Theory and History of Ontology

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  • "History Logic" and "Bibliographia" are my other websites. "Table of Contents" gives the list of the pages, for other indexes see the "Sitemap". "Modern Ontologists" contains a table with links to the pages on the most important philosophers of the 19th and 20th centuries who have written on ontology. The "Search" function can be used to find a particular author or subject.


Living Ontologists - Bibliographical Guide: R - S

These pages will give some essential bibliographical information about some of the most important living ontologists; only a few titles will be cited for every author.

  • William Rapaport
  • Nicholas Rescher
  • Gary Rosenkrantz
  • Edmund Runggaldier
  • Nathan Salmon
  • Theodore Sider
  • Peter Simons
  • Barry Smith
  • Brian Cantwell Smith
  • David Woodruff Smith
  • John F. Sowa

William Joseph Rapaport

  1. Rapaport, William J. 1976. Intentionality and the Structure of Existence, Indiana University.

    Available at UMI Dissertation Express. Order number: 7701930.

  2. ———. 1985. "Terence Parsons' "Nonexistent Objects"." Noûs no. 19:255-271.

  3. ———. 1985. "To Be and Not to Be." Noûs no. 19:255-271.

    "Since the mid-1970s, there has been a revival of interest in the philosophy of Alexius Meinong and an attendant flurry of Meinong-inspired theories.' One of the pioneering efforts was Terence Parsons's 1974 article, "A Prolegomenon to Meinongian Semantics" (Parsons, 1974), which was followed by a series of articles in which he extended and elaborated his theory, culminating in his 1980 book, Nonexistent Objects (Parsons, 1980).

    The present essay is a critical and comparative study of Parsons's seminal and exciting work in this area, concentrating on the informal and formal versions of his theory as presented in his book.2 I begin with a discussion of the nature of intentional objects, their properties, and modes of predication as presented in Parsons's informal version of his theory. I argue that his view of objects does not adequately reflect our ordinary ways of speaking and thinking, and I defend Meinongian theories that recognize two modes of predication against Parsons's objections, which are based on his preference for two kinds of properties. I then consider Parsons's application of his theory to fictional objects, pointing out problems with his view that can be avoided by maintaining (contra Parsons) that no existing entities ever appear in works of fiction. I conclude with an outline of one of Parsons's formal versions of his theory, raising some questions and pointing out some difficulties and a curious consequence about modes of predication."

  4. ———. 1986. "Non-Existent Objects and Epistemological Ontology." Grazer Philosophische Studien no. 25/26:61-95.

    "This essay examines the role of non-existent objects in "epistemological ontology" - the study of the entities that make thinking possible. An earlier revision of Meinong's Theory of Objects is reviewed, Meinong's notions of Quasisein and Aussersein are discussed, and a theory of Meinongian objects as "combinatorially possible" entities is presented."

  5. ———. 1998. Thought, Language, and Ontology. Essays in Memory of Hector-Neri Castañeda. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Nicholas Rescher

  1. Rescher, Nicholas. 1969. Essays in Philosophical Analysis. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.

  2. ———. 1984. The Riddle of Existence. An Essay in Idealistic Metaphysics. Washington: University Press of America.

  3. ———. 1993. "American Philosophy Today." Review of Metaphysics no. 46:717-745.

  4. ———. 1996. Process Metaphysics. An Introduction to Process Philosophy. Albany: State University of New York Press.

  5. ———. 2003. Imagining Irreality. A Study of Unrealized Possibilities. Chicago: Open Court.

  6. ———. 2005. Metaphysics. The Key Issues from a Realistic Perspective. Amherst: Prometeus Books.

Gary Rosenkrantz

  1. Rosenkrantz, Gary. 1986. "On Objects Totally out of This World." Grazer Philosophische Studien no. 25/26:197-208.

    "The view that a possible world is an existing abstract object implies that all nonexistent possible individuals have a principle of individuation in terms of existing objects, properties, and relations. However, some individuals of this kind are totally out of this world both in the subjective sense that nobody in this world can pick them out, and in the ontological sense that they would neither be created by assembling or arranging existing bits of matter nor otherwise be generated by existing items. The only acceptable principle of individuation for such nonexistent possibles is that they are individuated by their unexemplified haecceities."

