Ontology is the theory of what there is, in broad and general terms. Ontologists attempt to answer such questions as "Do numbers exist?", "Do properties exist?", "Do space and time exist?"

The most influential ontologist of the 20th century is W. V. Quine, whose essay "On What There Is" and book "Word and Object" established the standard ontological methodology for analytic philosophers.

Ontology is a branch of metaphysics concerned with the study of knowledge or what is. An ontology is a theory or set of theories about knowledge and reality.

About the two most commonplace uses of ontology are in curriculum selection (deciding what should and shouldn't be taught in schools) and classification systems (such as the Library of Congress Classification System). These are encodings of what knowledge is worth passing on and what knowledge exists, respectively.

Because of the close historical relationship between libraries and scholarship classification systems have traditionally been influenced by the curriculum of universities and colleges.

viterbiSearcher is right in stating that one of the commonplace uses of ontology is classification systems. What is missing is the fact that the internet has made this a very active field.

Most search engine companies employ ontologists to dream up their classification systems. The Open Directory Project is an attempt to publish a directory of the web (with categories, like Yahoo) by volunteers. Go there and put "ontology" into their search engine and you'll find that ontology is indeed a hot topic these days.

A brief history of existence.

Here's a top down list of different explanation of "what it's all about".

Thanks to JerboaKolinowski for pointing out Neutral Monism.

On*tol"o*gy (?), n. [Gr. the things which exist (pl.neut. of , , being, p.pr. of to be) + -logy: cf.F. ontologie.]

That department of the science of metaphysics which investigates and explains the nature and essential properties and relations of all beings, as such, or the principles and causes of being.


© Webster 1913.

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