Ontologies and the Existence of Mountains

In the article we read, Do Mountains Exist? by Smith and Mark, they discuss ontologies using the example question of if mountains actually exist. There were a lot of new concepts that I was/am unfamiliar with which made the article fairly challenging to comprehend. That being said, I enjoyed reading it and gaining a better understanding of the study of ontology and how it relates to G.I.Science.

An important section in this paper dealt with the relationship between ontology and information systems and why it is important. Having a standard definition of an object (ex. creek) would facilitate the sharing of data and information amongst scientists. If everybody had the same definition or way to classify something, there would be less ambiguity and an easier time sharing data. The question then arises of who gets to make those sorts of decisions (and of course, if it is even possible to have one standard classification system or framework).

On a related note, something that struck me as particularly confusing was who gets to decide into which categories objects get classified and how those decisions are made. Concerning the section Categories (pgs. 8-9), it was unclear to me how these categories (ex. subordinate, basic, superordinate levels) were chosen. Perhaps I didn’t fully understand, but it seemed fairly arbitrary. When classifying an apple into the basic level, how is that choice made? When saying that an ostrich is a poor example of a bird, is that only because a lot of people think that, or are there any rules governing those classifications? The article would have been improved if that was more clearly explained.


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