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Building Ontologies With Basic Formal Ontology$
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Robert Arp, Barry Smith, and Andrew D. Spear

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780262527811

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262527811.001.0001

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What Is an Ontology?

What Is an Ontology?

(p.1) 1 What Is an Ontology?
Building Ontologies With Basic Formal Ontology

Robert Arp

Barry Smith

Andrew D. Spear

The MIT Press

Words, pictures, theories, and ideas are representations. We use them primarily in order to represent entities in reality and sometimes also in other ways. An ontology is made out of multiple representational elements called ‘terms’. These elements are organized into networks by means of relational links, for example ‘mammal’ linked with ‘animal’ through the hierarchical relation: subtype. We define an ontology as a representational artifact, and explore the implications of this. We outline our preferred realist view of universals, and contrast it with alternative views (nominalism and conceptualism). For the realist, terms in ontologies primarily represent real universals (for example: mammal, cell, molecule), while defined terms and empty terms represent special cases. We distinguish ontologies from representational artifacts of other sorts, including terminologies, and contrast the realist method for ontology development with the concept orientation often favored by terminology developers.

Keywords:   Representation, universal, particular, hierarchy, defined class, empty terms, relations, realism, nominalism, concept orientation

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