  2. ———. 1993. Haecceity. An Ontological Essay. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

  3. ———. 1994. Substance among Other Categories. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    With Joshua Hoffman

  4. ———. 1997. Substance: Its Nature and Existence. New York: Routledge.

    With Joshua Hoffman

  5. ———. 1998. "The Science of Being." Erkenntnis no. 48:251-255.

Ernst Runggaldier

  1. Runggaldier, Edmund. 1984. Carnap's Early Conventionalism. An Inquiry into the Historical Background of the Vienna Circle. Amsterdam: Rodopi.

  2. ———. 1998. Grundprobleme Der Analytischen Ontologie. Paderborn: Schöningh.

    With Christian Kanzian.

    Translated in Italian by Sergio Galvan as: Problemi fondamentali dell'ontologia analitica - Milano, Vita e Pensiero, 2002

Nathan Salmon

  1. Salmon, Nathan. 1981. Reference and Essence. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Second expanded edition: Amherst, Prometheus Books, 2005.

  2. ———. 1986. Frege's Puzzle. Cambridge: The MIT Press.

  3. ———. 1987. "Existence." Philosophical Perspectives no. 1:49-108.

  4. ———. 1993. "Analiticity and Apriority." Philosophical Perspectives no. 7:125-133.

  5. ———. 1998. "Nonexistence." Noûs no. 32:277-319.

  6. ———. 2005. Metaphysics, Mathematics, and Meaning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Philosophical papers. Vol. I.

Theodore Sider

  1. Sider, Theodore. 2001. Four-Dimensionalism. An Ontology of Persistence and Time. New York: Oxford University Press.

Peter Simons

  1. Simons, Peter M. 1987. Parts. A Study in Ontology. New York: Oxford University Press.

  2. ———. 1992. Philosophy and Logic in Central Europe from Bolzano to Tarski. Selected Essays. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

  3. ———. 1995. "New Categories for Formal Ontology." Grazer Philosophische Studien no. 49:77-99.

    "What primitive concepts does formal ontology require? Forsaking as too indirect the linguistic way of discerning the categories of being, this paper considers what primitives might be required for representing things in themselves (noumena) and representations of them in a thoroughly crafted large autonomous multi-purpose database. Leaving logical concepts and material ontology aside, the resulting 32 categories in 13 families range from the obvious (identity/difference, existence/non-existence) through the fairly obvious (part/whole, one/many, sequential order) and the surprisingly familiar (illocutionary modes, mass/count, indexical/descriptive) to the controversial (moment/fundament, transparent/opaque) and the arcane (modes of class delimitation, taxonomic rank, aspects of designators). Any such list is speculative and tentative, but the test of this one will be in its implementation, a new departure for philosophical category theories."

  4. ———. 2000. "Continuants and Occurrents. I." Supplement to the Proceedings of The Aristotelian Society no. 74:59-75.

    Abstract "Commonsense ontology contains both continuants and occurrents, but are continuants necessary? I argue that they are neither occurrents nor easily replaceable by them. The worst problem for continuants is the question in virtue of what a given continuant exists at a given time. For such truthmakers we must have recourse to occurrents, those vital to the continuant at that time. Continuants are, like abstract objects, invariants under equivalences over occurrents. But they are not abstract, and their being invariants enables us toinfer both their lack of temporal parts and that non-invariant predications about them must be relativized to times."

  5. ———. 2000. "Identity through Time and Trope Bundles." Topoi.An International Journal of Philosophy no. 19:147-155.

Barry Smith

  1. Smith, Barry. 1975. "The Ontogenesis of Mathematical Objects." Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology no. 6:91-101.

  2. ———. 1982. Parts and Moments. Studies in Logic and Formal Ontology. Munich: Philosophia Verlag.

    Reprinted 2001.

  3. ———. 1987. "The Ontology of Epistemology." Reports on Philosophy (Jagiellonian University) no. 11:57-66.

  4. ———. 1991. Handbook of Metaphysics and Ontology. Munich: Philosophia Verlag.

    Two volumes; reprinted 2001.

  5. ———. 1994. Austrian Philosophy. The Legacy of Franz Brentano. La Salle: Open Court.

  6. ———. 1995. "Formal Ontology, Common Sense and Cognitive Science." International Journal of Human-Computer Studies no. 43:641-667.

