Are there differences between Ontology and Ontologies?

asked 04 Nov '12, 15:50

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edited 05 Nov '12, 11:00

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Signified ♦

Hello @NANA, and welcome to Please read the FAQ (see link in the right column) and also see this page for some helpful tips on how to best use this site:

(04 Nov '12, 16:04) Jeen Broekstra ♦ Jeen%20Broekstra's gravatar image

Unfortunately your question as it is is not a good fit for this Q&A forum. Please edit your question to make it more explicit, and use the tips in the above links to your advantage: show why you are asking this question, and if possible, show that you have already done research on the problem on your own.

(04 Nov '12, 16:08) Jeen Broekstra ♦ Jeen%20Broekstra's gravatar image

I think I maybe understand the question.

Ontology is a philosophical area of study, looking at patterns in the nature of reality and how things can be categorised into hierarchies, what constitutes the existence of a "thing", and so forth. (Read more and, for example, see an interesting ontological question in the form of the Ship of Theseus)

Ontologies are used in Computer Science to document some sort of formally well-defined, unambiguous and agreed upon conceptualisation for a domain being described. Ontologies are machine readable and machine interpretable and allow for reasoning. In the Semantic Web world, Ontologies are defined in OWL. (Read more.)

The previous sense of the term is older and was borrowed by Computer Scientists.

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answered 05 Nov '12, 10:59

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Signified ♦
accept rate: 37%


To be overly nitpicky about it: the thing you write down in OWL and which is machine readable is actually the ontology specification. The ontology is the conceptualisation itself, in the abstract. But nobody really makes this distinction I guess :)

(05 Nov '12, 15:17) Jeen Broekstra ♦ Jeen%20Broekstra's gravatar image

Sounds like we need an ontology (specification) ... of ontologies. :)

But yep, that's a good distinction. What you say probably better justifies the link between the two terms. I could imagine that Computer Scientists started out calling them "ontology specifications" and over the years, it became common to drop the "specification" part. If so, there's the slightest hint of irony to that.

(05 Nov '12, 16:40) Signified ♦ Signified's gravatar image

Computer scientists have called these beasts all kinds of things in the past: "conceptual model", "terminology", etc. I don't know how the term "ontology" made it into the Semantic Web eventually, but it is as it is. The problem with the terms "ontology" and "semantics" is that people hear them and start to make all kinds of sense out of them and going into all kinds of fruitless discussions. It's like a computer scientist and a forester would battle over what a "tree" is...

(07 Nov '12, 09:32) Michael Schn... ♦ Michael%20Schneider's gravatar image
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question asked: 04 Nov '12, 15:50

question was seen: 1,854 times

last updated: 07 Nov '12, 09:32