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Re: [ontolog-forum] Time representation

To: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx>
Date: Sat, 26 Jan 2008 12:16:50 -0600
Message-id: <p06230916c3c12704a679@[]>
At 9:38 AM -0500 1/26/08, John F. Sowa wrote:

CP>> Jonathon Lowe (a philosopher I recall you meeting) has a
 >> technical definition of ontology as "the set of things whose
 >> existence is acknowledged by a particular theory or system
 >> of thought." (E. J. Lowe, The Oxford Companion to Philosophy)

PH> He is clearly using the word in its philosophical sense, not its
 > IT sense. Nobody in this forum is doing philosophical ontology.
I have no idea what distinction Pat is trying to draw, ...

With that qualification, I don't see any reason why there would
or should be any difference whatever between a philosophical
ontology and an IT ontology.  If anything, I would say that
a philosophical ontology should *include* an IT ontology as
a special case.

I thought the distinction was well-known. There is a very active subfield of modern philosophy which calls itself 'ontology'. Its self-definition is the study of what there is, in contrast for example with phenomenology, which studies the structure of subjective experience. Philosophical ontology is a purely philosophical enterprise with its own literature and history, one which pre-dates anything at all to do with technology by hundreds, possibly thousands, of years. If one says "ontology" in the presence of a philosopher, he or she will almost certainly take this to be a reference to this field. Jonathon Lowe is a prominent and respected philosophical ontologist.

The word "ontology" used in our sense in this forum refers to the construction of computational artifacts written in formal languages. This is an entirely different subject from philosophical ontology. It does not have the same motivation, methodology, history or ambitions. Its criteria for success are those of an engineer rather than a philosopher. And it uses the word "ontology" with a different meaning.

The relevance of philosophical ontology to ontology engineering is debatable. For myself, I believe it to be usually over-rated: IMO, engineering based on purely philosophical thinking and distinctions is almost always bad engineering. I know others have very different opinions on this issue. But for sure, the two fields are certainly distinct.

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