How to think using General Philosophical Categories
A category system is a comprehensive catalog of the highest kinds or genera. Following Aristotle, these have traditionally been thought of as the highest genera of entities (in the broadest sense), so that a system of categories undertaken in this realist spirit would ideally provide an inventory of everything there is, thus answering the most basic of metaphysical questions: “What is there?” Skepticism regarding our ability to distinguish a unique system of basic categories of’ reality itself’ has led some to approach category systems with the goal of illuminating the categories of our conceptual system or language, rather than documenting the highest kinds in the world itself. By sketching, Kant transitions to a conceptualist method.
Edmund Husserl approaches categories in this manner, because he begins by laying out categories of meanings, which can then be used to draw out ontological categories (categories of possible objects meant) as the correlates of the meaning categories.
Skepticism about the possibility of offering a uniquely true and complete system of ontological categories has shifted discussion of categories away from attempts to offer complete systems of categories and toward attempts to draw specific distinctions, particularly among our conceptual or linguistic categories. Unlike work on category systems, work on category differences is frequently framed as a technique of identifying and avoiding various philosophical issues and confusions. Even those who merely argue for category differences must explain for the circumstances under which two concepts, phrases, or objects belong to different categories.