[Top] [All Lists]

Re: [socop-forum] [ontolog-forum] Terminologies and Ontologies

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: Socop Forum <socop-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Gary Berg-Cross <gbergcross@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 4 May 2011 14:46:28 -0400
Message-id: <BANLkTi=3+42jRdNY+nUpL0Y3xcbpj=3JUw@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Early on in this discussion John used the example of terminologies “cutting up a continuous
 range of variation into a discrete set of categories
” and offered examples of:  river, stream,
 creek, brook, rivulet.
He then noted that:
JS> Such terms can make up a very useful terminology.  But they aren't part of an ontology
 until you develop some theory about what they might denote.   

Later John clarified the use of theory in the sense we have from Logic as a deductive closure over axioms.  I know this topic has come up before, but I sometimes feel that we are jumping back and forth between theory in the sense of science theory (QED was cited as an example) and theory from the point of view of Logic. 


I see both as relevant and like some of the distinctions that Nicola Guarino made back in the intro to Formal Ontology in Information Systems (1998). The way I interpret his formulation is that  a formal ontology product is a conceptualization for a Domain (C for D) by means of axiomatic commitments (K) expressible in a Language (L) using some Model. Viewed this way ontologies start from “Analysis and Conceptualization”. 


John’s example was the cutting up of some water domain into various categories (rivers, steams etc.) that often come to have a term associated with it. We might have an application dealing with floods in  which these distinctions are important. To start on a quality ontology for such an application it should be able to make meaningful statements about what exists in its focused domain.  So river and stream ideas might be organized along a hydrological theory of what brings water collections into existence and what natural processes, such as downhill streaming flows, they follow. The hydrological concepts are more basic and underlie the real world phenomena at the river-stream level. For many applications they will therefore organized things.

Thus :


  • water within a river (or other watercourses) is generally collected from precipitation through surface runoff, groundwater recharge, springs, as well as the seasonal release of stored water.
  • Stored water may include what is held by dams but usually is from natural ice and snow packs (e.g., from glaciers).


This conceptual theory specifies various classes of real objects (e.g. snow pack) and process (e.g. spring runoff), and relations (e.g. precipitates, thaws) that we assert applies among instances of such classes, as well as relationships among such classes and their instances.


Now all of this conceptualization may precede the formalization into axioms, but for IT applications we need to formalize these axioms in a language that on the one hand faithfully reflects this conceptualization and on the other can be processed by applications.  

Gary Berg-Cross, Ph.D.   gbergcross@xxxxxxxxx     
SOCoP Executive Secretary
Potomac, MD

On Wed, May 4, 2011 at 3:37 AM, AzamatAbdoullaev <abdoul@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
Kingsley wrote:
"And therein lies the problem: why do we have to choose the best one devoid of context? "Horses for courses" as they say back in the UK. There is no universal best one :-)"
Each good definition, as well as classification, has its strength and weaknesses.
It comes from different ways we define words or classify things. We construct definitions by reference to:
1. genus and differentia
2. causes (genesis, origin, material cause, formal cause, final cause, or productive cause)
3. principal features
4. functions 
5. dichotomy or division
6. component parts
7. extrinsic signs
8. purposes or interests, etc. 
On the positive side, there are two broad types of ontological definitions/classifications: real definitions and nominal definitions. The nominal one is mostly arbitrary, relating substance with accident, while the real definitions/classifications tend to reflect/represent the nature of things as adequately as possible. I believe, it could be used as a criterion of best choice.
Azamat Abdoullaev
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Tuesday, May 03, 2011 9:58 PM
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Terminologies and Ontologies

On 5/3/11 11:25 AM, AzamatAbdoullaev wrote:
JS wrote:

"My recommendation for anyone who is trying to define anything is to check a good dictionary for an independent opinion."

Very true.

