A System of Categories of Being and Knowledge: The Categories of Ontology, Epistemology, Logic, and Reason

We present a system of “logical, epistemological, and ontological categories of being and knowledge” (categories to place all empirical and rational concepts into).[1][2][3]

To do this we will look at the categories of Aristotle (and the general method of classifying natural and moral philosophy of the Greeks), and we will look at the categorical theories of others like Kant.

This means the end result will be a theory of categorization that deals with both as reality as a-thing-itself and reality as human experience, understanding, knowledge and language as they relate to reality, in which we can place all concepts (real or imagined).

In other-words, we present a useful synthesis of “the categories of being (and knowledge)” in the form of a discussion on “the categories,” offering a unique system as an end result.

TIP: This page is currently in the works. Feel free to comment below while I figure out phrasing and ordering and work on the page. To re-state the above, this is a unique theory that is a synthesis of “the categories” not “the only way to understand the subject.” See other category theories here. Or, see our page on a basic theory of knowledge for how this fits together with logic and reason.

An Introduction to Categorizing “Everything”

If we want to categorize “everything” we must consider reality (what is, ontologically speaking), how we conceptualize it (process), our thoughts and conceptions about what we process (product), how we speak about it (language), how we can judge truth based on that (epistemology), how we can communicate all of that to each other (symbology), and how we retain knowledge about all that “human knowledge.” Then on-top of that we must construct “a formal meta-logical system.”

In other words we must consider “what is,” and our perception of “what is,” our thoughts on “what might be,” and how we speak about all that… and then create a system that accounts for all of this (even if we want to later transpose it onto a system that say only deals with language or only considers reality).

Our main categories below will deal with all this, and will thus be categories of being/reality (ontology) and human knowledge/understanding (epistemology)…or just “human being and knowledge” for short.

By weaving between aspects of knowledge and experience and semantics, we can find knowledge that transcends types and thus helps us uncover truths that wouldn’t otherwise be apparent (like an equation that explains an experience), likewise, when we categorize properly we can find where one category transcends another (helping us to see where for example rational ideas tell us about the world).

With all that said, ultimately everything we place in the categories below will be properties (like solidity and denseness), concepts (like a solid), propositions (like solids are more dense on average than gasses), or reasoned arguments (like, one is well advised to heat their house with gasses and build their foundation with solids, and not vice versa, because solids are more dense). The more we stick our human perception into reality, the more sure we become in some ways, and the less sure we become in others… luckily, the categories below can tell us everything I’ve noted above. So let’s move onto those now.

The Theory Behind the System of Categories of Being and Knowledge Summarized

Here is the logic behind the categories as well as I can state it:

A Rough Illustration of the Categories

First, in bullet-point the hierarchy of categories looks like this:

  • Reality itself.
  • Of Reality: Being, non-being, change (and relations).
  • Of Being: Physical beings: Sentient (thinking and/or feeling physical systems) or non-sentient (physical systems and their relations, such as cause-and-effect and forces of physics). And, for sentient beings (who can experience the world and process that sensory information as rational thought and act based on feeling), rational Ideas and language (logic), willfull actions (ethics; willfull change), and sentiments (the “feelings” that arise from electrochemical stimulus, either internal or external, that drive actions).
  • Of Ideas and language: Logical (purely rational) and Metaphysical (sentiment based).
  • Of the Qualities of all physical bodies: [in Aristotle’s terms] Substance, Relation, Quantity, Quality, Place, Time, Situation, Condition, Action, and Affection (essentially just properties for determining the state of a physical objects in spacetime).
  • Of the Qualities of rational ideas when expressed in language: [in Kant’s terms] Quantity, Quality, Relation, Modality (essentially just terms for how terms relate in propositions).

Then all of that can be grouped together by shared properties into the categories of the physical (physics), logical (logic), action based (ethic), and metaphysical (sentiment and imagination) where the qualities of physical bodies and rational ideas generally apply to each category (and where social relations span all categories).

We can then from there consider mixed-categories and sub-categories to help differentiate which parts are based on direct experience and which parts are rationalized. After-all, while our language tells us about these things, our language is just a tool we can use to describe concepts (it isn’t a direct reflection of reality itself in the same way “a rock itself” is).

A basic version of the above might look something like this chart showing different related ways to categorize concepts in their different forms (reality, as conceptuzeiations, as language, as fields of study, etc):

HOW TO SORT: When using categories there is a general desire to place a term in a category. But this is an awkward way to look at the world. Instead of doing this, place a term on its own two feet and consider each category to be a property. Then like an artist with a pain brush, dip your brush in a category and paint a term. A happy rock is a physical non-sentient thing, with metaphysical qualities. We should create a sub-category for this type, or we could simply dip our brush in both physics and metaphysics and define the categorical properties of the happy rock. Then, when all is said and done, the effect will be the same, we can sort by categorical properties.

ADVICE: The categories below can be considered to be covering: 1. all empirical and rational things, 2. all possible propositions, or 3. all possible fields of study and application. From properties, to concepts, to propositions, to arguments, to real physical systems, the idea is to have categories that “transcend.” Think of the categories below like a pallet, take a property, concept, judgement, argument, then apply to it all the categories that apply to it (where complex ideas like “all social systems” will end up being a member of nearly every category). that is how to understand these categories, which should be paired with other categorical theories for deeper understanding.

 General Category Physics (Physical Reality) Ethics (All Action) Logic (Rational Ideas) Metaphysics (Feelings)
Reality Being Change and relations Non-Being & Non-substance
Human Conception Non-Sentient Physical Systems Sentient Physical Systems Basic Action and Reaction Willfull action Logical Ideas Sentiments Imagination
Human Fields of Study (Examples) Geology, Astronomy, Physics in terms of the properties of physical systems. Biology Physics and Chemistry (in terms of actions and reactions), Engineering. TIP: Essentially a part of the physical, but the part that deals with forces and motion. Legal, Social Sciences (including aspects of Group Psychology). TIP: The part that deals with Human Action (and all purposefully action of sentient beings). Mathematics, Semantics. Moral Philosophy, Aspects of Psychology, and Cosmology.
Human Reason and Language Empirical A Posteriori and Objective Empirical A Posteriori and Objective Mix – Toward Empirical Mix – Toward Rational Rational A Priori and Objective. Mix – Speculative A Priori and Subjective (based partly on sentiments that have an aspect of empirical a Posteriori).
Qualities Aristotle’s Categories

The state of something and its being. Physical-substance (physical concepts), Relation, Quantity, Quality, State, and relative Position in spacetime.

The action and rules behind the action.

Ethical-substances (concepts of ethics) and cause and effect (in terms of sentient and non-sentient systems).

Kant’s categories

The rational-substances (rational concepts) and the mathematical and semantic rule-sets that govern them including Quantity, Quality, Relation, and Modality as it relates to the a priori and a posteriori and such (logic in the language form).

The metaphysic substances (concepts of imagined ideas and sentiments).
Probability Flavor Physically Quantum, but otherwise empirically certain. Physically Quantum, but otherwise empirically certain. But must account for factors related to sentience. Physically Quantum, but otherwise empirically and rationally certain. But must account for changing systems. Mix (deals with real physical systems and ideas). Logically certain, but purely rational (and thus not directly provable empirically). Uncertain by nature.

