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Categories We Live By: How We Classify Everyone and Everything

Categories We Live By: How We Classify Everyone and Everything

Current price: $40.00
Publication Date: January 9th, 2024
The MIT Press
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An in-depth analysis of how humanity’s compulsion to categorize affects every aspect of our lived experience.

The minute we are born—sometimes even before—we are categorized. From there, classifications dog our every step: to school, work, the doctor’s office, and even the grave. Despite the vast diversity and individuality in every life, we seek patterns, organization, and control. In Categories We Live By, Gregory L. Murphy considers the categories we create to manage life’s sprawling diversity. Analyzing everything from bureaucracy’s innumerable categorizations to the minutiae of language, this book reveals how these categories are imposed on us and how that imposition affects our everyday lives.

Categories We Live By explores categorization in two parts. In part one, Murphy introduces the groundwork of categories—how they are created by experts, imperfectly captured by language, and employed by rules. Part two provides a number of case studies. Ranging from trivial categories such as parking regulations and peanut butter to critical issues such as race and mortality, Murphy demonstrates how this need to classify pervades everything. Finally, this comprehensive analysis demonstrates ways that we can cope with categorical disagreements and make categories more useful to our society.

About the Author

Gregory L. Murphy is Professor Emeritus of Psychology at New York University. He is the author of The Big Book of Concepts (MIT Press) and numerous scientific journal articles.