Two Approaches to the Categories of Thought and Reality

Nov 27, 2017 | 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM

Lau Chong-Fuk (Professor of Philosophy, The Chinese University of Hong Kong; HYI Visiting Scholar) 
Chair/discussant: Paul Guyer (Jonathan Nelson Professor of Humanities and Philosophy, Brown University)
Co-sponsored with the Department of Philosophy, Harvard University

Are there any fundamental forms of thought that are valid across different cultures and represent the basic structure of reality? This question has been addressed by philosophers from the ancient to modern time with their theories of categories. Among the most influential ones are Aristotle and Kant’s theories. Both of them take a logico-linguistic analysis of the form of rational discourse as an important clue to the ontological problem of the structure of existence, endorsing a kind of isomorphism between language/thought and reality. However, it is questionable whether their theories are limited by or biased towards the structure of Indo-European languages? There is an alternative approach by another philosopher, Hegel, who rejects the possibility of deriving the structure of reality from basic logico-linguistic forms. By accepting the inevitable cultural-historical conditions of human thought, Hegel’s theory of categories can be viewed as an open and dynamic system. The talk will review and compare the above two approaches with an attempt to draw interesting implications for some contemporary problems.