A chart showing a system of “transcendental” categories for concepts (and properties, propositions, and systems) that relates to the above chart: The above correlates to the following chart where we consider the physical, ethical, logical, and metaphysic aspects of physics, ethics, logic, and metaphysics. NOTE: These categories represent different “flavors.” Some flavors are pure (like the physical aspects of the physical; “the physical”) and some flavors are mixed (like the metaphysics of the physical). Mixed categories represent where transcendental knowledge and be categorized. The transcendental aesthetic, that is in the metaphysics of physics (and bleeds over into the physics of metaphysics). A synthetic a priori, that falls in the same category (it speaks to both the physics of metaphysics and the metaphysics of physics). Lastly, geometry, music, and color all have both physical and metaphysical qualities, aspects of them are therefore “transcendental.”

TIP: We can also subdivide into 1. natural philosophy (that which deals with the nature of the physical universe, all being and even the logic related to it) and 2. moral philosophy (that which deals with ethics and metaphysical sentiments). And we can subdivide any subject under the sun (0r not) and consider it as having an “applied” aspect (applying what we know) and a “philosophical” aspect (an aspect of theory, asking “what could be?”). This is covered further below and in our theory of knowledge.

TIP: The categories below should explain themselves with a little critical thinking. The physics of physics should be thought of as “the physical aspects of physical things.” Likewise, the ethics of physics is “action as it relates to physical things.” So the physical aspects of metaphysical ideas (sentiments and imagination) speak to real things like music, art, feelings as chemical reactions, and the metaphysical of physical things are more like the theory of physics, the theory of music, the theory of art (aesthetics). Both those cats are “of material natural philosophy and formal moral philosophy,” but they each express a different aspect of this relation. The way these categories bleed into each other is “transcendental.” When we dig deeper we see that to consider a system like geometry we need to also consider logic, but this simply creates a 3-way mix. We can also consider 4-way mixes, social science tends to pull from a mix of all 4 cats. This is why we can consider social systems to lay on-top or beneath this fundamental system in its own sub-system which draws from all four categories. See “the spheres of human understanding” for more on that.

The Categories Material Natural Philosophy Formal Natural Philosophy Material Moral Philosophy Formal Moral Philosophy
Material Natural Philosophy The Physics of Physics (the physical aspects of the physical). The Physics of Logic The Physics of Ethics The Physics of Metaphysics
Formal Natural Philosophy The Logic of Physics (rational rule-sets pertaining to physical things). The Logic of Logic The Logic of Ethics The Logic of Metaphysics
Material Moral Philosophy The Ethics of Physics (action as it relates to physical things). The Ethics of Logic The Ethics of Ethics The Ethics of Metaphysics
Formal Moral Philosophy The Metaphysics of Physics (theories and sentiments as they relate to the physical). The Metaphysics of Logic The Metaphysics of Ethics The Metaphysics of Metaphysics

Finally, the chart below speaks to how concepts/terms relate in logical statements (dealing with terms, logic, and reason in language): Now that we have a way to categorize concepts, we can now move onto categorizing propositions and the relations of terms in propositions using logic similar to Kant’s, which on a table (of logical judgements) looks like this:

NOTE: Each layer of category relates and speaks to another. Mortality universally speaks to men as a whole and to Socrates the man. Socrates and men are physical sentient beings, but mortality is a metaphysic concepts applied to physics (a metaphysic of physics). The statement all “men are mortal” is categorically physical -> universal -> metaphysic of physics. We now know this has somewhat of an uncertain probability (as we dipped a toe in the metaphysics and thus we now “don’t know for sure”). Logic can pull us out of this, showing us that the proposition is of the analytic a priori, but metaphysical questions like “perhaps all men aren’t mortal” pull as back in. The categories help us to understand what propositions we are working with, based on properties and relations, as anchored to concepts real and imagined, in propositions with their quantity, quality, relation, and modality, as can be found in complex reasoned arguments such as is found in this metaphysical system a priori of categories.

TIP: Below are four videos. One gives a “map of philosophy,” one a “map of the maths,” one a “map of chemistry,” and one a “map of physics.” All philosophy is essentially “of the metaphysics” to some extent, but regardless we can take each category from the philosophy below and place it under our categories above. Does it deal with ethics and action? Well then it goes in a category with the term “ethics in it.” Does it deal with the foundational logic of metaphysics? Well that is a sign it goes in the logic category (generally under the metaphysics of logic or the logic of metaphysics). Likewise, we can do the same for the other videos. Are we discussing chemistry? Well chemistry is a physical system, so it will go in cats that have the word physics in them, the ethics of physics perhaps (which is the category of physics that deals with action… and what is chemistry if not physical non-sentient things in action?). Are we discussing physics? Most of that will be covered under non-sentient action and the physical category itself, but of course there are lots of metaphysical aspects of that. Lastly, for the maths, while they are all rooted in logic, they also often relate to metaphysics. After-all theoretical physics is a thing of logic, but also of metaphysics and physics. Sure, the basics like a number itself are purely arational (but don’t they also speak to the physical act of counting?) If we consider theoretical math, it is metaphysic. When we consider change there are aspects of physical and non-sentient action going on. Yes, these categories transcend, and we’ll need to consider mixed categories, but this is why we use transcendental categories for the complex things that arise from the simple dualities. With that all in mind, we can take the systems in the videos below and place each category or subject or sub-set and place it neatly into our categories above. If we couldn’t, then this wouldn’t be a very good “system of fundamental categories of being and knowledge.”

The Map Of Philosophy. A basic overview of the branches, see our more complete list below. Notice the colors they use in their map. Yellow for logic, green for the physical, blue for metaphysics… these colors are consistent with western element theory and astrology. Are they convention or not? We won’t muse on that question of metaphysics, but let us just say, I know I did not pick them at random for our theory. The colors like the subjects have meaning. All philosophy is the art science of moving toward knowing and exploring that meaning.

The Map of Mathematics. Plato tells us to start with mathematics. One of the many smart things he suggested. Math is a very simple analogy for all real systems. If we can categorize math into the applied/empirical and pure/rational we are well on our way to connecting all the dots… and we can, and this video does, and this page connects those dots. No, I don’t yet have a master list of everything categorized, but if you understand this system you can none-the-less categorize everything (as I will do when I’m fully ready).

The Map of Chemistry. Arguments for a virtual simulation aside, while we can argue philosophy and math, it is hard for any empirical minded person to argue against chemistry. It is about as real as it gets… and guess what? The fact that it is the real basis of everything means that fitting it into our categories is very easy and symbolic of what we are doing with other fields to create a full list. A protein is real, made of real elements and real chemical re-ACTIONS, meanwhile the logic behind it is logical, and the application can be considered, and the metaphysics of it, etc. All systems, real and theoretical can be placed in the categories. Now, is this useful? Well, that is a whole other question.

The Map of Physics. If we can map out chemistry, then of course we can map out physics in a similar way. Both are physical systems in-action that form the foundation of being.

