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Ontology, introduction

Definition according to Webster's Dictionary:
  1. a branch of metaphysics relating to the nature and relations of being
  2. a particular theory about the nature of being or the kinds of existence
Ontology (the "science of being") is a word, like metaphysics, that is used in many different senses. It is sometimes considered to be identical to metaphysics, but we prefer to use it in a more specific sense, as that part of metaphysics that specifies the most fundamental categories of existence, the elementary substances or structures out of which the world is made. Ontology will thus analyse the most general and abstract concepts or distinctions that underlie every more specific description of any phenomenon in the world, e.g. time, space, matter, process, cause and effect, system.

Recently, the term of "(formal) ontology" has been up taken by researchers in Artificial Intelligence, who use it to designate the building blocks out of which models of the world are made.(see e.g. "What is an ontology?"). An agent (e.g. an autonomous robot) using a particular model will only be able to perceive that part of the world that his ontology is able to represent. In a sense, only the things in his ontology can exist for that agent. In that way, an ontology becomes the basic level of a knowledge representation scheme. See for example my set of link types for a semantic network representation which is based on a set of "ontological" distinctions: changing-invariant, and general-specific.

Copyright© 1995 Principia Cybernetica - Referencing this page

F. Heylighen,

Aug 15, 1995 (modified)
Aug 1993 (created)


Introduction to Principia Cybernetica

Philosophy, Introduction

Metaphysics, introduction

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