chapter  2
Further reflections on ontology
Pages 20

Philosophy, so revered in the past, seems to have lost its attraction during the second half of the past century. Doyen Farmer (1995: 29), for example, points out that physicists (during the 1920s), were still well educated in philosophy, which he finds was no longer the case at the end of the twentieth century. Yet, it seems that this anti-philosophical trend – whether among physicists or economists or among members of the management fraternity – is slowly reversing itself. Indeed, in recent decades a surprising revival of interest in philosophical issues arose, particularly from the quarters of accounting, heterodox economics, management and organization theory, and the information sciences. The present book bears witness to this new trend that may be more than a passing fad. The renewed interest, particularly in ontology, has two very different sources. The first is a deeply felt need for clarifying some fundamental philosophical notions manifested in the community of heterodox and evolutionary economists (in contrast to mainstream economists) who put greater emphasis on ontological considerations instead of ‘internal consistency, simplicity, elegance, parsimony and tractability’ (cf. Vromen 2004b: 240). The other source of this revived interest in ontology comes from systems scientists. They adopted ontology for lexical, taxonomic, and related purposes in constructing a wide variety of artificial intelligent systems. This should enable computers to create knowledge, communicate with people as well as with other computers. Indeed, this area seems to be the most promising use of ontology from a practical point of view. The vision is to create first a general ontology with basic concepts (arranged in a hierarchical structure) and with axioms valid for all fundamental entities (objects, processes, attributes, relations, facts, etc.). From this basis one ought to derive domain-ontologies (lower-level ontologies) for computer application in specific scientific and technical fields. The potential for such undertakings are enormous; but so are the difficulties that have to be overcome in achieving it. The hurdles are numerous and can be illustrated by the many domain-ontologies already in existence, e.g. for government budgeting (Brusa et al. 2006), for dermatology (Eapen 2008), for educational purposes (Zouaq and Nkambou 2008), and many other areas.