Ontology, Society and Ontotheology
This is an abstract submitted to FOIS'04.
Ethnomethodologists emphasize the negotiable, situated, embodied, emergent character of classification, as of all human activity. Cognitive linguists and psychologists study categorization, conceptual domains, metaphor and blending, and reach similar conclusions. Sociologists of science observe the intensely political and ethical aspects of classification systems, as well as their malleability, evolution, and local interpretation. French post-structuralists consider writerly texts, intertextuality, deconstruction, etc. Heidegger criticized "ontotheology" as the alienating notion of "being" that is the essence of modern technology. Taken together, this motivates skepticism about extreme claims for ontologies in the technical sense of the Semantic Web, database integration, etc., despite the undoubted applicability of this technology to many specific problems. Is it safe to assume static, precise, complete, eternally valid categorizations of what is, even in some limited domain? What can emerge from carefully considering skeptical arguments, hyperbolic claims, technical advances, and logical foundations (including recent work by this author on integrating databases by integrating their schemas and ontologies, is a balanced assessment of what seems possible and desirable, versus what seems impossible and undesirable, as well as a plea for greater humility, better ethics, better theory, and greater humanity.
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Last modified: Thu Jul 22 09:47:18 PDT 2004