Project Description

The main aim of this project is to build a computational model of philosophical research with the help of the tools and methods available in knowledge representation. The model will represent the domain of philosophy both as a distinctive type of human intelectual behaviour and as a complex system of content created by this behaviour. In other words, the project aims to represent philosophy as an activity (“philosophy-as-a-process”) and philosophy as its outcome (“philosophy-as-a-result”) – this distinction going back to the paper O czynnościach i wytworach published in 1912 by K. Twardowski (English translation in Twardowski (1999)). The scope of this model will then contain both such events as philosophical publications, conferences, or PhD defences  (most of which are not specific to philosophy or even to the humanities) and such (philosophy-specific) intentional entities as arguments, definitions, thought experiments, etc.

It goes withot saying that the task of representing the whole body of philosophical knowledge at any non-trivial level of generality goes far beyond the scope of any feasible project because of the size and heterogenity of this knowledge. Therefore, the scope of the current project is restricted to metaphysics, which is the branch of philosophy that influenced the development of the discipline of knowledge representation (cf. Garbacz and Trypuz (2011)).

Even with the aforementioned constraint any project with such an objective is doomed to fail unless the appropriate level of generality is defined and validated. For this project its level of generality will be determined by two factors:

  1. the paradigm of ontological engineering
  2. the perspective of practical application of the model.

The first factor locates the project rather within the discipline of knowledge representation, i.e., at the crossroads between computer science and Artificial Intelligence, than in (meta-)philosophy. To be more specific, the model of philosophical research in question will take the form of an (applied) ontology, where the term “applied ontology” is used in the sense established in knowledge representation (Guarino et al. (2010)). The main task of ontological engineering is to represent knowledge in computer systems. The informational artefacts that are provided thereby are called applied ontologies. The category of applied ontologies is heterogenous with respect to the content and structure of its elements. The simplest ontologies are just list of identifiers such as GUIDs or URIs. The more complex ontologies include glossaries, thesauri and taxonomies. The most advanced ontologies are axiomatic theories (in the sense of logic) and the current project aims at this form of applied ontology. When you build an applied ontology for a certain domain (be it a branch of science, a system of law, a dataset within a business enterprise, etc.) against a set of engineering requirements, your basic task is to specify in an explicit and unambiguous way what kinds of entities exist in this domain (i.e., objects, their attributes/properties, relations, processes, etc.) given the requirements in question. Usually this task is achieved by building a terminology that describes this domain and by organising its terms in a transparent and consistent conceptual structure. Thus, the term “Ontology of metaphysics”, which is the title of this project, denotes then a logical theory

  • whose intended domain is the discpline of metaphysics and
  • whose language is capable of being processed by computers.

Consequently, this meta-theoretical affiliation will influence not only the abstraction level and the scope of my research, but also the language to be employed.

The second factor has to do with the secondary, subordinate objective of the project. Namely, the resulting applied ontology is to be a component of a web portal that provides information on the philosophical research in Poland. The ontology is to be implemented as a data model for this portal to enhance its search capabilities. The applicant obtained an initial agreement with the developers of the portal in this respect. This subsidiary objective will not be a methodological principle that is guide the research performed in this project, but it is construed as a benchmark test to evaluate the applicability of the formal model obtained in the project. However, I do not envisage that the resulting ontology will be populated with any significant amount of data.

Besides the two scientific objectives I intend to build and maintain an independent website where the progress and the results of the project will be available to a wider audience during the duration of the project.