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Encyclopedia of Categories [Volume 3]

To recipients of this email: Nov. 11, revised Nov. 22, 2020

The thirteen attachments to this email contain the 13 volumes of my recently completed Encyclopedia of Categories, which I am sending to people with an interest in philosophy or grand unified theories of everything. This work evolved chronologically as follows:

At age 7 (1951): I decided my goal should be to “know everything”.

At age 12 (1956): I collected basic concepts in such disciplines as astronomy (names of all the planets and their moons), geography (names of all the countries of the world), chemistry (names of all the chemical elements), history (names of all the emperors of the Western Roman Empire), anatomy (names of all the bones of the human body), and mathematics (names of all the higher numbers: thousand, million, billion, trillion, quadrillion, quintillion, etc., plus a list of the first 2001 digits of pi, of which I memorized the first 201).

At age 24 (1968): I came across and read Stephen Pepper’s 1942 book titled World Hypotheses, which contained the unusual idea that any metaphysical system, in order to be orderly and coherent, should be based on a central guiding principle he called a root metaphor. He held that each metaphysical system had its own distinctive theory of truth, which could be elucidated by means of the root metaphor. In the middle of the book he suggested that the four major metaphysical systems might conceivably be unified under a single root metaphor, but at the end of the book he argued that such a comprehensive synthesis would fail because some of their theories of truth were inherently incompatible.

At age 44 (1988): I won a national essay competition awarded by the American Philosophical Association for a paper titled “Theories of Truth: A Comprehensive Synthesis.” This paper solved the problem posed by World Hypotheses.

At age 62 (2006): My theory of categories had gradually evolved from the 5-cate-gory theory that had won the prize to a 13-category theory. To show the power of this more elaborate theory, I listed all the theories of or perspectives on truth mentioned in the 1995 Oxford Companion to Philosophy, which by coincidence were 13 in number, and showed how they could be organized into a grand unified theory by means of my theory of categories.

At age 69 (2013): Long before this I had searched for lists of categories in philosophy reference books such as the 8-volume Encyclopedia of Philosophy published in 1967. I expanded this search to general reference books such as Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. In 2013 at age 69 I read Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations and noticed that 20 out of the 25 quotes I selected could be analyzed into my 13 categories. This gave me the idea of constructing this encyclopedia of categories using quotation books as a nearly inexhaustible source of examples. Of these 13 volumes, the first 2 are introductory, the next 5 volumes cover topics from Actors and acting to Zen, the next 5 volumes cover noteworthy people from Aesop to Zeno of Elea, creator of the famous Achilles-and-the-tortoise paradox, and the thirteenth volume focuses on examples from philosophy. In this way I show that this theory is applicable to a much wider range of concepts than truth.

At age 76 (2020): I completed my 13-volume opus after spending 7 years compiling it. This was the end of a 69-year-long odyssey to “know everything.” Oddly enough, I read Homer’s Odyssey and found that it consists of exactly 13 episodes, culminating in Odysseus slaying the suitors of his wife, whom he’d left 20 years previously to fight in the Trojan War. I showed that these 13 episodes correspond to my 13 basic categories!

There is a reason why my 13 categories are so versatile. In his final book titled Concept and Quality, published in 1967, Pepper devised his own metaphy-sical system that he called ”selectivism,” based on the root metaphor of a goal-seeking purposive act (or more generally a selective system) and he remarked on page 17 that this was “the act associated with intelligence.” I first read this book in 1982, which was by coincidence the same year that I began founding high-IQ societies and devising admission tests for them, two of which were published in Omni magazine, the first of which was praised by John Sununu, then Governor of New Hampshire, who had a Ph.D. from M.I.T., as “one of the most enjoyable exercises I’ve gone through in some time…a superbly stimulating diversion.” Pepper’s remark gave insight into how to integrate my long-standing interests in philosophy and intelligence could be interconnected. The basic structure of a purposive act or selective system is the feedback loop by which we interact with reality. Intelligence involves employing this feedback loop effectively to learn about the world, the basic purpose of intelligence. And the feedback loop can be analyzed into 13 factors corresponding to my 13 categories in a very straightforward way. There is the self as an agent or drive-bearer, D; the world as a collection of goal objects, G; our anticipation, A, of how our actions will affect the world; and the quiescence of this act, Q, when the world informs us through perceptions, etc., how well we succeeded in anticipating its response to us. We can represent these four factors by inscribing a square, tilted on one corner, inside a circle, and putting D, A, G, and Q at each of the square’s corners, starting with D at the top, A on the left, G on the bottom, and Q on the right. We can provide positions for six more factors by linking the four main factors in pairs as follows: DA, AG, GQ, and QD around the four edges of the square, and DG and AQ across its middle. The circle or square unifies these ten factors, a unity that becomes an eleventh factor, U. The failure or negation, N, of this unity, as by a break in the circle, becomes a twelfth factor. And there is a thirteenth factor, a subordinate drive factor, D’, as when a feedback loop has been completed and the initial drive is renewed or a new drive kicks in to energize a fresh circuit of the feedback loop, as in a child’s subordinate relation to its parents or a student’s to its teacher. Larger structures, such as Whitehead’s 51 categories, can be regarded as the result of combining these 13 basic categories in various ways.

This theory provides surprising new insights into the rationale underlying various previously mysterious groups of concepts, such as (1) Aristotle’s ten categories; (2) the 13 personality factors that are the focus of the book Personality Self-Portrait, and (3) Peano’s axioms for number theory as described by Bertrand Russell in his 1919 book Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy (pp. 5-6). Russell lists three “primitive ideas” for the axioms: 0, successor, and number. He should have included a fourth primitive idea: property. These four primitive ideas correspond to our four main factors: “0” is a drive factor, D, since 0 initiates the natural numbers: 0, 1, 2, 3, etc.; “successor” is anticipatory, A, because it leads us to anticipate that each natural number has a successor, e.g., the successor of 3 is 4; “number” corresponds to our goal-object factor, G, because numbers are the basic goal objects of number theory; and “property” is a quiescence factor, Q, because every correct statement in number theory offers insight (quiescent satisfaction) into how numbers respond to our tinkering. It was by tinkering with Peano’s axioms that I discovered the need for the two internal pairings, DG and AQ, which are clearly required by the binary pairings of the primitive ideas that the axioms consist of.

People use these categories instinctively, like birds building nests, spiders building webs, or bees building honeycombs, without any prior training, because the 13 spatial factors in a feedback loop correspond to 13 verbal factors when we try to put our thoughts into words. The parts of speech of language—nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, etc.—can readily be accounted for by our theory. Mistakes are to be expected, as when a bird puts a twig in the wrong place when building a nest or someone uses fauty grammar when learning a language. Even a genius like Russell overlooked “property” as a primitive idea for number theory!

Sincerely, Ronald K. Hoeflin (; please put abciqxyz in your subject heading to insure I can locate your message amidst all the junk mail)


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