• University at Buffalo
    Department of Philosophy
    Biomedical Informatics
    Computer Science and Engineering
    Distinguished Professor, Julian Park Chair
University of Manchester
Department of Philosophy
PhD, 1976
APA Eastern Division
Buffalo, New York, United States of America
  •  12292
    In Luciano Floridi (ed.), Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Computing and Information, Blackwell. pp. 155-166. 2003.
    Ontology as a branch of philosophy is the science of what is, of the kinds and structures of objects, properties, events, processes and relations in every area of reality. ‘Ontology’ in this sense is often used by philosophers as a synonym of ‘metaphysics’ (a label meaning literally: ‘what comes after the Physics’), a term used by early students of Aristotle to refer to what Aristotle himself called ‘first philosophy’. But in recent years, in a development hardly noticed by philosophers, the ter…Read more
  •  5079
    Foundations of Gestalt Theory (edited book)
    Philosophia. 1988.
    In 1890 Christian von Ehrenfels published his classic paper "Über 'Gestaltqualitäten'", the first systematic investigation of the philosophy and psychology of Gestalt. Ehrenfels thereby issued an important challenge to the psychological atomism that was still predominant in his day. His paper not only exerted a powerful influence on the philosophy of the Meinong school, it also marked the beginning of the Gestalt tradition in psychology, later associated with the work of Wertheimer, Köhler and K…Read more
  •  3477
    In G. Hurtado & O. Nudler (eds.), El mobiliario del mundo: Ensayos de ontología, Universidad Autónoma De México. 2007.
    Presentiamo qui la traduzione di un lungo saggio sull’ontologia e i sistemi informativi. Abbiamo tradotto la parte più generale con le distinzioni base tra ontologia, metafisica e scienza. L’autore, fornendo un suo punto di vista peculiare sull’ontologia, descrive le diverse questioni e distinzioni connesse all’impresa ontologica, considerando sia il punto di vista dei filosofi che degli informatici.
  •  2969
    The Austrian philosopher Christian von Ehrenfels published his essay "On 'Gestalt Qualities'" in 1890. The essay initiated a current of thought which enjoyed a powerful position in the philosophy and psychology of the first half of this century and has more recently enjoyed a minor resurgence of interest in the area of cognitive science, above all in criticisms of the so-called 'strong programme' in artificial intelligence. The theory of Gestalt is of course associated most…Read more
  •  2531
    Ontology and Cognitive Outcomes
    with David Limbaugh, Jobst Landgrebe, David Kasmier, Ronald Rudnicki, and James Llinas
    Journal of Knowledge Structures and Systems 1 (1). 2020.
    The term ‘intelligence’ as used in this paper refers to items of knowledge collected for the sake of assessing and maintaining national security. The intelligence community (IC) of the United States (US) is a community of organizations that collaborate in collecting and processing intelligence for the US. The IC relies on human-machine-based analytic strategies that 1) access and integrate vast amounts of information from disparate sources, 2) continuously process this information, so that, 3) a…Read more
  •  2394
    Visceral Values: Aurel Kolnai on Disgust
    In Barry Smith & Carolyn Korsmeyer (eds.), Aurel Kolnai's On Disgust, Open Court Publishing Company. pp. 1-23. 2004.
    In 1929 when Aurel Kolnai published his essay “On Disgust” in Husserl's ]ahrbuch he could truly assert that disgust was a "sorely neglected" topic. Now, however, this situation is changing as philosophers, psychologists, and historians of culture are turning their attention not only to emotions in general but more specifically to the large and disturbing set of aversive emotions, including disgust. We here provide an account of Kolnai’s contribution to the study of the phenomenon of disgust, of …Read more
  •  2390
    Guidelines for writing definitions in ontologies
    with Selja Seppälä and Alan Ruttenberg
    Ciência da Informação 46 (1). 2017.