  7. ———. 1997. "On Substances, Accidents and Universals: In Defence of a Constituent Ontology." Philosophical Papers no. 26:105-127.

  8. Smith, Barry, and Mulligan, Kevin. 1983. "A Framework for Formal Ontology." Topoi.An International Journal of Philosophy no. 3:73-86.

David Woodruff Smith

  1. Smith, David Woodruff. 2003. ""Pure" Logic, Ontology, and Phenomenology." Revue Internationale de Philosophie:133-156.

  2. ———. 2007. Husserl. New York: Routledge.

  3. Smith, David Woodruff, and McIntyre, Ronald. 1984. Husserl and Intentionality. A Study of Mind, Meaning, and Language. Dordrecht: Reidel.

John Florian Sowa

  1. Sowa, John F. 1984. Conceptual Structures. Information Processing in Mind and Machine. Reading: Addison-Wesley.

  2. ———. 1995. "Top-Level Ontological Categories." International Journal of Human-Computer Studies no. 43:669-685.

    "Philosophers have spent 25 centuries debating ontological categories. Their insights are directly applicable to the analysis, design, and specification of the ontologies used in knowledge-based systems. This paper surveys some of the ontological questions that arise in artificial intelligence, some answers that have been proposed by various philosophers, and an application of the philosophical analysis to the clarification of some current issues in AI. Two philosophers who have developed the most complete systems of categories are Charles Sanders Peirce and Alfred North Whitehead. Their analyses suggest a basic structure of categories that can provide some guidelines for the design of Al systems."

  3. ———. 1999. "Ontological Categories." In Shapes of Forms. From Gestalt Psychology and Phenomenology to Ontology and Mathematics, 307-340. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

    "Top-level categories of an ontology are derived from contrasting features that distinguish the entities of a subject domain. Each distinctive feature is associated with axioms that are inherited by every entity or category of entities that have that feature. A hierarchy of categories can then be derived as a lattice formed as a product of the fundamental distinctions. This paper develops such a lattice based on philosophical distinctions taken primarily from the theories of Charles Sanders Peirce and Alfred North Whitehead.

    1. Categories, distinctions, and axioms

    Ontology is the study of existence, of all the kinds of entities - abstract and concrete - that make up the world. It supplies the predicates of predicate calculus and the labels that fill the boxes and circles of conceptual graphs. Logic and ontology are prerequisites for natural language semantics and knowledge representation in artificial intelligence. Without ontology, logic says nothing about anything. Without logic, ontology can only be discussed and represented in vague generalities. Logic is pure form, and ontology provides the content. The most general categories of an ontology are the framework for classifying every thing else.


    More fundamental than the categories themselves are the criteria for distinguishing categories and determining whether a particular entity belongs to one or another. Those distinctions are the basis for Aristotle's method of definition by genus and differentiae. Each distinction contributes a pair of primitive features or differentiae, and the conjugation of all the differentiae for all the genera or supertypes of a compound concept constitutes its definition.

    In his efforts to automate Aristotle's logic, Leibniz assigned a prime number to each primitive feature. Then he represented each composite concept by the product of the primes in its definition. Leibniz's method of combining primitives generates highly symmetric hierarchies called lattices. That symmetry, by itself, is not essential to an ontology, but it is an important guide to knowledge acquisition: every combination that is generated theoretically should be tested empirically to determine whether entities of that type happen to exist. If so, then the combinatorial method may predict new types of entities and aid in their discovery. If no entities of the predicted type are found, then the combinatorial method may aid in the discovery of axioms or constraints that rule out those combinations. In either case, the method helps to ensure completeness by directing attention to possibilities that may have been overlooked or by suggesting new scientific principles that explain their absence.


    2. Philosophical foundations

    The last two great ontological system builders were Charles Sanders Peirce and Alfred North Whitehead, both of whom were also pioneers in the development of symbolic logic during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Although their logic has flourished, their ontologies have been neglected. Yet the ontologies of Peirce and Whitehead, when combined with logic, can serve as a foundation for AI knowledge representation and natural language semantics."

  4. ———. 2000. Knowledge Representation. Logical, Philosophical, and Computational Foundations. Pacific Grove: Books Cole.