Meta was the word. Ontologies are the current buzzword. The word we need is metontology – meta-ontology – an ontology of ontologies – a collection of ontological statements (that need not actually be organized ontologically itself).

There are countless projects to standardize ontologies for given domains. It used to be ten-a-penny [MyDomain]ML’s – XML Schemas with defined tags, and the W3C / SemanticWeb movement is driving that to ontologies defined in RDF/OWL, again with standardized sets of tags referencable as ubiquitous URI’s.

An ontology need no longer exist as a complete thing for one domain / business / application area – which is just as well, since no such usage domain has clear boundaries with other business domains. This has been recognized before in trying to standardize “Standard Upper Ontology” hierarchically above any number of collections of URIdentifiable reference data. Your ontology is just the collection you happen to use. Treating SUO as hierarchical, above all others, simply creates a competition for the higher ground.

In fact that upper ontology does not itself need to be hierarchical. It is just another collection of reference data – a collection of ways to say ontological things. Of course, that flat, bag of things can be applied to itself to create a hierarchical or heterarchical network (ontology) of itself. Remember OWL is a language, and languages include words that describe words, grammar and other parts of that language.

The natural recursion might scare the odd programmer – but only one who wants to somehow program that upper ontology. Get over it. The collection of ontological statements can be used to describe any other ontology – whether your dominant or preferred view is physical, spatial, temporal, material, process, functional, people, mental, conceptual or whatever. The collection – the URIdentified, referencable superset – is all that is needed.

The ontologies are a red-herring. Come on OWL, how hard can it be ?

Spooooky – 4 hours after writing this I receive Laurie Taylor’s “Thinking Allowed” newsletter “What are you talking about ?” And, it’s about using ontological (& epistemological) & meta as weapons to confuse an argument 😉

Post Note – and less that two weeks later, a Thinking Allowed edition on “Classification” with Anthiony Graying. How the interesting aspect of classification are the things (the Platypi) that don’t fit  standard schemes and the need to re-invent idiosyncratic classifications for personal uses and purposes in order to derive any new meaning and value.

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