    Ontologies are being used increasingly to promote the reusability of scientific information by allowing heterogeneous data to be integrated under a common, normalized representation. Definitions play a central role in the use of ontologies both by humans and by computers. Textual definitions allow ontologists and data curators to understand the intended meaning of ontology terms and to use these terms in a consistent fashion across contexts. Logical definitions allow machines to check the integr…Read more
  •  2323
    The present essay is devoted to the application of ontology in support of research in the natural sciences. It defends the thesis that ontologies developed for such purposes should be understood as having as their subject matter, not concepts, but rather the universals and particulars which exist in reality and are captured in scientific laws. We outline the benefits of a view along these lines by showing how it yields rigorous formal definitions of the foundational relations used in many influe…Read more
  •  2188
    Applied Ontology: An Introduction (edited book)
    ontos. 2008.
    Ontology is the philosophical discipline which aims to understand how things in the world are divided into categories and how these categories are related together. This is exactly what information scientists aim for in creating structured, automated representations, called 'ontologies,' for managing information in fields such as science, government, industry, and healthcare. Currently, these systems are designed in a variety of different ways, so they cannot share data with one another. They ar…Read more
  •  2068
    The Construction of Social Reality: An Exchange
    American Journal of Economics and Sociology 62 (2): 285-309. 2003.
    Part 1 of this exchange consists in a critique by Smith of Searle’s The Construction of Social Reality focusing on Searle’s use of the formula ‘X counts as Y in context C’. Smith argues that this formula works well for social objects such as dollar bills and presidents where the corresponding X terms (pieces of paper, human beings) are easy to identify. In cases such as debts and prices and money in a bank's computers, however, the formula fails, because these are cases of what he calls ‘free-s…Read more
  •  2013
    A Product Life Cycle Ontology for Additive Manufacturing
    with Munira Mohd Ali, Rahul Rai, and J. Neil Otte
    Computers in Industry 105 191-203. 2019.
    The manufacturing industry is evolving rapidly, becoming more complex, more interconnected, and more geographically distributed. Competitive pressure and diversity of consumer demand are driving manufacturing companies to rely more and more on improved knowledge management practices. As a result, multiple software systems are being created to support the integration of data across the product life cycle. Unfortunately, these systems manifest a low degree of interoperability, and this creates pro…Read more
  •  1939
    ‘Eruv’ is a Hebrew word meaning literally ‘mixture’ or ‘mingling’. An eruv is an urban region demarcated within a larger urban region by means of a boundary made up of telephone wires or similar markers. Through the creation of the eruv, the smaller region is turned symbolically (halachically = according to Jewish law) into a private domain. So long as they remain within the boundaries of the eruv, Orthodox Jews may engage in activities that would otherwise be prohibited on the Sabbath, such as …Read more
  •  1732
    The Relevance of Philosophical Ontology to Information and Computer Science
    In Ruth Hagengruber & Uwe Riss (eds.), Philosophy, Computing and Information Science, Chatto & Pickering. pp. 75-83. 2014.
    The discipline of ontology has enjoyed a checkered history since 1606, with a significant expansion in recent years. We focus here on those developments in the recent history of philosophy which are most relevant to the understanding of the increased acceptance of ontology, and especially of realist ontology, as a valuable method also outside the discipline of philosophy.
  •  1634
    Knowing How vs. Knowing That
    In J. C. Nyíri & Barry Smith (eds.), Practical Knowledge: Outlines of a Theory of Traditions and Skills, Croom Helm. pp. 1-16. 1988.
    A sketch of the history of the opposition between propositional and practical knowledge is followed by a brief account of the relevant ideas of Merleau-Ponty, Polanyi, and H. and S. Dreyfus (on expertise and artificial intelligence). The paper concludes with a discussion of the work of Ryle on the notion of a ‘discipline’, drawing implications for a theory of traditions.
  •  1595
    In Defense of Truth: Skepticism, Morality, and The Matrix
    with J. Erion Gerald
    In William Irwin (ed.), Philosophy and The Matrix, Open Court. pp. 16-27. 2002.
    The Matrix exposes us to the uncomfortable worries of philosophical skepticism in an especially compelling way. However, with a bit more reflection, we can see why we need not share the skeptic’s doubts about the existence of the world. Such doubts are appropriate only in the very special context of the philosophical seminar. When we return to normal life we see immediately that they are groundless. Furthermore, we see also the drastic mistake that Cypher commits in turning his back upon reality…Read more
  •  1516
    The Substitution Theory of Art
    Grazer Philosophische Studien 25 (1): 533-557. 1985.