A Rough Explanation of the Categories

Speaking to the above, consider the following logic:

A system is a bounded set of properties (concepts, ideas, objects, etc). It is a conceptual idea that can be used to describe real physical (or metaphysical) systems.

In the system “reality and the way we talk about it” there are things that “are” (being, substance), and there are things that “aren’t” (non-being).

Of things that “are,” there are “physical substances” like physical objects (some sentient and some not), and [what one might call] “rational substances” like ideas (sentient beings can have ideas).

Physical substances move through spacetime (change), and, since there is more than one physical substance being and changing, there are also the relationships between physical substances in spacetime (relations).

All substances (sentient, non-sentient, and ideas), can be defined by their properties.

Physical properties of substances can be described by terms like quantity (how many and how much), force (an effect of having mass energy and motion), position in spacetime (place, time, situation, condition, etc), and by qualities (physical qualities like greenness, and, in the case of sentient beings, metaphysical qualities like happiness). TIP: Some properties of systems change, and other don’t.

Metaphysical properties of substances (such as the properties of rational substances like ideas) can also be described using many of the above terms.

All things that are physical systems share a few properties/qualities/attributes, one of these qualities is motion (another is possessing electromagnetic mass-energy). Because all physical substances are made out of “mass-energy in motion,” everything is always changing. Because there is change and relations, we get cause-and-effect and physics (actions and reactions)… and again, the same generally works as a metaphor for rational substances.

To re-cap, of physical things that are, there are sentient things (like a man), non-sentient things (like a rock), and non-physical things (like a thought a man has)…. and each of these things is defined by its properties and relations to nothing and other things.

Or in other words, there are objects, smart objects, and ideas (which when combined with an object; make that object smart). Smart objects with ideas can act and generally have free-will (or at least can act with purpose in the way a robot without free-will might). Thus, there is not only the physics of cause and effect, but also “willfull action.”

So there is being (physical: non-sentient, sentient, and rational: idea), non-being (nothing), change (physical: moving through spacetime and rational: changing idea), relations (physical: relative positions in spacetime and rational: relations of ideas), and action (physic and willfull).

Ideas are real just like physical beings are, but they aren’t exactly the same. Ideas are at best collections of stored electric impulses. Thus, as important as they are to the human understanding, they are not “exactly the same as a rock.”

Of ideas there are two kinds, those which come directly from our internal and external senses, and those that requires rationalization. All of these should be treated differently, as each by its nature implies a different “flavor of probability” when trying to determine truth values using that type of knowledge.

With the above in mind, when we state things, we do so using language. We can’t just translate reality directly to others. We must conceptualize and then speak in terms (or video tape and show images, or record and play audio, etc). In other words, to discuss anything we have to filter it through our perception and then transpose it to the language form.

When we conceptualize a thing (either through our external or internal senses or via rationalization), we call it a concept (it is the product of the process of conceptualization). When we speak of things or systems of things or ideas about things, we call the same concepts by the name “terms.”

Terms are placeholders for concepts, and concepts are placeholders for that which is being (non-sentient, sentient, and idea), non-being (nothing), change (moving through spacetime or an idea metaphysically changing), relations (relative positions in spacetime), and action (physic or will-full).

One type of term is a subject term, another is a predicate term, another is a relation term. When we make statements we are speaking in the language form about our conceptualizations of things in an effort to illustrate reality.

The last thing left to consider, now that we have a basis for reality and the language we use to talk about it, is the complex relations between sentient beings AKA “the social sphere” and its categories (all of which are predicated on reality and the human experience).

In terms of the sentient thing “people,” we can know about people and their relationships to other people including: ourselves (our thoughts, actions, and feelings), about our relationships with people (and interpersonal thoughts, actions, and feelings), about our relationships with groups (etc), or our relationships with the world/the-universal/the-great-being-non-being/etc (etc). We can also know about our relationship to the non-sentient physical world (and even in relation to non-being).

Likewise, we can know things about other people, other interpersonal relationships, other collective relationships, and about the relationship of the world to itself (See personal, interpersonal, collective, and “universal”).

In other words, we can know about all physical things (via direct experience or rationalization, we can know about the actions and reactions of things (both sentient and not), we can have ideas about things (based on experience, our own sentiments, or pure imagination), and we can use our imagination and feelings to better understand the relationships between these things…

…further, we can know about these things because they occur in reality to some extent. As, even though a thought isn’t tangible beyond some electric signals in a brain, the person whom has the brain is real. In this way, much of “what is real for humans” is predicated on the truism that in “true reality” beings (collections of quanta) exist in relative position in spacetime (charged with electromagnetic energy, in entropy).

In other words, the physics of physical substances is real (as far as we know), and the rest of the human experience arises because of this (it is predicated on it).

Thus, to create categories we have to not only deal with what really is in reality, but what is through the human lens. Then from there it is a matter of dealing with truth inside this framework.

To re-state this all simply, every concept or judgement that can be held within the grey matter of the human mind (and thus, every concept or judgement predicated on reality itself as we can witness it via the human lens) is either related to:

  • A thing (a being either sentient or not, a place, a group, an object, a force, etc). “Physics” or the category of physical things that Aristotle roots his categories in… this is the most provable true part of reality (the rest relates to human experience)… although our senses could be tricking us!
  • A thought of a sentient thing. “Logic” or the category of thoughts.
  • An action of a sentient thing (free-will actions).  “Ethics” or the category of actions.
  • A feeling / intuition / imagination of a sentient thing. “Metaphysics” or the category of sentiments.
  • The relations of these things. The relationships of logic and reason which Kant categorizes. And, importantly for humans, “social” things. In the reality of the human experience many systems we deal with are “social” systems (which are generally complex mixes of physical things, thoughts, actions, feelings, and personal, interpersonal, and collective relationships).

This forms the foundation of the “four primary categories of human knowledge” (the physical, thoughts, actions, and feelings), which are based on two core classes (the physical and rational), which are based on the nature of being, non-being, change, and relations, and which relate to the social world (the world of relations between sentient beings) and the world of ideas and language (as categorized by Kant).

TIP: There are “things,” and in the universe they are all made of the quanta and exist in relative position in spacetime (they can cause and affect, have, be in-position, etc). Some things are sentient. All sentient things “think,” “feel,” and “act” and thus we get physics, logic, ethics, and metaphysics. From here the only thing really left to do is deal with logical relations like Kant does (so we can figure out what we can know and determine likelihoods and truth values about logical judgements), to show how we make the categories positive using transcendental logic, and deal with social relations in the style of Comte (where we can relate social relations back to the physical). Of course its a bit more complex than that, so let’s keep peeling layers off the onion.

Clarifications on Ontology, Epistemology, and “the Categories”

With that introduction covered, let’s start again from the start.

The study of what we can know is called “epistemology,” it is a branch of philosophy that deals with logic, reason, truths, categorization, and such. The whole ends of epistemology is to better understand what we can know using logic and reason.

To understand what we can know, we have to also consider the nature of being (and non-being and change) and the corresponding basic categories of being and their relations. The study of being is called “ontology.”

In other words, epistemology studies human knowledge, and ontology studies being, and both use logic, reason, and categories. In order to know, we have to look beyond language and consider reality (then, when that is done, we can look back to language to tell us about reality).

