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KR-2002 Panel/Debate. Are Upper-Level Ontologies worth the effort? Chris Welty, IBM Research. What is Ontology? [Smith & Welty, 2001]. A discipline of Philosophy Meta-physics dates back to Artistotle Ontology dates back to 17th century The science of what is One universe - one ontology

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kr 2002 panel debate

KR-2002 Panel/Debate

Are Upper-Level Ontologies worth the effort?

Chris Welty, IBM Research

what is ontology smith welty 2001
What is Ontology?[Smith & Welty, 2001]
  • A discipline of Philosophy
    • Meta-physics dates back to Artistotle
    • Ontology dates back to 17th century
    • The science of what is
    • One universe - one ontology
  • Borrowed by AI community
    • McCarthy (1980) calls for “a list of things that exist”
  • Evolution of meaning
    • Now refers to domain modeling, conceptual modeling, knowledge engineering, etc.
what is an ontology welty uschold gruninger lehmann mcguinness 1999

a set of general



a collection of taxonomies

a catalog

a glossary

a set of text files

a collection of frames

a thesaurus


without automated reasoning

with automated reasoning

What is an Ontology?[Welty, Uschold, Gruninger, Lehmann & McGuinness, 1999]
what is an upper level ontology
What is an Upper Level Ontology?
  • The most general classifications of entities
  • Domain independent
  • High reusability, utility
  • “Common reference” ontology
  • The most basic building blocks (foundation) of ontologies, e.g.
    • Properties: Event/object, abstract/concrete, …
    • Relations: Isa, part, instance, …
examples of upper level ontologies
Examples of Upper Level Ontologies
  • Wordnet Upper Level [Miller, Fellbaum]
  • Cyc Upper Level [Lehmann, Klein]
  • IEEE SUO […]
  • OntoClean Top Level [Guarino, et al]
  • GOL [Smith, et al]
what an upper level ontology is not
What an Upper Level Ontology is not
  • Necessarily large
  • Necessarily part of any system that uses it
  • Necessarily goal-independent
  • Necessarily language dependent
  • Easy

Nicola Guarino

CNR, Italy

Brandon Bennett

U. Leeds, UK


Alan Rector

U. Manchester, UK

Jim Hendler

U. Maryland, USA

panelist introduction nicola guarino
Panelist IntroductionNicola Guarino
  • Background
    • Ontology, Formal Ontology
  • Recent Work
    • OntoClean, restructuring WordNet
  • Goal
    • Bring together CS, Philosophy, and Linguistics
  • Ontology
    • Account of intended meaning of terms
panelist introduction brandon bennett
Panelist IntroductionBrandon Bennett
  • Background
    • Spatial and temporal reasoning
  • Recent Work
    • Axiomatic systems for space/time, vagueness [VUG]
  • Goal
    • A unifying foundational ontology
  • Ontology
    • Rigorous definition of concepts
panelist introduction alan rector
Panelist IntroductionAlan Rector
  • Background
    • Medical terminologies, description logics
  • Recent Work
    • GALEN, part/whole reasoning, drug info
  • Goal
    • Integration of clinical systems with decision support, indexing of evidence
  • Ontology
    • Implementation of the formal representation of concepts needed for a collection of information resources
panelist introduction jim hendler
Panelist IntroductionJim Hendler
  • Background
    • Scaleable KR Systems, Interoperability, Agents
  • Recent Work
    • DAML, DAML+OIL, W3C webont chair
  • Goal
    • A semantic web
  • Ontology
    • A web of nested terminologies
points against
Points Against
  • No “The”
  • Agreement impossible
    • On the scale of the web, ridiculous
  • Standardizing syntax OK, but not semantics
  • Cognitive systems differ, even within people
    • Different cog system, different “ontology”
  • Consequences of decisions hard to predict, but important
  • Middle level easier, more important
    • Upper level development often gets bogged down
    • Takes time away from more critical parts of a system
  • No way to evaluate quality
  • Easy to teach someone middle-level concepts
    • Upper level often too opaque to explain
  • Some domains require different levels of complexity depending on the needs
points for
Points for
  • Standardizing upper level is no different than standardizing syntax, its just the next step
  • to establish consensus, there must be some common ground
  • We don’t know how to argue
    • Need tools to support argumentation
    • We must understand when we disagree
other points
Other points
  • What is upper level?
    • Abstract, or simple?
  • Where is the evidence to support upper level notions?
  • Time: easy or hard?
  • How relevant is philosophical ontology?
  • What is the value of legislation?
  • Role of logic, category theory
  • How do we learn how to communicate
  • Upper ontology similar to language creation?