Ontologies and Knowledge Bases – Towards a Terminological Clarification

Citation:

Guarino, N., & Giaretta, P. (1995). Ontologies and Knowledge Bases – Towards a Terminological Clarification. In Towards Very Large Knowledge Bases (pp. 25-32). IOS Press, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Goals of Research:

  • A terminological clarification about the term ontology based on the careful analysis of Gruber’s definition of ontology.

Summary:

The paper is an attempt to clarify the term ontology and to analyze the widely accepted definition of ontology provided by Tom Gruber (ontology as an explicit specification of a conceptualization). It has been emphasized that there is a confusion between ontology as a conceptual framework at knowledge-level and a concrete artifact at symbol-level (p.1). The authors provide seven definitions of ontology used by different communities:

  1. Ontology as a philosophical discipline
  2. Ontology as a an informal conceptual system
  3. Ontology as a formal semantic account
  4. Ontology as a specification of a “conceptualization”
  5. Ontology as a representation of a conceptual system via a logical theory: A.characterized by specific formal properties; B.characterized only by its specific purposes
  6. Ontology as the vocabulary used by a logical theory
  7. Ontology as a (meta-level) specification of a logical theory

There are two interpretations of the ontologies as semantic entities (Def. 2-3), and syntactic objects (Def. 4-7) (P. 3). Formal ontology is defined as “the systematic, formal, axiomatic development of the logic of all forms and modes of being” (cited from Cocchiarlla, P.2), in this sense ontology would be a theory of distinction among two seperate sets of entities: among entities of the world; and among meta-level categories used to model the world (P.3). The term ontology is used as an artifact rather than a discipline in the knowledge engineering community. Authors proposes to use “conceptualization to denote a semantic structure [Def. 3], … and ontological theory to denote a logical theory intended to express ontological knowledge [Def. 5]”. They emphasize that the an “explicit” object in Gruber’s definition is a concrete symbol-level object. In addition, they distinguish among an intensional and extension notion of conceptualization (P. 3). Accordingly, a difference has been recognized between systems which are used to represent a state of affairs and a conceptualization which works more like a meta-language (P. 4). It is indicated that a particular theory is different from a specification of a conceptualization. The paper has been concluded with a proposal to confine the use of the term “ontology” to two senses: (1) a logical theory which gives an explicit, partial account of a conceptualization; (2) synonym of conceptualization as a semantic structure of intensional relationships (P. 5-7).

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