Research Topic

Conceptual Categories and the Structure of Reality: Theoretical and Empirical Approaches

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The assignment to categories of an individual event, object, state of being, and so on, are all fundamental activities carried out by human and other animals. So rudimentary are the processes involved in categorizing that it is indeed impossible to imagine conscious awareness to exist without the presence of ...

The assignment to categories of an individual event, object, state of being, and so on, are all fundamental activities carried out by human and other animals. So rudimentary are the processes involved in categorizing that it is indeed impossible to imagine conscious awareness to exist without the presence of categories. As a consequence of the venerated status of categories a considerable body of academic writing has been brought forth on the subject of categories dating from the times of Classical philosophy. One of the earliest attempts to form an understanding of the categories we use to structure our worlds was produced by Aristotle in his Categories, in which he suggested 10 ontological categories to account for human experience. A number of other categorically structured ontologies have been proposed over the centuries since, including those by Lowe, Westerhoff, Chisholm, etc. Thus far I have considered the research of philosophers but psychologists have also devoted considerable time and energy to the investigation of categories as these are used to structure our understanding of reality. Seminal amongst these psychological approaches are probably those of George Kelly and his collaborators in their work within the area of personal construct psychology, and Louis Guttman, and his colleagues within the rubric of facet theory.


In this Research Topic the authors take on the presentation of current thinking in the area of categorically structured ways of understanding the world around us. While authors must ensure that papers fall within the scope of the section, as expressed in its mission statement, with a primary focus on psychology theory and content, they are encouraged to draw from the domains of metaphysics, facet theory, personal construct psychology and the broader areas of philosophy and psychology, where relevant, so as to enrich their papers. Psychologists use the term construct when describing the mental entities that we use to structure our understanding of the everyday world around us. Philosophers, on the other hand, use the term of ontological category to describe our most basic or fundamental mental structures. Psychologists may speak about construct networks or webs to epitomize the way in which constructs may inter-relate whilst metaphysicians may describe this as a mereology. In this Research Topic the questions that are addressed include a consideration of constructs and ontological categories as basic units of meaningful categorisation and construct networks and mereologies and their respective combinatorial existence.


Through the presentation of the articles drawing from these different disciplines it is hoped to assess the contemporary position of categories as a device for structuring our understanding of our daily lives. Furthermore, consideration will be applied to the basic nature of categories such as: the often-assumed bi-polar nature of categories; the mutual exclusivity of categories; the mereological arrangement of categories and the content of categories. The question is asked: how do we use categories to navigate our lives: ontological, personal and social categories that are both metaphysical and psychological, where psychology is understood as a process that occupies an ontological space.


Topics to be discussed include: ontology; mereology; facet theory; set theory;
Authors include: Aristotle; Lowe; Frege; Husserl; Cantor; Guttman; Durkheim; Mauss; Kant; Russell; Pierce; Skinner; Lowe; Chisholm; Grossmann; Tegtmeier; Westerhoff; Bourdieu; Harte; Oderberg; George Kelly.


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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