Ming the Mechanic:
What's an Ontology

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 What's an Ontology2003-11-29 19:02
24 comments
by Flemming Funch

"Ontology" is a word that used to belong in philosophy as any kind of systematic description of existence. I can't say I entirely get it, but it would be like a flow chart or verbal description of a world view. Like a religious or scientific way of describing the mechanics of the universe in some detail. See more here. Then it became a key concept in artificial intelligence. There it would also be a specification of a world view, but usually more limited. It would define, say, for a robot what "exists". The walls are there, and your tools there. Or it would try to structure a picture of the world so that a natural language program might be able to say something half-intelligent about it. "The hipbone is connected to the tailbone." And now ontologies are also a key piece in knowledge sharing and trying to create a semantic web. If knowledge needs to be shared effectively amongst a diverse group of people, it becomes very important to also have a good representation of what world view or context the knowledge relates to or exists in. See more here. An ontology might sometimes be represented as a taxonomy, which is another hard word, relating to a hierarchy of labels, such as the way animals are classified, or the Dewey decimal system. An ontology doesn't have to be limited like that, though. Which makes it all the harder to wrap one's mind around. Anyway, what I was trying to get to was what Denham Grey was saying about what an ontology is:
A (shared) expression of belief, an agreement on the terminology (and sometimes the meaning) for communication and action. Ontologies serve to bound discourse, facilitate communication within & across communities and networks, leverage action by gathering agreement around meaning, values, objects, the way things are and what is 'out there' that is important. Ontologies help to orientate new folks and act as the stores for key learnings & distinctions accumulated through experience. Ontologies have a large influence on identity and help with the tacit transfer of context.
I'm still a bit confused. But it is an important subject in a world with an accelerating volume of information that we're at the same time trying to make more meaningful. In electronic media we can only with difficulty share meaning unless we have good ways or representing large complex sets of relationships and rules and concepts fairly finitely, and we know we're speaking the same language. If we could just transfer a "thoughtball" that gives the whole picture and sets the whole stage, we might have a better chance of communicating meaningfully. "Here you go, here's my world! Study up on it and we can talk meaningfully in the morning."


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24 comments

30 Nov 2003 @ 13:02 by Andrius Kulikauskas @81.7.112.156 : What exists
Flemming, I think you wove it all together nicely. I think "ontology" is what gives the answer to the question "What exists?" It is the foundation for, or in many cases, simply the description of what exists.  


30 Nov 2003 @ 13:19 by Peter @81.105.102.58 : Ontology
Ontological is the opposite of epistemological. The epistemolgical world is the world inside your head. The ontological world is the world your head is inside of.
I tried this definition on a big philosophy list (philos-l) and nobody knocked me back.
Peter.  



30 Nov 2003 @ 14:03 by ming : Ontology
Ah, thanks for that guys.  


2 Dec 2003 @ 13:41 by Seb @198.164.41.174 : Stories
Stories are a good and enjoyable way to transfer thoughtballs.  


3 Dec 2003 @ 11:55 by Raf @128.112.71.214 : Ontology
When I studied philosophy (at UVa in the '80s), I was taught that Ontology and Epistemology were the two chief branches of Metaphysics, which, along with Logic, Ethics and Aesthetics formed the main branches of philosophy. I have since learned that this scheme is not necessarily widely accepted as a whole, but one does find a consistent pairing of ontology and epistemology as noted above by "Peter".  


19 Mar 2007 @ 13:45 by Maziar Amirhosseini @194.225.190.75 : Ontology, Kinds of
I think we have two kinds of ontology, the first is macro-ontology (this area talk about Metaphysic & Physic undersanding together), the second is micro-ontology (this area talk about only physic understanding). The first area exist in oriental philosophy, But the second exist in western philosophy. I research on this field & find very interesting results about kinds of ontology in the world philosophy & relations between ontology , epistemology , exist piramid.My research on ontology was in the base of knowledge management & information system development in the field of agriculture.  


20 Mar 2007 @ 03:10 by ming : Ontology
Hm, that sort of hints at that maybe certain ontologies might not be acceptable in certain contexts. I.e. that an archetypical western crowd would insist on a purely physical ontology? Which of course might defeat the purpose, if we're really talking about a world view that contains something more.  


13 Jan 2008 @ 07:30 by Maziar Amirhosseini @213.176.84.3 : Ontology concepts
Oriental or ancient Iranian Ontology descibe human thought about existance. This ontology is a macro ontology, which is derived from philosopical thought about exist concept and cognition base. The result of macro ontology do not appeare directly in certain context but all of the thought and information in the context have intraction with it. This Major position of macro ontology is differ from other ontologies.  


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