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Re: [ontolog-forum] Ontology vs OWL implementation

To: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Bill Andersen <andersen@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 1 May 2008 01:41:19 -0400
Message-id: <6F235B65-BBA2-4899-A40F-860DF3AF5452@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Hi Pat...    (01)

Here we go again...    (02)

On Apr 30, 2008, at 18:08 , Pat Hayes wrote:    (03)

> At 8:21 PM +0200 4/30/08, Cati Martínez wrote:
>> Hello,
>> I'm new in the Ontology world, and maybe it has been already
>> discussed, I'm asking me the question if everything implemented in  
>> the
>> OWL language can be considered an Ontology. I guess that it's not so,
>> but it is difficult for me to say when we can say that it is or not.
> The term 'ontology' has no definition precise
> enough to answer that question. Myself, I'd be
> inclined to say yes, anything in OWL is an
> ontology. Certainly one would not expect any OWL
> tool or engine to  start distinguishing between
> 'real ontology OWL' and 'mere OWL'.    (04)

Correct.    (05)

I admit the problems with coming up with anything close to a  
definition of the term "ontology" and of course no machine is going to  
be able to tell the difference.  But your position above equates (the  
referents of) "ontology" with "theory expressed in a formal  
language".  Or at least it makes them coextensional if we want to put  
that fine a point on it.    (06)

This is at least a very permissive version of Quine's position in "On  
what there is".  I don't think Quine would have bestowed the honor of  
existence on a lot of the referents of terms introduced in most of  
what are called "ontologies", written in OWL or not -- he reserved  
that for objects revealed by best practice in science.  Thus his  
epistemic motivation ought to appeal to you.  But certainly the  
following would not count for Quine and hopefully not for you:    (07)

        <a rdfs:subclassOf b>    (08)

That's a legal OWL theory (I won't call it an "ontology" -- you can do  
that).  The (non-reserved) terms are arbitrarily chosen, without even  
the intent that they convey any information about a world outside the  
computer.    (09)

We want to admit that people screw up and say things like (exists (x)  
(= x Phlogiston)) where they do think the terms refer to the world,  
but that's at least a better story than admitting any logical theory  
whatever.    (010)

And of course real philosophers can argue the bit about realism and  
whether or not we ever will have any idea whether we have access to a  
"real" world.    (011)

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