Ontological Indeterminacy and the Semantic Web

Ontological Indeterminacy and the Semantic Web

Allen Ginsberg (The MITRE Corporation, USA)
Copyright: © 2008 |Pages: 30
DOI: 10.4018/jswis.2008040102
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Ontological indeterminacy (OI) involves incompatible conceptual systems being applicable to a domain with equal empirical adequacy; a phenomenon familiar in philosophy, but also present in the sciences and everyday life. This article presents arguments and a detailed use-case showing how OI causes problems for what seems to be a widespread, if implicit, understanding of how semantic Web (SW) terms refer or have meaning, namely: the referent/meaning of a SW term is established through precise definitions given in a formal ontology. We show that this account is incompatible with the key requirement that SW terms/statements be similar in meaning to corresponding natural language terms/statements. We present a new account, based on a “meaning as use” philosophy of language, that avoids these problems by formalizing the distinction between the intention to use a term in a customary manner and the decision to adopt a formal theory that explains or explicates that usage.

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