This is what i mentioned in the Reality Book Introduction,

"Taken as pure and abstract knowledge, Ontology is formulated as different as:

      the science (account) of entity (or being) in general;

      the knowledge of the most general structures of reality;

      the theory of the kinds and structures of things in every domain of reality;

      the study of entity types and relations;

      the most general theory concerning reality, being, or existence;

      a collection of absolute assumptions;

      the study of change;

      the science of all possible worlds and everything conceivable;

      the study of semantic values of natural and formal languages and ontological commitments about the world

In the context of computer science, information and communication technologies, an ontology is reckoned to be:

      a set of generic or philosophical concepts, axioms, and relationships for domain ontologies (IEEE SUO, 2000, 2003);

      a taxonomy of world terms/categories comprising definitions, hierarchical relations, and formal axioms (Mizoguchi, 1998);

      a set of definitions of classes and their relations, as well as individuals and their properties (OWL 2004; 2006);

      a catalog of the types of things (representing the predicates, word senses, concept and relation types of some formal language) organized by the class-subclass taxonomical relation (Sowa, 1997; 2000);

      metadata schemas with machine processable semantics (Horrocks, 2003);

      content theories about the kinds of  objects, their properties and relationships possible in a certain knowledge field  (Chandrasekaran, Josephson, and Benjamins, 1999);

       the total of a taxonomy and a set of inference rules or a document (or file) formally defining the relations among terms (Berners-Lee, Hendler and Lassila, 2001)"

Try and choose the best one.

And therein lies the problem: why do we have to choose the best one devoid of context?

"Horses for courses" as they say back in the UK.

There is no universal best one :-)



----- Original Message ----- From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
To: "AzamatAbdoullaev" <abdoul@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Tuesday, May 03, 2011 4:16 PM
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Terminologies and Ontologies

On 5/3/2011 5:58 AM, AzamatAbdoullaev wrote:
I. "Ontology is a general theory about the world, its domain, entities
and relationships."

II. "An ontology is a general theory about some aspect of the world, its
subdomains, entities and relationships."

III. "A formal ontology is a formal theory of some aspect of world, its
subdomains, entities and relationships."

My recommendation for anyone who is trying to define anything is
to check a good dictionary for an independent opinion.

Following is the definition from the closest dictionary at hand,
_Merriam-Webster Ninth Collegiate_:

 1. a branch of metaphysics concerned with the nature and relations
    of being.

 2. a particular theory about the nature of being or the kinds
    of existents.

I don't know who wrote those two definitions, but they're as good as
any and much better than most.  The editors of the best dictionaries usually have associate editors for various fields.  The person who
wrote (or reviewed rand revised) that definition was probably a
philosopher who was knowledgeable about the field.

In English, the word 'ontology' without a preceding article refers
to the branch of philosophy.  With an article or other determiner,
such as "an ontology", "Aristotle's ontology", or "Kant's ontology",
it refers to a specific theory.

My suggestion is to adopt the distinction from M-W.  In the discussions
in this forum, we're usually talking about specific theories.  That
means all of them are variations of M-W definition #2.

I also recommend an adjective, such as 'general' if it has a broad
scope.  If it has a more narrow scope, I would add a qualifier,
such as 'medical', or a name, such as 'XYZ Corporation'.

Another adjective would be 'formal' if the definitions are stated
in some version of logic or mathematics.  By combining the adjectives,
you could talk about a formal general ontology or an informal medical

If you leave out the adjective 'formal' or 'informal', it avoids
making a commitment about whether the terms are stated in some
version of logic.  The default assumption is that they're not,
but it leaves open the option of a future revision and extension
that defines some or all of the terms in some version of logic.


_________________________________________________________________ Message Archives: Config Subscr: Unsubscribe: mailto:ontolog-forum-leave@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Shared Files: Community Wiki: To join:



Kingsley Idehen	      
President & CEO 
OpenLink Software     
Twitter/ kidehen 

Message Archives:
Config Subscr:
Unsubscribe: mailto:ontolog-forum-leave@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Shared Files:
Community Wiki:
To join:


Msg Archives:   
Unsubscribe: mailto:socop-forum-leave@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Community Shared Files: 
Community Wiki:     (01)
<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>