A Scientist-Poet's Account of Ontology in Information Science

A Scientist-Poet's Account of Ontology in Information Science

Bradley Compton (Independent Contractor, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch731
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Background

Ontologies in knowledge management, hereafter referred to as ‘computational ontologies,’ are robust digital information organization systems that represent entities, universals, classes, and relationships of particular domains of knowledge (domain level computational ontologies) or that are shared by all domains (upper level computational ontologies).2 These are based on philosophy from the analytic tradition that primarily conceives of ontology as the comprehensive identification and classification of things in reality (i.e., philosophy asking the question ‘what is?’). Furthermore, many scholars involved in computational ontology, particularly applied ontology (explained in detail below), argue that natural science provides the most suitable knowledge and methodologies for reality representation and computational ontology development (Munn & Smith, 2008). For the most part this type of philosophy holds issues concerning the nature of being to be matters of metaphysics.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Naturalism: The philosophical orientation placing epistemological authority on the methods and findings of natural science.

Phenomenology: The philosophical methodology that, depending on the school, focuses on human perception as the stepping stone for or primary means by which we can understand reality.

Metaphysics: Another area of study that attends to the fundamental nature of reality in a variety of ways depending on the philosopher and philosophical tradition. The analytic tradition typically views the ontology of the continental tradition to be metaphysics whereas the continental tradition typically views the ontology of the analytic tradition as metaphysics.

Analytic and Continental Traditions (Philosophy): An overgeneralized account defining and distinguishing these primarily Occidental philosophical traditions would note the following. The two traditions tend to acknowledge a split between themselves after Kant. The analytic tradition (popular in Britain and the United States, i.e., not continental Europe) is a problem-oriented approach that typically places emphasis on realism, the authority of natural science, and formal logic as methodology. The continental tradition (generally characterized by existentialism, phenomenology, hermeneutics, poststructuralism, and successor philosophical movements) tends to critique and deconstruct rather than solve problems as well as challenge sharp demarcation between the subjective and objective.

Computational Ontology: The development of knowledge management systems based on philosophical ontology of the analytic tradition.

Philosophical Ontology: The area of study that attends to the fundamental nature of being in a variety of ways depending on the philosopher and philosophical tradition. The analytic tradition typically views ontology as the comprehensive classification of what is: the entities universals, classes, and relationships in reality. Continental philosophers approach ontology differently in a variety of ways, e.g. Heideggerian philosophy asks the question “What is being qua being?” and attempts to answer it by placing priority on human existence.

Digital Ontology: The view that reality is essentially digital in nature.

Ontology of Parallax: Slavoj Žižek’s ontological approach that holds “the Real” to be fundamentally comprised of differing perspectives on something that exists that may be incommensurable, but nevertheless necessary to get a complete understanding of that something.

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