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Re: review of Guide

From: Christopher Welty <welty@us.ibm.com>
Date: Wed, 1 Jan 2003 10:52:09 -0500
To: www-webont-wg@w3.org
Cc: michael.smith@eds.com, www-webont-wg@w3.org, www-webont-wg-request@w3.org
Message-ID: <OFD7135FF4.D2FCDED4-ON85256CA1.005556CD-85256CA1.00570052@us.ibm.com>


In the guide we wanted to make a distinction between what many people call 
"an ontology" and what an ontology is in the OWL language.  In OWL, 
ontology is just a syntactic construct - I don't believe it has any 
semantics, and there is nothing about the tag itself that enables anyone 
or any system from distinguishing what is conventionally called an 
ontology from what can be in a document taged as one.

I am fairly abmivalent about this issue - Pat argues vehemently on both 
sides, having yelled at me several times for trying to right the great 
wrong that's been done to the word "ontology" by computer scientists (who 
are deeply confused about what it actually did mean), and then yelling at 
anyone else who tries to argue for the very distinction computer 
scientists claim the word describes.

Anyway, there is an established and growing community in computer science 
(and, now, linguistics and medicine, too) who want to distinguish a 
"collection of classes and relations" from that collection plus all the 
instances of those classes and relations.  They call the former an 
ontology.  They call the latter any number of things, including a 
knowledge base.  OWL, syntactically and semantically, has no such 
distinction( and furthermore with OWL Full makes any collection of 
instances a potential "ontology" anyway). But the group wanted to make the 
point, and I agree it needs to be made.

Whether or not the term "knowledge base" is an "official" OWL term, I want 
to use it and "ontology" in Guide (I admit it needs to be done more 
rigorously) to refer to these two distinct things.  There is some text I 
added that mentions that we use owl:ontology to talk about OWL documents, 
and ontology and knowledge base FOR THE PURPOSES OF THE GUIDE ONLY to talk 
about the other two kinds of things.

Happy new year to all.


Dr. Christopher A. Welty, Knowledge Structures Group
IBM Watson Research Center, 19 Skyline Dr.
Hawthorne, NY  10532     USA 
Voice: +1 914.784.7055,  IBM T/L: 863.7055
Fax: +1 914.784.6078, Email: welty@us.ibm.com
Received on Wednesday, 1 January 2003 10:53:02 UTC

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