What are “being” and “human knowledge?” In this case, “being” is short for all-that-is-or-isn’t AKA reality (not just as it relates to us, but the totality of everything in general) and human knowledge is short for everything we can know as humans (even things that aren’t grounded in reality, like an imagined idea; after-all, once we imagine it, it becomes real in the metaphysical sense). Or simply we can say: being, non-being, and change are being, and human experience, human understanding, human imagination, are all part of human knowledge. In other words, this is a metaphysical system of the categorizing of everything (but focused on the fundamental knowledge that logic, epistemology, and ontology study).

What are “the Categories?”

A system of categories is a complete list of highest kinds or genera where concepts are grouped together by shared qualities/attributes/properties. It is an aspect of metaphysics as it relates to logic, epistemology, and ontology.

Categorizing generally involves categorizing either 1. everything that can or might exist, 2. everything that does exist, 3. all possible human experience and understanding (a system of categorizing the elements of propositions), or 4. a portion of any of this.

The goal of this is to create a useful system to aid in philosophy (natural and moral).

Doctors categorize anatomy and cures, zoologists categorize animals, geologists categorize rocks, and some philosophers like Aristotle, Kant, and (many, many, many) more try to categorize “everything.”

We will try to categorize “everything” here.

NOTE: It is generally accepted that there is no one way to present “the categories” (a system of ontological and epistemological categories). Further, it is accepted that there is no one way to even understand the one’s that have been presented since Aristotle’s “categories.” With that in mind, this page takes the major theories and synthesizes them in a way that addresses modern concerns and arguments. The goal is to create a very useful system of categorical categories of being, logic, and epistemology to cover reality, concepts, logical judgements, reasoned inferences, complex reasoning, a posteriori, a priori, etc, etc. The idea will be to make a system that any other system can fit into nicely, and to present this in a logical way that makes it useful for human machine and digital machine alike.

Introduction to the Categories of Being

The categories of being, or simply “the categories,” are the classes under which all elements of being, whether existent or non-existent, whether material (empirical) or formal (rational), can be classified (it thus lays the groundwork for an epistemological theory of categorizing knowledge).

For example, an ultra-simplified version of these fundamental ontological categories might look like:

  • Everything A and B…
  • Everything A -> Classes of Things A.1 and A.2 -> Specific Things A.1.1, A.1.2, A.2.1, and A.2.2. …
  • Everything B -> Classes of Things B.1 and B.2 -> Specific Things B.1.1, B.1.2, B.2.1, and B.2.2. …
  • Everything A and sometimes B…
  • Everything B and sometimes A…
  • Everything not A or B…

The art/science of categorizing “reality” (including human experience and human understanding) and “lack-there-of” (including all non-physical things and rationalized ideas) goes back beyond any memorable name, but generally the first major work pertaining to this type of categorization is Aristotle’s realist work appropriately called “Categories” where he offers us:

  • The Primary categories of Being and Relation: Substance, Relation, Quantity and Quality.
  • The Secondary categories of Being and Relation: Place, Time, Situation, Condition, Action, Passion.

With that in mind, although we credit Aristotle with starting the conversation, his realist theory is a [in my opinion] lackluster place to start the conversation… as he skips over metaphysics and reality itself (not in his works in total, but in his Categories).

Thus, instead of starting with Aristotle, let’s start with Plato, as he offered us a much better starting point.

NOTE: Later authors placed his categories in that order of primary and secondary (we’ll cover Aristotle’s specifics below and others).

Reality, Process, Product, and Language

If one wants to categorize everything (in an effort to figure out “what we can know” and “how we can know it”), they need to define what “everything” means. So let’s do that.

  1. The first level is reality: that is what is independent of human experience. This is the ontological study of reality.
  2. The next level is dependent on the human experience: 2.1 That is our ability to sense reality as it is (process), 2.2, our thoughts/conceptions about that (product), and 2.3 the language we use to discuss the product and process (language). This is essentially the epistemological study of terms and concepts as it relates to reality (where each term, real or imagined, is a set of properties, real or imagined). This category bridges the gap between what-is independent of our experience and all that the human mind can know theoretically.
  3. The next level is a study of the truth of the language as it pertains to the product, process, and reality: This is where epistemology and logic and reason come in (they, combined with ontology, study our first two points). This is essentially the epistemological study of logic and reason as it relates to all the aforementioned. This level contains human knowledge.

A given system may address parts of all three levels, or one level specifically, it depends on the purpose of the system. Our system will aim to categorize all these systems under one system. As, to understand human knowledge, we must account for the other systems.

Reality and the Fundamental Categories; Being, Non-Being, and Change

Plato tells us that, fundamentally, things either: are (being), aren’t (non-being), or are becoming (change).

This concept stands at the foundation of the Socratic method and the concept of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, and it works as a placeholder for the foundation of epistemology and logic and reason (see abstraction).

Literally, take us out of the picture for a second, there are only three possible things that ARE. Before we care about how many, or what their quality is, or their essence, or their position in spacetime, or this cause-and-effect (i.e. before we care about Aristotle’s realist version of what is that we can sense) we have to consider only the noumenal world (that which truly is underneath everything).

There isn’t one way to express this, and I could point you at the Tao, use 1 and 0 (binary) as an example, explain photons and the standard model (and show you how its all really just electromagnetic energy, which is itself really just motion), or point you at Plato (we’ll go with Plato)… In all cases, the point is, if you peel back the onion, you’ll find that we can describe reality the same way we can describe an on-off switch. Either things are on, off, or in-between (just like light itself).

From endless complexity arises, and that complexity results in properties that we can conceptualize.

With that said, the above frames our true primary ontological categories (the ones that come before the mind-body distinction or Aristotle’s quantity or substance).

  • Primary Category of Reality: being-nonbeing-change.
  • Primary Category of Reality Distinction: 1. Non-Being, 2. Change, 3. Being

If we accepted this as a model, we can say everything in the universe falls under these categories, including importantly humans, human action, and human experience.

These categories also relate to the human experience as a metaphor (as ultimately everything we know is either gleaned through sensing the world around us, is a rationalized idea, or is a mix).

TIP: Plato (or Plato’s Socrates) can be credited with popularizing the concept of being and non-being in his Socratic Method (a method of contradiction and deduction), which Aristotle later riffed off of to create his works.


Once we introduce humans back into the mix, things get infinitely more complex, luckily the complexity arises from a simple duality (as it is with reality itself; “as above so below” as they say).

Consider, we can conceptualize a thing, the absence of a thing, or the change of a thing. We can also consider the relations between things, the position of things in spacetime, the state of things, and metaphysical qualities of things and their actions (like happy or just).

Whether we conceptualize based on sensory input (in empirical realist fashion), or based on pure ideas (in idealist rationalist fashion) the general metaphor works.

Consequently, we can categorize things based on these sort of properties (perceived and imagined qualities of things).

Human Knowledge and Conceptualization

Speaking to the above, to know something we must first conceptualize it. To conceptualize it we must experience something via our senses or rationalize it.

Thus, it stands to reason that simplest bit of information we can know (empirically or rationally), is a “concept” (which we can, and often do, call “a term.”)

