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Re: [ontology-summit] Ontology Framework Draft Statement for the Ontolog

To: Ontology Summit 2007 Forum <ontology-summit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 20 Apr 2007 01:35:06 -0400
Message-id: <4628510A.5040303@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Leo,    (01)

I agree with Chris W:    (02)

 > Surely after 15 years we can do better than "specification of
 > a conceptualization"?  Isn't it time we put that one to rest?    (03)

A lot of hard work has gone into that draft, but I have some
concerns about the definitions at the beginning:    (04)

  1. I don't believe that the definitions in philosophy and
     computer science differ in any significant way.    (05)

  2. Where there are differences, they are differences in
     emphasis or goals.    (06)

  3. If possible, we should adopt a common definition that
     is acceptable to both fields, and include a few comments
     about the way that differences in goals and emphasis may
     cause differences in usage.    (07)

I'll start with the first point:    (08)

 > There are at least two important word senses for 'ontology':
 > ontology as a field of study "ontology (philosophy)" and
 > ontology as a technology for computer and information
 > scientists. We are talking about the second sense of the
 > word, "ontology (computer science)".    (09)

Suggestion:  I would delete the two qualifiers "(philosophy)"
and "(computer science)".   Then replace that statement with
the following:    (010)

    There are two important senses of the word 'ontology':
    ontology as a general field that studies what exists,
    and a particular ontology that is the result or product
    of such a study.    (011)

Then follow that with examples of such products, such as
Aristotle's ontology of 10 top-level categories, Kant's 12
top-level categories, and various computer versions, such
Cyc, SUMO, etc.    (012)

I agree with Chris that the following definition has some
serious problems:    (013)

 > An ontology, for computer and information sciences, is
 > a specification of a conceptualization...    (014)

A definition is supposed to define a poorly understood word
in terms of other words that are simpler, more common, or
easier to understand.  But the word 'conceptualization' is
much harder to define than 'ontology'.  It is also a less
common term.  (Google has 14.5 million hits for 'ontology',
but only 4.3 million for 'conceptualization' -- or 6 million
if you include the spelling 'conceptualisation'.)    (015)

If we define "ontology" as "study of existence" and define
"an ontology" as the result of that study, those definitions
depend only on the three words "study", "existence", and
"result", which have, respectively, 492, 179, and 762
million hits on Google.  That meets one criterion for a
good definition:  define uncommon words in terms of more
common ones.    (016)

I have some quibbles about the remainder of the report,
but my primary recommendation is to make a drastic cut in
the opening section:  replace everything up to the heading
"kinds of ontologies" with those simple definitions above.    (017)

John    (018)

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