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"Definition" of Ontology

From: Christopher Welty <welty@us.ibm.com>
Date: Tue, 6 Aug 2002 11:52:24 -0400
To: www-webont-wg@w3.org
Message-ID: <OF0B4BD72C.2C7CCA9B-ON85256C0D.00559576@pok.ibm.com>

I noticed in Evan's recent message about OMG that one action item was to 
accept "a definition of ontology".  People (in computer science) have been 
trying for the past decade to define what we mean by this term, but most 
definitions I'm aware of are fairly vague.  Exclusive definitions tend to 
leave out things that should rather obviously be included, and inclusive 
definitions seem to allow things that rather obviously shouldn't.

I still prefer an inclusive view, and last year a philosopher in the area 
of ontology (Barry Smith) and I, in order to introduce a conference which 
attempted to bring together philosophers and computer scientists 
interested in ontology (FOIS - http://www.fois.org), wrote a paper 
(attached) which discusses this point. 

Every attempt to "define" ontology I'm aware of has been based on the 
definer's experience(s), and usually ends up being more of a description 
of "what I call ontology" (as one such person once put it).  The attached 
article is different in that it has been extensively researched and tries 
to explain (rather than define) the meaning of "ontology" by tracing the 
history of the term, and how it came to be used (in both fields) the way 
it is used today.  I find such etymological explanations are much more 
enlighting, because language evolves.


PS: Note that the attached article is copyrighted by ACM, and I have 
permission to redistribute it as long as the copyright remains, ostensibly 
as a publicity measure to attract attention to the availability of the 
FOIS proceedings.

PPS.  The reference is: Smith, Barry and Chris Welty. 2001. Ontology: Towards a new synthesis. In 
Chris Welty and Barry Smith, eds., Formal Ontology in Information Systems. Pp. iii-x. Ongunquit, Maine: ACM Press. 


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 Tuesday, 6 August 2002 11:53:46 UTC

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