging book about every possible categorization aspect. Categories are fundamental tools of human understanding and thinking. The analysis starts with categories’ nature and category theories’ history. It unifies the perspective of philosophy, logic, and cognitive science. “Theory of categorization” is a scholarly book that helps us manage category mistakes and paradoxes”— Péter Érdu, Henry Luce Professor of Complex Systems Studies, Kalamazoo College, USA.

“Categories, categories. Who needs them? Everyone, according to this book, complete with glossaries, taxonomies, diagrams, paradoxes, and, of course, categories. The authors shed light on many areas of classification, across various disciplines”— Paul K. Moser, Loyola University Chicago, USA.

Author Information

Patrick Grim is known for wide-ranging research both within philosophy and beyond. This is his third collaborative volume with Nicholas Rescher.

Nicholas Rescher, philosopher and polymath, is well known for a prodigious publishing career. A consistent focus in Rescher’s work is the dialectical tension between our synoptic aspirations for useful knowledge and our human limitations as finite inquirers.


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Table of Contents

Preface; Chapter 1: The Nature of Categories; Chapter 2: The History of Categorization; Chapter 3: Empirical Issues in Categorization; Chapter 4: Categories in Science; Chapter 5: Category Mistakes and Philosophical Paradoxes; Chapter 6: Ethical and Social Categories; References; Index


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