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the division into substance and accident, was undoubtedly not overlooked by Aristotle, and Fr. Brentano[1] has collected with great diligence passages which indicate how the complete list might have been deduced from this primary distinction. His tabular arrangements (pp. 175, 177) are particularly deserving of attention. The results, however, are hardly beyond the reach of doubt.

There was no fundamental change in the doctrine of the categories from the time of Aristotle to that of Kant, and only two proposed reclassifications are of such importance as to require notice. The Stoics adopted a fivefold arrangement of Later
highest classes, γενικώτατα. τὸ ὄν or τὶ, Being, or somewhat in general, was subdivided into ὑποκείμενα or subjects, ποιά or qualities in general, which give definiteness to the blank subject, πὼς ἔχοντα, modes which further determine the subject, and πρός τι πὼς ἔχοντα, definite relative modes. These categories are so related that each involves the existence of one higher than itself, thus there cannot be a πρός τι πὼς ἔχον which does not rest upon or imply a πὼς ἔχον, but πὼς ἔχον is impossible without ποιόν, which only exists in ὑποκείμενον, a form or phase of τὸ ὄν.[2]

Plotinus, after a lengthy critique of Aristotle’s categories, sets out a twofold list. τὸ ἔν, κίνησις, στάσις, ταὐτότης, ἑτερότης are the primitive categories (πρῶτα γένη) of the intelligible sphere. οὐσία, πρός τι, ποιά, ποσόν, κίνησις are the categories of the sensible world. The return to the Platonic classification will not escape notice.

Modern philosophy, neglecting altogether the dry and tasteless treatment of the Aristotelian doctrine by scholastic writers, gave a new, a wider and deeper meaning to the categories. They now appear as ultimate or root notions, the metaphysical Modern philosophy. or thought elements, which give coherence and consistency to the material of knowledge, the necessary and universal relations which obtain among the particulars of experience. There was thus to some extent a return to Platonism, but in reality, as might easily be shown, the new interpretation was, with due allowance for difference in point of view, in strict harmony with the true doctrine of Aristotle. The modern theory dates in particular from the time of Kant, who may be said to have reintroduced the term into philosophy. Naturally there are some anticipations in earlier thinkers. The Substance, Attribute and Mode of Cartesianism can hardly be classed among the categories; nor does Leibnitz’s chance suggestion of a fivefold arrangement into Substance, Quantity, Quality, Action and Passion, and Relations, demand any particular notice. Locke, too, has a classification into Substances, Modes and Relations, but in it he has manifestly no intention of drawing up a table of categories. What in his system corresponds most nearly to the modern view of these elements is the division of kinds of real predication. In all judgments of knowledge we predicate either (1) Identity or Diversity, (2) Relation, (3) Co-existence, or necessary connexion, or (4) Real existence. From this the transition was easy to Hume’s important classification of philosophical relations into those of Resemblance, Identity, Time and Place, Quantity or Number, Quality, Contrariety, Cause and Effect.

These attempts at an exhaustive distribution of the necessary relations of all objects of knowledge indicate the direction taken by modern thought, before it received its complete expression from Kant.

The doctrine of the categories is the very kernel of the Kantian system, and, through it, of later German philosophy. To explain it fully would be to write the history of that philosophy. The categories are called by Kant Root-notions of the Kant. Understanding (Stammbegriffe des Verstandes), and are briefly the specific forms of the a priori or formal element in rational cognition. It is this distinction of matter and form in knowledge that marks off the Kantian from the Aristotelian doctrine. To Kant knowledge was only possible as the synthesis of the material or a posteriori with the formal or a priori. The material to which a priori forms of the understanding were applied was the sensuous content of the pure intuitions, Time and Space. This content could not be known by sense, but only by intellectual function. But the understanding in the process of knowledge makes use of the universal form of synthesis, the judgment; intellectual function is essentially of the nature of judgment or the reduction of a manifold to unity through a conception. The specific or type forms of such function will, therefore, be expressed in judgments; and a complete classification of the forms of judgments is the key by which one may hope to discover the system of categories. Such a list of judgments Kant thought he found in ordinary logic, and from it he drew up his well-known scheme of the twelve categories. These forms are the determinations of all objects of experience, for it is only through them that the manifold of sense can be reduced to the unity of consciousness, and thereby constituted experience. They are a priori conditions, subjective in one sense, but objective as being universal, necessary and constitutive of experience.

The table of logical judgments with corresponding categories is as follows:—


Of Quantity
Of Quality
Of Relation
Inherence and Subsistence (Substance and Accident).
Causality and Dependence (Cause and Effect).
Community (Reciprocity).
Of Modality
Possibility and Impossibility.
Existence and Non-Existence.
Necessity and Contingency.

