Categorial Description

  • Brian Carr
Part of the Modern Introductions to Philosophy book series (MIP)


Metaphysics is one branch of Philosophy, but arguably more fundamental than other branches such as Epistemology (the Theory of Knowledge), Philosophy of Mind or Moral Philosophy. Sometimes it has received disparaging attacks as a noncognitive and hence nonsensical enterprise, a fate suffered notoriously during the present century at the hands of the philosophical movement known as ‘logical empiricism’. Whether any such charge against it is just and fair depends however on quite what metaphysicians are up to, and it must be admitted that many such philosophers have had greater ambitions for their subject than seem in retrospect to be prudent. To reveal the true nature of reality, its contents and structure, to place man within the cosmos in his relation to other kinds of things and to his creator, to determine man’s duty to himself and to God, and the true route to happiness — those are common enough ambitions, exhibited in the works of Plato, Descartes, Leibniz, Spinoza, Bradley and so on. No wonder its advocates have exalted the metaphysical pursuit!


Fundamental Feature Moral Philosophy Conceptual Scheme Moral Fact Categorial Description 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    Aristotle, Categories 1b25: the quotation is taken from the translation, with notes, by J. L. Ackrill, Aristotle’s Categories and De Interpretatione (Oxford University Press, 1963), p. 5.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    J. L. Ackrill, op. cit., p. 78.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    I. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, 2nd edn (J. F. Hartknoch, Riga, 1787). These categories are listed in the first chapter of the section called ‘Analytic of Concepts’.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
  5. 5.
    R. G. Collingwood, Essay on Metaphysics (Oxford University Press, 1940).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    I. Kant, op. cit., ‘Analytic of Principles’.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    P. F. Strawson, Individuals (Methuen, London, 1959) p. 9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Ibid., pp. 9–10.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Ibid., p. 10.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    I. Kant, op. cit., ‘Analytic of Concepts’.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    R. Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy (Paris, 1641).Google Scholar
  12. References are to the translation of the 2nd edition (1642) included in E. Anscombe and P. T. Geach, translators and editors, Descartes: Philosophical Writings (Nelson, London, 1964).Google Scholar
  13. 12.
    R. Descartes, ibid., p. 67.Google Scholar
  14. 13.
    B. Williams, Descartes: The Project of Pure Enquiry (Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1978) p. 112.Google Scholar
  15. 14.
    R. Descartes, op. cit., p. 61.Google Scholar
  16. 15.
    R. Descartes, op. cit., p. 114.Google Scholar
  17. 16.
    E. Anscombe and P. T. Geach, op. cit., pp. 193–4.Google Scholar
  18. 17.
    A category account of facts is presented in D. W. Hamlyn, ‘The Correspondence Theory of Truth’, Philosophical Quarterly, XII (1962), pp.193–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 18.
    G. E. Moore, Principia Ethica (Cambridge University Press, 1903).Google Scholar

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© Brian Carr 1987

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  • Brian Carr

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