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What is an Ontology?

From: Kingsley Idehen <kidehen@openlinksw.com>
Date: Tue, 03 May 2011 09:40:44 -0400
Message-ID: <4DC005DC.5090704@openlinksw.com>
To: WebID XG <public-xg-webid@w3.org>
On 5/3/11 9:16 AM, John F. Sowa wrote:
> On 5/3/2011 5:58 AM, AzamatAbdoullaev wrote:
>> I. "Ontology is a general theory about the world, its domain, entities
>> and relationships."
>> II. "An ontology is a general theory about some aspect of the world, its
>> subdomains, entities and relationships."
>> III. "A formal ontology is a formal theory of some aspect of world, its
>> subdomains, entities and relationships."
> My recommendation for anyone who is trying to define anything is
> to check a good dictionary for an independent opinion.
>
> Following is the definition from the closest dictionary at hand,
> _Merriam-Webster Ninth Collegiate_:
>
>    1. a branch of metaphysics concerned with the nature and relations
>       of being.
>
>    2. a particular theory about the nature of being or the kinds
>       of existents.
>
> I don't know who wrote those two definitions, but they're as good as
> any and much better than most.  The editors of the best dictionaries
> usually have associate editors for various fields.  The person who
> wrote (or reviewed rand revised) that definition was probably a
> philosopher who was knowledgeable about the field.
>
> In English, the word 'ontology' without a preceding article refers
> to the branch of philosophy.  With an article or other determiner,
> such as "an ontology", "Aristotle's ontology", or "Kant's ontology",
> it refers to a specific theory.
>
> My suggestion is to adopt the distinction from M-W.  In the discussions
> in this forum, we're usually talking about specific theories.  That
> means all of them are variations of M-W definition #2.
>
> I also recommend an adjective, such as 'general' if it has a broad
> scope.  If it has a more narrow scope, I would add a qualifier,
> such as 'medical', or a name, such as 'XYZ Corporation'.
>
> Another adjective would be 'formal' if the definitions are stated
> in some version of logic or mathematics.  By combining the adjectives,
> you could talk about a formal general ontology or an informal medical
> ontology.
>
> If you leave out the adjective 'formal' or 'informal', it avoids
> making a commitment about whether the terms are stated in some
> version of logic.  The default assumption is that they're not,
> but it leaves open the option of a future revision and extension
> that defines some or all of the terms in some version of logic.
>
> John
>
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Felt this was worth sharing with everyone :-)

-- 

Regards,

Kingsley Idehen	
President&  CEO
OpenLink Software
Web: http://www.openlinksw.com
Weblog: http://www.openlinksw.com/blog/~kidehen
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Received on Tuesday, 3 May 2011 13:41:09 GMT

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