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Re: [ontolog-forum] A "common basis"

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Christopher Menzel <cmenzel@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 2 May 2007 17:21:42 -0500
Message-id: <C6C476FF-A8E0-4143-B842-09DD97980FCA@xxxxxxxx>
On May 2, 2007, at 4:08 PM, Adam Pease wrote:
> ...
> Rather than just imagining some fatal flaw exists, I think it's
> incumbent on those who claim a common upper ontology is impossible to
> give at least one example, as a logical proof, of such a flaw.    (01)

I agree with that, Adam.  My own expression of skepticism in an  
earlier post was not rooted in the idea that there is a fatal flaw in  
the idea of a reasonably comprehensive upper ontology.  To the  
contrary, I don't see any reason at all why there couldn't be one;  
indeed it seems clear that there already are several candidates.  I  
am simply skeptical of two things:  (1) Whether there is any coherent  
sense in which such an on ontology could ever function as any sort of  
"medium" for supporting general interoperability (which is what the  
person from NASA seemed to be advocating) and (2) even if the answer  
to (1) is "yes", I am skeptical of whether such an approach would  
have any advantage over a straightforward "federated" approach on  
which distinct ontologies are integrated in a more piecemeal fashion;  
I am, that is, skeptical of the extent to which an upper ontology is  
needed to *support* interoperability.    (02)

That said, having in fact authored a small piece of the SUMO myself,  
as you well know :-) , I am *not* of the opinion that the  
construction of these comprehensive upper ontologies is wasted  
effort.  For several of the existing candidates, SUMO in particular,  
offer very nice modular axiomatizations of a wide variety of  
conceptual and empirical domains, from class theory to time to  
material objects.  Even if a comprehensive upper ontology as a whole  
might not be particularly useful for interoperability, many of its  
various pieces could definitely serve as the axiomatic underpinnings  
of a variety of more specialized ontologies.  So I'm all for  
continuing their developments.    (03)

-chris    (04)

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