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Re: [xmca] (ism) v (ist)

On Apr 17, 2010, at 7:43 PM, mike cole wrote:

> if i ever understand the term, ontology (or have the illusion I do!)

Mike, the term ontology is actually pretty straightforward! Its sense is the assumptions, tacit or explicit, about what kinds of entity exist, and how they relate to one another. Philosophers talk a lot about ontology, but so do computer scientists. Your computer is an instantiation of several ontologies. One is the "world" of the desktop, where the objects are files, folder, disks and so on. Folders can contain files, and other folders. Disks contain folders and files. Files come in various kinds, each of which holds different kinds of data.

The "world" of a Microsoft Word document is a different ontology. Here the objects are letters, words, sentences, headers and footers, margins, and so on. 

This is what is called "object-oriented"programing: the programer explicitly defines all the different kinds of objects in the domain of interest, their properties and the possible ways they can interrelate, and the actions that can be formed on them. (Short article here: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Object_oriented_design_ontology>)

In the same way, a philosopher may take a shot at defining the kinds of entities that exist. A dualist, for example, will say there are two basic kinds, material entities and spiritual entities. And as Kuhn famously suggested, a scientific paradigm has implicit ontological assumptions "embodied" in its practices, which a philosopher or sociologist of science can have fun spelling out.

Hope that helps!

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