So what is a concept? It is simply a collection of attributes/properties (according to “bundle theory;” explained below).

How can we know concepts and therefore terms? There are two generally ways (although both are informed by our external and internal senses):

  1. Intuition (empirical) describes anything that can be understood immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning (whether it arises internally, like an emotion, or externally, like a rock).
  2. Conceptualization (rational) describes anything that requires some degree of rationalization (like a happy rock).

With that in mind, all concepts/terms can be placed in categories based on the properties we intuit or conceptualize, for cases where a term is part rational and part empirical, like a happy rock, we can place it in a mixed category based on both its intuited and conceptualized properties. To connect it back to our categories of reality, either the rock is (being), is becoming (changing its physical or metaphysical state), or isn’t (was but no longer is). There isn’t much more a rock can do in reality, and thus there isn’t much more to rationalize about the rock. More on that below.

Concept, Judgement, Inferences, and arguments: Concepts are the result of denoting attributes/properties. A judgement is simply the art of comparing concepts (AKA logic). Meanwhile reason is the art of comparing judgements. We can categorize concepts (by their properties), judgements (by their properties, concepts, and relations of concepts), and reasoned arguments (that use a mix of concepts and judgements to make inferences and we can string together arguments to make complex arguments). This is how we apply logic and reason to dealing with reality. This system of categorization is metaphysical, but it has a synthetic quality of helping us understand “what actually is.”

Bundle Theory as an Overarching Theory and Other Notes

At this point we need a note. That is, this page makes a few assertions that are generally accepted, but are theory (and not just theory, but metaphysical theory AKA ideas). On this page we assert that:

  • All things (being, non-being, change, and ideas; everything we can conceptualize and everything that is in reality) can be defined as “bundles of properties.” That is true for abstractions (contradictions), values, actions, virtues, purely imagined ideas, etc. This is called “bundle theory” (see Wikipedia for other competing ontological theories).
  • Everything we can conceptualize is rooted in experience at some level. This is the idea that “all ideas are based on sensory experience or the experience of combinations and transformations of prior experiences of any sort (including hearing or reading about an idea).”
  • Objective, subjective, and relative truth all exist (but that ultimately everything is either true or isn’t; all truth is ultimately objective).
  • That we can devise categories based on the physislogosethos, and pathos under which all things empirical and rational can be classified. So all concepts and intuitions can be placed in one of those four categories or a mix.
  • That further, Kant’s version of Aristotle’s categories can be paired with those four aforementioned categories to present a ontological and epistemological theory that lays the groundwork for using logic and reason.

At the risk that those assertions are wrong, it helps to note that other alternatives to these parts of the puzzle exist.

HUME ON BUNDLE THEORY: Hume asks us to imagine an object without properties as a way to illustrate that bundle theory is correct. If we strip the black square of its properties (being black, regular, and quadrilateral) we end up reducing the object to non-existence. Our idea of a black square, in our mind or on paper, is simply a collection of its properties. If you take away the blackness and the lines and all properties of the square… then what is it? What noumenal widget is left? Nothing is the answer, save maybe the concept of a square, but take that metaphysic property away too, and at some point you are left with nothing. The photon has the properties charge, spin, mass, frequency, etc. If we take away those properties, then what is left? Vibrations in the em field? Take that away too. See where this is going? Concepts are simply collections of properties, and the concept of a formal system is simply a bounded set of properties in turn when we discuss systems in the language form via models and proportions. Some properties we can sense (actual or theoretical), some are metaphysical (like just or happy). If we have a happy square, and we take away its physical properties of blackness and lines, and we take away its metaphysical sentiment of happiness, and we are left with nothing, not an idea or physical being. “Things” are simply their properties and their relations. When electromagnetic energy is arranged in just the right geometric pattern, we call it an apple. Change a few things around, we call it an orange. Take away the geometry and its just light. Take away the properties of the electromagnetic energy, and it is non-being. All real systems are in entropy, all are in a constant state of change between being and non-being.

NOTE: Hume also asks us to imagine a world where everything is fair, then he asks “does justice have meaning in this world where everything is fair?” Unlike the bundle theory, which is near impossible to argue against (when paired with our theory below which accounts for contradiction and action and values, etc) his theory of sentiments is easier to pick apart. In a world where everyone is equal, perhaps justice becomes about rewarding those who deserve more with more. In a world where true justice (with all its inequalities) is absolute, then reality and justice simply take on the same meaning (that which is, and it is good). In a world where everything is black, black still has meaning. However, if you take away black from a world that is only black, you are left with nothing.

NOTE: Let’s not get caught up in the metaphysical debate around the above. Our model below accounts for all the “what ifs” by considering bundle theory as it relates to the physical, logical, ethical, and metaphysical as rooted in a theory of dialectic being, non-being, and change. There is only one reality, and there is room for debate, but we won’t be debating here.

The Two Primary Categories of Being: Under Which We Can Place All Concepts, Judgements, and Arguments

With all the above said, we now get to relate back everything to a simple system that works to categorize human knowledge in a useful way (based on the above groundwork).

To create general categories in which we can place all human knowledge (all concepts of being, non-being, and change as impressions of sensation, internal or external, or impressions of ideas; reality as filtered through the human lens, and thus including “thoughts and ideas”), we can state the following closely related judgements:

  1. Human knowledge is everything that can be known for sure or understood to any degree via experience (relates to being and change) or thought (relates to non-being).
  2. All knowledge that we can know directly via our senses is empirical, and all knowledge that we have to conceptualize is rational.

In simple terms that gives us two basic categories:

Empirical / Material (Based on Experience) Rational / Formal (Based on Ideas)
Physics (Empiricism) Logic (Rationalism)

TIP: The only note here is that some complex concepts, judgements, and arguments belong to a third “mixed” category (such is the case when they have both physical and rational elements).

The Four Primary Categories: Concepts and Judgements

A person is a physical being that uses logic, they can “change” at will (they have free-will to some degree), they can feel and imagine, and they are generally complex enough that is awkward to, for example, put places in the same general category as people, or ethics in the same category as logic.

To avoid the many complications of “man as an ethical and moral being,” we can use two additional categories suggested by the Greeks physislogosethos, and pathos (the Greeks specifically denote physis, logos, and ethos… but for a number of reasons, including because Kant himself suggested it in his Groundwork, it makes sense to consider also metaphysics which we can denote using the greek term pathos; which speaks to feeling, imagination, and “sentiment”).

With that above in mind, from this perspective, every concept or judgement that can be held within the grey matter of the human mind is either related to:

  • A physical thing and its motion (all physical objects and the cause and effect of Newton’s physics); The material one that relates to body.
  • A logical thought, rationalization, or conceptualization. The purely formal one that relates to mind.
  • A “metaphysical” thing such as a feeling / imagination / morals. The category that relates to the “soul.”
  • The intentions behind the purposeful action of a thing (the choices and customs behind our conduct born from values, rules, and free-will).

The category of things is called physics, the category of thought is called logic, the category of action is called ethics, and that category of imagination and feeling about that which isn’t purely empirical can be called metaphysics.