Kant, it is well known, criticizes Aristotle severely for having drawn up his categories without a principle, and claims to have disclosed the only possible method by which an exhaustive classification might be obtained. What he criticized in Aristotle is brought against his own procedure by the later German thinkers, particularly Fichte and Hegel. And in point of fact it cannot be denied that Kant has allowed too much completeness to the ordinary logical distribution of propositions; he has given no proof that in these forms are contained all species of synthesis, and in consequence he has failed to show that in the categories, or pure conceptions, are contained all the modes of a priori synthesis. Further, his principle has so far the unity he claimed for it, the unity of a single function, but the specific forms in which such unity manifests itself are not themselves accounted for by this principle. Kant himself hints more than once at the possibility of a completely rational system of the categories, at an evolution from one single movement of thought, and in his Remarks on the Table of the Categories gave a pregnant hint as to the method to be employed. From any complete realization of this suggestion Kant, however, was precluded by one portion of his theory. The categories, although the necessary conditions under which alone an object of experience can be thrown, are merely forms of the mind’s own activity; they apply only to sensuous and consequently subjective material. Outside of and beyond them lies the thing-in-itself, which to Kant represented the ultimately real. This subjectivism was a distinct hiatus in the Kantian system, and against it principally Fichte and Hegel directed criticism. It was manifest that at the root of the whole Fichte. system of categories there lay the synthetizing unity of self-consciousness, and it was upon this unity that Fichte fixed as giving the possibility of a more complete and rigorous deduction of the pure notions of the understanding. Without the act of the Ego, whereby it is self-conscious, there could be no knowledge, and this primitive act or function must be, he saw, the position or affirmation of itself by the Ego. The first principle then must be that the Ego posits itself as the Ego, that Ego = Ego, a principle which is unconditioned both in form and matter, and therefore capable of standing absolutely first, of being the prius in a system. Metaphysically regarded this act of self-position yields the categories of Reality. But, so far as matter is concerned, there cannot be affirmation without negation, omnis determinatio est negatio. The determination of the Ego presupposes or involves the Non-Ego. The form of the proposition in which this second act takes to itself expression, the Ego is not = Not-Ego, is unconditioned, not derivable from the first. It is the absolute antithesis to the primitive thesis. The category of Negation is the result of this second act. From these two propositions, involving absolutely opposed and mutually destructive elements, there results a third which reconciles both in a higher synthesis. The notion in this third is determination or limitation; the Ego and Non-Ego limit, and are opposed to one another. From these three positions Fichte proceeds to evolve the categories by a series of thesis, antithesis and synthesis. In thus seizing upon the unity of self-consciousness as the origin for systematic development, Fichte has clearly taken a step in advance of, and yet in strict harmony with, the Kantian doctrine. For, after all that can be said as to the demonstrated character of formal logic, Kant’s procedure was empirical, and only after the list of categories had been drawn out, did he bring forward into prominence what gave them coherence and reality. The peculiar method of Fichte, also, was nothing but a consistent application of Kant’s own Remark on the Table of the Categories. Fichte’s doctrine, however, is open to some of the objections advanced against Kant. His method is too abstract and external, and wants the unity of a single principle. The first two of his fundamental propositions stand isolated from one another, not to be resolved into a primitive unity. With him, too, the whole stands yet on the plane of subjectivity. He speaks, indeed, of the universal Ego as distinct from the empirical self-consciousness; but the universal does not rise with him to concrete spirit. Nevertheless the Wissenschaftslehre contains the only real advance in the treatment of the categories from the time of Kant to that of Hegel.[3] This, of

  1. Brentano, Bedeutung des Seienden nach A., pp. 148-178.
  2. For detailed examination of the Stoic categories, see Prantl, Ges. d. Logik, i. 428 sqq.; Zeller, Ph. d. Griech. iii. 1, 82, sqq,; Trendelenburg, Kateg. p. 217.
  3. It does not seem necessary to do more than refer to the slight alterations made on Kant’s Table of Categories by J. G. von Herder (in the Metakritik), by Solomon Malmon (in the Propadeutik zu einer neuen Theorie des Denkens), by J. F. Fries (in the Neue Kritik der Vernunft), or by Schopenhauer, who desired to reduce all the categories to one—that of Causality. We should require a new philosophical vocabulary even to translate the extraordinary compounds in which K. C. F. Krause expounds his theory of the categories. Notices of the changes introduced by Antonio Rosmini-Serbati, and of Vincenzo Gioberti’s remarkable theory, will be found in Ragnisco’s work referred to below.