    In perceptual experience we are directed towards objects in a way which establishes a real relation between a mental act and its target. In reading works of fiction we enjoy experiences which manifest certain internal similarities to such relational acts, but which lack objects. The substitution theory of art attempts to provide a reason why we seek out such experiences and the artifacts which they generate. Briefly, we seek out works of art because we enjoy the physiology and the phenomenology …Read more
  •  1443
    Basic concepts of formal ontology
    In Nicola Guarino (ed.), Formal Ontology in Information Systems, Ios Press. pp. 19-28. 1998.
    The term ‘formal ontology’ was first used by the philosopher Edmund Husserl in his Logical Investigations to signify the study of those formal structures and relations – above all relations of part and whole – which are exemplified in the subject-matters of the different material sciences. We follow Husserl in presenting the basic concepts of formal ontology as falling into three groups: the theory of part and whole, the theory of dependence, and the theory of boundary, continuity and contact. T…Read more
  •  1371
    Mach and Ehrenfels: The foundations of Gestalt Theory
    In Barry Smith (ed.), Foundations of Gestalt Theory, Philosophia Verlag. pp. 124-157. 1988.
    Ernst Mach's atomistic theory of sensation faces problems in doing justice to our ability to perceive and remember complex phenomena such as melodies and shapes. Christian von Ehrenfels attempted to solve these problems with his theory of "Gestalt qualities", which he sees as entities depending one-sidedly on the corresponding simple objects of sensation. We explore the theory of dependence relations advanced by Ehrenfels and show how it relates to the views on the objects of perception advanced…Read more
  •  1299
    Function, role and disposition in Basic Formal Ontology
    with Robert Arp
    Proceedings of Bio-Ontologies Workshop, Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology (ISMB), Toronto. 2008.
    Numerous research groups are now utilizing Basic Formal Ontology as an upper-level framework to assist in the organization and integration of biomedical information. This paper provides elucidation of the three existing BFO subcategories of realizable entity, namely function, role, and disposition. It proposes one further sub-category of tendency, and considers the merits of recognizing two sub-categories of function for domain ontologies, namely, artifactual and biological function. The motivat…Read more
  •  1202
    Husserl’s Logical Investigations
    Grazer Philosophische Studien 27 (1): 199-207. 1986.
    The magisterial analyses of logic and meaning advanced in Husserl's Logical Investigations of 1900/01 have for a number of reasons been neglected by analytical philosophers in subsequent decades. This state of affairs has to do, in part, with the history of the editions and translations of Husserl's writings. Findlay's readable but imperfect translation appeared seventy years after the work itself was first published, and the editors and translators and expositors of Husserl's works have reflect…Read more
  •  1193
    An Ontological Approach to Representing the Product Life Cycle
    with J. Neil Otte, Dimitris Kiritsi, Munira Mohd Ali, Ruoyu Yang, Binbin Zhang, Ron Rudnicki, and Rahul Rai
    Applied Ontology 14 (2): 1-19. 2019.
    The ability to access and share data is key to optimizing and streamlining any industrial production process. Unfortunately, the manufacturing industry is stymied by a lack of interoperability among the systems by which data are produced and managed, and this is true both within and across organizations. In this paper, we describe our work to address this problem through the creation of a suite of modular ontologies representing the product life cycle and its successive phases, from design to en…Read more
  •  1148
    Aristotle, Menger, Mises: An essay in the metaphysics of economics
    History of Political Economy, Annual Supplement 22 263-288. 1990.