Spheres / Categories Empirical / Material (Based on Experience) Rational / Formal (Based on Ideas)
Natural Philosophy (Based on Experience) Physics (Empiricism; all physical things) Logic (Pure Logic and Reason)
Moral Philosophy (Based on Ideas) Ethics (Philosophy-in-Action; free-will) Metaphysics (Pure Philosophy; sentiments and imagination)

TIP: This theory continues down a rabbit of sorts where we consider mixes of each category, such as the “physics of metaphysics” or “logic of ethics.” That expansion of the theory allows for complex concepts and judgements to be placed in specific categories as well as broad. With that said, the four primary categories are generally agreed on by Aristotle and Kant… where the rest is a unique theory. For the unique part of the theory, see “the spheres of human understanding.”

TIP: At this point we could start classifying things in each category or could get meta and discuss the physics, of logic, of metaphysics, of ethics (etc) or things that belong in three or more categories (etc). Want to classify the animal kingdom? That is a logical system of the category of physics. Want to categorize the behavior and treatment of animals? That starts to dip into ethics. Want to categorize the law? That is a logical system of ethics. Etc. We aren’t going to get meta on this page and classify the arts and sciences and genre of every possible thing… all we want to do here is establish a basic system for categorizing epistemological knowledge. We don’t need or want to try to present a complete explanation of our current customs for categorizing every object on earth. Let us just say, math generally goes in the logic category, geology in the physics, geometry is a mix, theoretical physics is a mix of everything but ethics, and politics in its true and broadest form contains aspects of all four categories.

Aristotle’s Categories

Below we will a mix of our categories above (or the Greek categories plus Kant’s suggestion of metaphysics), Kant’s categories (based on Aristotle’s), and pull a few good ideas out of later category theorists. However, since it all starts with Aristotle, let us now note Aristotle’s categories.

Aristotle’s categories are realist ontological categories that roughly describe the states physical objects can be in. They don’t cover metaphysical ideas specifically, but they do relate back to them.

Understood loosely, we can place simple/complex/specific concepts and/or properties under most of these categories.

Essentially, these are categories of what sorts of subjects and predicates can be in propositions (as, putting aside some aspects of rationalization, all real things and all subjects and predicates are of the same type).

TIP: Aristotle didn’t tell us what his system applied to. Does it speak to reality? Does it speak to the human experience? Does it just speak to the physical aspects of the human experience? We don’t know for sure, but we can assume the last answer is the correct one. This is why it is called “realist.”

NOTE: Most of Aristotle’s terms can apply to all of the above four primary categories. Fundamentally, in terms of reality, all being is substance (and all non-being is the substance “non-being” the only metaphysical substance in reality speaking loosely), and the rest of the terms only help us understand substance (Where is it in spacetime? How many are there? What is it doing? etc). Applied to the primary categories of human experience/understanding/knowledge, this concept takes on new meaning. In logic, a substance is a logical-substance (like numbers), in ethics it is an ethical-substance (like the concept of law or the concept of conduct), in metaphysics it is a metaphysical substance (an idea like justice or a feeling like happiness). Under each category Aristotle’s terms take on new meaning.

Aristotle’s Categories (which are rooted in realism, but have room for metaphysical concepts) are:

  1. Substance or essence: This includes “primary substances”, like “Socrates,” which can’t be predicated on anything, and  secondary substances, like “man,” which are universals and can be predicated (Man is predicated of Socrates, and therefore all that is predicated of man is predicated of Socrates.) NOTE: In Aristotle’s method only physical objects are substance. In our system any concept that can be used as a subject term is essentially a substance. Thus, from Aristotle’s perspective this category is the same as our physical category above… from our perspective we have to be able to include an idea like “the categories” (as we can talk about it like it is a substance).
  2. Quantity: This is the extension of an object, and may be either discrete or continuous. Examples: two cubits long, number, space, (length of) time. NOTE: All things have quantity. Quantity describes a logical aspect of an object or idea. There are two apples, 1+1=2, there are 10 categories.
  3. Qualification or quality. This is the character of the nature of an object. Examples: white, black, grammatical, hot, sweet, curved, straight. NOTE: All physical objects are composed of qualities (properties) as are all logical, ethical, and metaphysical substances. Any concept is a collection of qualities. A thing is only its qualities, thus a substance is in some respects a collection of qualities (although in a more metaphysical sense quality just describes the words we call what we perceive about substances).
  4. Relative or relation. This is the way one object may be related to another. Examples: double, half, large, master, knowledge. NOTE: Like all things have quantity, all things have relativity. This is its actual relative position in spacetime, or its theoretical relation to a real object or idea. In a world with more than on thing in it, everything is relative to another thing.
  5. Where or place. Position in relation to the surrounding environment. Examples: in a marketplace, in the Lyceum. NOTE: Where describes the name we call a position in spacetime. It is a fairly physical thing.
  6. When or time. Position in relation to the course of events. Examples: yesterday, last year. NOTE: When describes the name we call a position in spacetime. It is a fairly physical thing.
  7. Being-in-a-position, posture, attitude. This is the form which a body is in (denoting both ending position). The examples Aristotle gives indicate that he meant a condition of rest resulting from an action: ‘Lying’, ‘sitting’, ‘standing’NOTE: Being in position… describes the name we call a position in spacetime (specifically the state the object is in). It is a fairly physical thing.
  8. Having or state, condition. This is the state something is in. The examples Aristotle gives indicate that he meant a condition of rest resulting from an affection (i.e. being acted on): ‘shod’, ‘armed’NOTE: This describes a specific set of qualities that aren’t inherent to an object. It is a state, not a fundamental property of an object. A box has the quality of being able to hold things, a box that is full is in a state of being full.
  9. Doing or action. A cause of any sort. This denotes change; an action being taken. Ex. running. NOTE: This describes change. We can consider the action itself, or the ethics behind the conduct, the metaphysic morals behind the ethics, or the physics behind the action. This is cause.
  10. Being affected or affection. An effect of any sort. The reception of change from some other object (or from the affected object itself qua other). For action he gave the example, ‘to lance’, ‘to cauterize’; for affection, ‘to be lanced’, ‘to be cauterized.’ His examples make clear that action is to affection as the active voice is to the passive voice — as acting is to being acted onNOTE: This describes change as well, but it is the effect (the action is the cauterization, the becoming cauterized is the affect).

In other words, a thing either is (a substance, which has qualities, exists in relative position to other objects in spacetime) and/or is becoming (acting, doing, affecting). Simple-ish. Now apply that to ideas like we did above and it gets messy. That is OK though, these categories are good and we can simply file them under our other categories above. However, to speak to a more full system of human knowledge we really do need to consider ideas… and that is where Kant comes in.

TIP: Aristotle adds more categories in his works on logic and metaphysics. Kant obviously gleaned those categories. Aristotle also wrote books call physics, logic, ethics, and metaphysics. So let’s not act like Aristotle was missing something, he just didn’t tie it all together in a way that left no room for Kant or Hegel to come along and improve things.

Kant’s Categories of Judgements and Categories (Categories that Relate to Judgements and Reasoning)

Kant complained that Aristotle essentially used categories that came to his mind (those which he could think of; perhaps by asking himself a list of questions about what he saw around him and experienced in the physical world).

