[Humanist] 30.486 ontology to ontologies?

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sat Nov 12 10:48:06 CET 2016

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 30, No. 486.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Sat, 12 Nov 2016 09:07:59 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: ontology to ontologies

I'm looking within the long moment of transition from 'ontology' to
'ontologies' for it to be noticed and discussed within computer science 
& engineering -- or for a suitable retrospective account. It's clear from 
articles by Stephen Michael Kosslyn ("On the ontological status of 
visual mental images", 1978), Arne Sølvberg ("Software requirement 
definition and data models", 1979) and John McCarthy ("Circumscription: 
A form of non-monotonic reasoning", 1980) that by then the singular noun 
was crossing from philosophy into computer science. People in the trade 
will know that Thomas Gruber defined the term for computer science in 
1993 and 1995. McCarthy, for one, was familiar with the work of the 
philosopher Willard Van Orman Quine, who wrote "On what there is" (1948) 
and "On ontologies" (1949). But as far as I can tell philosophers were 
not and are not interested in what happened to the word in computer 
science. Too bad.

The big problem I am considering is the relation between the digital 
modelling machine, which in effect demands pluralisation of 'ontology', 
and the widespread, in some places very deep, attention to different 
ways of thinking and being in the world, or to put the matter another 
way, the great difficulty of positing cognitive universals. Alan 
Turing's invention of a 'universal' machine became a step in this 
direction. But as a good friend said to me awhile ago, there's a great 
difference between a few dozen people talking about something and tens 
of thousands of people talking about it.

Any clues? Discussion?

Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
Humanities, King's College London; Adjunct Professor, Western Sydney

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