    There are, familiarly, a range of distinct and competing accounts of the methodological underpinnings of Menger' s work. These include Leibnizian, Kantian, Millian, and even Popperian readings; but they include also readings of an Aristotelian sort, and I have myself made a number of contributions in clarification and defence of the latter. Not only, I have argued, does the historical situation in which Menger found himself point to the inevitability of the Aristotelian reading; this reading …Read more
  •  1120
    Basic Formal Ontology was created in 2002 as an upper-level ontology to support the creation of consistent lower-level ontologies, initially in the subdomains of biomedical research, now also in other areas, including defense and security. BFO is currently undergoing revisions in preparation for the release of BFO version 2.0. We summarize some of the proposed revisions in what follows, focusing on BFO’s treatment of material entities, and specifically of the category object
  •  1073
    The evaluation of ontologies: Toward improved semantic interoperability
    with Leo Obrst, Werner Ceusters, Inderjeet Mani, and Steve Ray
    In Chris Baker & Kei H. Cheung (eds.), Semantic Web: Revolutionizing Knowledge Discovery in the Life Sciences, Springer. pp. 139-158. 2006.
    Recent years have seen rapid progress in the development of ontologies as semantic models intended to capture and represent aspects of the real world. There is, however, great variation in the quality of ontologies. If ontologies are to become progressively better in the future, more rigorously developed, and more appropriately compared, then a systematic discipline of ontology evaluation must be created to ensure quality of content and methodology. Systematic methods for ontology evaluation wil…Read more
  •  1052
    There is a narrow thread in the vast literature on Kafka which pertains to Kafka’s knowledge of philosophy, and more precisely to Kafka’s use in his fictional writings of some of the main ideas of Franz Brentano. Kafka attended courses in philosophy at the Charles University given by Brentano’s students Anton Marty and Christian von Ehrenfels, and was for several years a member of a discussion-group organized by orthodox adherents of the Brentanian philosophy in Prague. The present essay summari…Read more
  •  1040
    On Luck, Responsibility and the Meaning of Life
    with Berit Brogaard
    Philosophical Papers 34 (3): 443-458. 2005.
    A meaningful life, we shall argue, is a life upon which a certain sort of valuable pattern has been imposed by the person in question - a pattern which involves in serious ways the person having an effect upon the world. Meaningfulness is thus a special kind of value which a human life can bear. Two interrelated difficulties face ths proposal. One concerns responsiblity: how are we to account for the fact that a life that satisfies the above criteria can have more meaning than a life with the sa…Read more
  •  1037
    Do mountains exist? Towards an ontology of landforms
    with David Mark
    Environment and Planning B (Planning and Design) 30 (3). 2003.
    Do mountains exist? The answer to this question is surely: yes. In fact, ‘mountain’ is the example of a kind of geographic feature or thing most commonly cited by English speakers (Mark, et al., 1999; Smith and Mark 2001), and this result may hold across many languages and cultures. But whether they are considered as individuals (tokens) or as kinds (types), mountains do not exist in quite the same unequivocal sense as do such prototypical everyday objects as chairs or people.
  •  1036
    Towards an Ontological Representation of Resistance: The Case of MRSA
    with Albert Goldfain and Lindsay G. Cowell
    Journal of Biomedical Informatics 44 (1): 35-41. 2011.
    This paper addresses a family of issues surrounding the biological phenomenon of resistance and its representation in realist ontologies. The treatments of resistance terms in various existing ontologies are examined and found to be either overly narrow, internally inconsistent, or otherwise problematic. We propose a more coherent characterization of resistance in terms of what we shall call blocking dispositions, which are collections of mutually coordinated dispositions which are of such a sor…Read more
  •  1023
    Online collection of papers by Devitt, Dretske, Guarino, Hochberg, Jackson, Petitot, Searle, Tye, Varzi and other leading thinkers on philosophy and the foundations of cognitive Science. Topics dealt with include: Wittgenstein and Cognitive Science, Content and Object, Logic and Foundations, Language and Linguistics, and Ontology and Mereology.
  •  988
    The Space Object Ontology
    with Alexander Cox, Christopher Nebelecky, Ronald Rudnicki, William Tagliaferri, and John L. Crassidis
    Achieving space domain awareness requires the identification, characterization, and tracking of space objects. Storing and leveraging associated space object data for purposes such as hostile threat assessment, object identification, and collision prediction and avoidance present further challenges. Space objects are characterized according to a variety of parameters including their identifiers, design specifications, components, subsystems, capabilities, vulnerabilities, origins, missio…Read more