Thus, Aristotle’s categories work wonders for dealing with categorizing physical things, but become rather lackluster when dealing with logic and reason. Kant’s passion was for metaphysics, and thus Kant needed to deal with ideas and judgements (process, product, and language and logic and reason).

Kant aimed to categorize things into a more logical system which could truly form the basis of all epistemology… but we can argue Kant ignored the underlying reality to focus on logic, reason, and specifically judgements. With that note added, let’s look at what Kant laid down.

First, take a look at the following Kantian tables which illustrate the theory, then we will do a long list of dentitions to describe each term.

Here is Kant’s table of judgements (judgments are essentially propositional cognitions; a judgment in this sense is both a conceptualization and logical proposition that compares concepts; thus we are speaking to process, product, and language first and foremost here) which he bases his categories on.

FACT: Theories of judgment, whether cognitive (i.e., object-representing, thought-expressing, truth-apt) judgment or practical (i.e., act-representing, choice-expressing, evaluation-apt) judgment, bring together fundamental issues in semantics, logic, cognitive psychology, and epistemology (collectively providing for what can be called the four “faces” of cognitive judgment) as well as action theory, moral psychology, and ethics (collectively providing for the three “faces” of practical judgment). In other words, Kant is pointing toward the same thing we are (where we have denoted it by reality as it pertains to our four categories expressed by logic and reason expressing the process, product, and language forms), but ultimately is focusing on expressing this through the study of logical judgements. See Kant’s Theory of Judgment.[4]

For this table:

  • Quantity: In terms of relation, how much if any of a concept relates to another concept. Universal judgments are of the form “All Fs are Gs”; that particular judgments are of the form “Some Fs are Gs”; and that singular judgments are of the form “This F is G” or “The F is G.”
  • Quality: In terms of relation, is a thing like another thing or not. Affirmative judgments are of the form “it is the case that Fs are Gs” (or more simply: “Fs are Gs”), negative judgments are of the form “no Fs are Gs”; and infinite judgments are of the form “Fs are non-Gs.”
  • Relation: By relation, since two systems share properties, then a third one… Where, categorical judgments repeat the simple atomic (elementary) 1-place subject-predicate form “Fs are Gs”; molecular hypothetical judgments are of the form “If Fs are Gs, then Hs are Is” (or: “If P then Q”); and molecular disjunctive judgments are of the form “Fs are either Gs or Hs or …” (where each partition of the total domain is mutually exclusive and the total set of partitions is exhaustive).
  • Modality: An assertoric proposition in Aristotelian logic merely asserts that something is (or is not) the case, in contrast to problematic propositions which assert the possibility of something being true, or apodeictic propositions which assert things which are necessarily or self-evidently true or false. The three kinds of modalities of a judgment (three modes of a judgement) are supposed by Kant to capture the three basic ways in which the copula of a simple 1-place subject-predicate proposition “contributes nothing to the content of the judgment … but rather concerns only the value of the copula in relation to thinking in general.” In Kant’s terms, problematic judgments are of the form “Possibly, Fs are Gs” (or: “Possibly P”); assertoric judgments are of the form “Actually, Fs are Gs” (or: “Actually P”); and apodictic judgments are of the form “Necessarily, Fs are Gs” (or: “Necessarily P”).

If that seems like all Kant is doing is discussing the different ways that simple 1-place subject-predicate propositions relate, then we agree.

This then isn’t “a category of everything” but only a category of the relations of judgements. Thus, this is useful for deduction and induction (where when dealing with propositions in syllogism each of the relations is notably important), but it is not much of a theory of everything (in my opinion).

While I would agree with Kant that: “judgment is the central cognitive activity of the human mind, and judgments are objectively valid and true if and only if the metaphysics of transcendental idealism (the idea that ideas can tell us about reality) is correct…” it does not mean that the judgement form (a thing of language) is the best stopping point for categorization (i.e. Kant is generally correct, but like Aristotle, I think we’ll do well to re-synthesize their theories).

With that in mind, Kant also transposed this into a table of categories.

Here is Kant’s table of categories.

Category Categories
Quantity Unity Plurality Totality
Quality Reality Negation Limitation
Relation Inherence and Subsistence (substance and accident) Causality and Dependence (cause and effect) Community (reciprocity)
Modality Possibility Actuality Necessity

To understand the above you need to understand quantity, quality, relation, and modality. That shouldn’t be too hard, after-all Aristotle already introduced us to this concept.

  • Quantity: Either a thing is one, one or more, or all.
  • Quality: Either a thing is, isn’t, or is sometimes.
  • Relation: Either a thing relies on itself, is dependent on cause and effect,
  • Modality: Either a thing is possible, is, or is necessary.

The following is Kant’s list of twelve “categories”, made up of four groups (called “moments”) of three categories each[2], with some explanatory and critical comments by me:[5]

The following part of the page, including the comments, is currently copy and pasted from Logical and Spiritual REFLECTIONS Book 2. A Short Critique of Kant’s Unreason.

  • Quality = reality, negation, limitation. I would refer to this group as Polarity, and to its first two members as respectively presence and absence (of some specified thing, entity, character or event); these are contradictories, of course. To use the word “reality” here would not be accurate, since we are in fact on a phenomenological level of consideration. Regarding limitation, this could be defined as “X is present till Y and absent beyond Y” (where X is some thing and Y is some point in space and time). Thus, limitation is effectively a compound of presence and absence; and it involves a notion of space and/or time, subdividing a whole into parts. The categories of Quality play a role in those of inherence and subsistence.

  • Quantity = unity, plurality, totality. Quantity, here, means Number (or Scope). Unity refers to this one, i.e. some indicated single (thing); plurality refers to an unspecified number of units, i.e. many, more than one (thing); and totality to all (things of a certain group). Note that totality (all) may be taken as a special case of plurality (some unspecified number), or as contrary to plurality (if the latter is read as ‘only some’). Totality also presupposes that we have already delimited some group of things. Thus, the categories of Quantity ought to be related to the category of community, if we understand the latter as referring to classification (see below).

  • Modality = existence, possibility, necessity. Modality is aptly named, but existence here should more accurately be called actuality; it means this indicated fact, here and now or there and then (a precise space and time position is specified). Possibility may mean some conditions or only some conditions; the latter is called contingency, the former includes necessity as an alternative to contingency. Necessity refers to something that occurs under all conditions. Comparing modality to quantity, we see that the three modalities are special cases of the three quantities, applicable specifically to numbers of conditions. Modality is also closely related with Causation.

  • Relation = inherence and subsistence, causality and dependence, community. I suppose that Kant had in mind here categorical, conditional and disjunctive propositions; thus, by Relation he meant the Copula of categorical propositions, or more broadly the Forms of conditional (if-then-) or disjunctive (either-or-) ones. Note that his three categories are defined through five subcategories, here, breaking the desired symmetry somewhat. The first pair of relations is based on the formal notions of subject and predicate; it is thus usually interpreted as referring to ‘substance and accident’, i.e. to entities and their properties. The second pair is interpreted as ‘cause and effect’; but note that though causation(the kind of causality here apparently intended) is a compound of conditional propositions, it does not follow that these forms are equivalent; moreover, volition and natural spontaneity do not seem to have been given a place in this scheme. With regard to the last category, ‘community’, more will be said further on.

