I am curious whether there are any wide-spread philosophical thoughts about the nature of the mental concepts by which we grasp reality, know or understand things.
Note that I do not directly mean the discussions about what it means to know something, or how we define knowledge. Instead, I am interested in a more practical/pragmatic perspective on the subject: before we define knowledge or its acquisition, we must have already formulated an abstract concept of the things we make statements about. I am interested in references or works about the methods by which we do so.
For example: Assume I stand in front of a hot stove. I predict that if I put my hand on this hot stove, it will singe my hand. How did I arrive at this prediction? I would argue that I formulated a mental model of the universe in which I put my hand on the stove, and following the rules of my mental model, my hand would get burned. I equate this (maybe false, definitely incomplete) model with reality, and thus I don't put my hand on the stove.
Finding out if this is knowledge or not then would demand testing its truth value, justification, and belief, plus whatever the Gettier problems might match - but that's already beyond my question. I would like to know about the case before that: how we get a handle on the universe in the first place.