An Introduction to Ontology: From Aristotle to the Universal Core

Training course in eight lectures by Barry Smith

This course is designed to be of interest to both philosophers and those with a background in computer and information science. No prior knowledge of ontology is presupposed. It is free for use in any way.

1. Ontology as a Branch of Philosophy

A brief history of ontology
Semantically enhanced publishing
GO: The most successful ontology thus far
Aristotle's Metaphysics and Categories
The Ontological Square
Granular partitions
Aristotle vs. Kant

2. Ontology and Logic

David Armstrong's Spreadsheet Ontology
Fantology: The error of assuming that logic ('F(a)') is the guide to ontological form
The confusion of universals and properties
Universals and the Boolean organization of the world of classes
First order logic with universal terms (FOLWUT)

3. The Ontology of Social Reality

Speech acts
The money in your bank account
War and chess
Searle's naturalism and its problems
Objects vs. representations
Hernando de Soto and The Mystery of Capital
Ontology of the credit crunch

4. Why I Am No Longer a Philosopher (or: Ontology Leaving the Mother Ship of Philosophy)

How psychology became a scientific discipline independent of philosophy in the 19th century
Reasons for founding a new discipline The rise of ontology as an independent discipline
Research centers, funding, methods, journals, peer review, national and international conferences, teaching
Practical applications of ontology
Typical results  of the founding of a new discipline
Towards a career path for ontologists

5. Why Computer Science Needs Philosophy

Today's information-driven science faces a vast new problem of data unification
In medicine, this problem can be of life-and-death significance
The organization that is HL7
Ontology 101: Why computer-science ontology needs common sense
Does France exist?
Why computer scientists prefer a view of ontology as conceptual modeling
The alternative: scientific ontologies
Towards ontology (science)

6. Ontology and the Semantic Web

Examples of Semantic Web ontologies
Simple syllogisms and beyond
Problems with XML
Clay Shirky: Why the Semantic Web would be a utopia
Blooming 'lite' ontologies
Why ontology requires thinking
To move in the right direction, the Semantic Web needs (inter alia) a guiding upper level ontology

7. Towards a Standard Upper Level Ontology

Scientific ontologies have special features
Building scientific ontologies which work together demands a common set of ontological relations
Basic Formal Ontology: benefits of coordination
Users of BFO
Continuants, occurrents, realizables
Specific dependence, generic dependence, information artifacts
Dispositions, roles, functions
Diseases and disorders: the Ontology of General Medical Science

8. The Universal Core: Ontology and the US Federal Government Data Integration Initiative

The DoD Net-Centric Data Strategy
The Universal Core (UCore) Taxonomy and Semantic Layer
Reasoning with OWL DL
Manging extension ontologies
Example: Command and Control
Information entities
The UCore change management process
How UCore SL helps

Full deck of slides in handout form

Background reading

Course details