Synthesizing the Categories

Now, back to my work, let’s add everything above back into one system.

  • A physical thing and its motion (all physical objects and the cause and effect of Newton’s physics); The material one that relates to body. This includes the physical-substance (being, that which is in reality including all positions in spacetime, cause, effect, and action; but not the will to act or any rationalization behind it).
  • A logical thought, rationalization, or conceptualization. The purely formal one that relates to mind. This category includes logical-substances (like numbers, rational ideas, judgements, etc). All human thought is in this category, all of Kant’s terms go in this category. When we explain things in the language form, it is part of reality, but it is logical reasoning.
  • A “metaphysical” thing such as a feeling / imagination / morals. The category that relates to the “soul.” When a physical being feels things or imagine things it is metaphysics. All non-being is of this category, and that which isn’t pure rational reason bleeds into this category.
  • The intentions behind the purposeful action of a thing (the choices and customs behind our conduct born from values, rules, and free-will). All conduct, human action, and in terms of metaphysics and reason the rules behind that action and conduct belongs in this category. Cause and effect and action speak to this category.

Since terms overlap between categories it is helpful to consider more categories, specifically to consider mixes of our four primary and how Aristotle and Kant’s concepts relate.

NOTE: There is some serious over-lap between categories here (which for me is a sign that this level is a good level to subdivide into). What is the difference between the physical aspects of metaphysics and the metaphysical aspect of the physical? Great question! Part of me says one contains F=ma and the concept of beauty and the other contains force and a beautify object. The other part of me says, these categories as simply transcendental and bleed into each other to such a degree that we should treat the physics of metaphysics and the metaphysics of physics as being of the same transcendental category. I assume this will become clear over time, for now each of the 12 gets its own definition, but can none-the-less be considered transcendental in the cases where we get a mixed category (like the metaphysics of physics) and pure when we get a pure (in the sense of “only” not in the sense of “formal rationalized idea”) category (like the physics of physics).

  • The Physics of Physics (material physics) describes that which is (like a rock); the purely external that can be experienced directly (or via measurement tools). All action that does not involve free-will is this. Literally physics and also “being”.
  • The Logic of Physics (pure logical physics) describes the logic of that which is (like F=ma, the logic of how a rock falls on earth); describes the logical aspects of theoretical physics (the mechanics of physics).
  • The Ethics of Physics (ethical material physics) describes the art of correct experiment and measurement (for example the art of employing the scientific method); also the social sciences touch upon this category. Also could describe things like how to treat the earth, or perhaps even how a positive and negative charge attract.
  • The Metaphysics of Physics (pure metaphysical physics) describes aspects of theoretical physics; and the art of appreciating beauty and earthly pleasures (aesthetics); our emotions arise from here (on a chemical level).
  • The Physics of Logic describes the literal equations we use (how formulas work).
  • The Logic of Logic describes the formal logic behind the equations.
  • The Ethics of Logic, the best ways and best practices of using logical rule-sets (from math to rhetoric and reason).
  • The Metaphysics of Logic, from theoretical mathematics to theories like Gödel’s, to theories of influence, rhetoric, and reason.
  • The Physics of Ethics, practical ethics in action (the action).
  • The Logic of Ethics, the logic behind the action.
  • The Ethics of Ethics, manners and such (considerations on the action).
  • The Metaphysics of Ethics, the moral and theoretical considerations of ethical rule-sets.
  • The Physics of Metaphysics, morals in action, practical philosophy, emotional reactions (that which one can experience even if they can’t define or measure); the Church is a thing of physics and metaphysics.
  • The Logic of Metaphysics, epistemology, the logic behind theorizing on what we can’t know for sure and that which we can.
  • The Ethics of Metaphysics, considerations for actions based on morals.
  • The Metaphysics of metaphysics, the study of that which we know we cannot know in any other way except internally; includes pure theology.
Spheres Material Natural Philosophy Formal Natural Philosophy Material Moral Philosophy Formal Moral Philosophy
Material Natural Philosophy The Physics of Physics The Physics of Logic The Physics of Ethics The Physics of Metaphysics
Formal Natural Philosophy The Logic of Physics The Logic of Logic The Logic of Ethics The Logic of Metaphysics
Material Moral Philosophy The Ethics of Physics The Ethics of Logic The Ethics of Ethics The Ethics of Metaphysics
Formal Moral Philosophy The Metaphysics of Physics The Metaphysics of Logic The Metaphysics of Ethics The Metaphysics of Metaphysics

Now we have something that can really express what we mean about reality, process, product, language, and action… and with this we can verify truth (to what ever degree is possible for that category) based on what type of truth we are dealing with.

Again, I’m not saying this is the only way to categorize ideas, instead I’m simply pointing out that it is a system that can contain all other systems.

Want do deal with the logic of pure mathematics? That is what I call (but might need a name change) the logic of logic. When we make a mathematical judgement, and we want to consider it only as such, then we needn’t consider its truth in other realms. We can deal with it in the conceptual language form, and it can be true for that category. If we want to apply it to physics, ethics, or metaphysics, then we can understand that it will take on new qualities.

In other words, each primary category in its regular version and in its mixed version has a set of qualities. Things that can be placed in that category share these properties, and thus different rule-sets apply. In the true reality of physical spacetime, the physics of physics, everything is at its core made of “light” and is probabilistic. Truth works a certain way, all is covered by the laws of physics. This is not true for metaphysics, which we must work with in the language form for it arises for the first time in the process of intuition and conceptualization. Metaphysics (floating forms aside) was never in the sphere/category of physics, it has a different flavor of probability and it tells us different things about the world.

If we want to transcend the categories, moving from idealism to realism, from physics to metaphysics, we must accept that we are transposing between systems that have different properties. In doing this we are creating another flavor of probability, and we are dealing with induction.

When we argue, “the act is immoral, because this physical system, let me explain it rationally, using logic” we can know that we are speaking of different categories and spheres (and by knowing that we can know the quality of not only the proposition but the nature of the concept behind it, and thus we can know things like its probable truth-values).

TIP: Excuse the half-finished state (metaphysic / logical) of this page (a physical thing). Want to publish it (action) and work on it live (action). Not sure what the ethics of that is (what is proper conduct for a half finished page?)… but like “free-will” I can do that, despite the affect it may have on my image. As my image is something that relates to others who write online, I share properties with that in a realist and idealist sense. That is going to come back to how much physical dollars I can make, but those physical dollars are numbers in a bank based on a social system backed by confidence… yadda yadda, the world is complex, especially with the human experience involved, and that is why “the categories.” Alright, off to enjoy some vices and virtues this weekend, mostly virtues (assuming wine is a virtue).


  1. Category of being
  2. Categories
  3. category of being
  4. Kant’s Theory of Judgment
  5. Logical and Spiritual REFLECTIONS Book 2. A Short Critique of Kant’s Unreason

"A System of Categories of Being and Knowledge" is tagged with: Epistemology, Immanuel Kant, Logic and Reason, Philosophy of Language, Plato. Aristotle. and Other Greek Philosophers, Systems

What do you think?