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A Tale of Two Ontologies: a Question of Which is to be Master, That's All

At the Indiana Philosophy Ontology (InPhO) project we have developed techniques for building and maintaining a dynamic representation of the discipline of philosophy: its ideas, thinkers, documents, and institutions (an approach which we believe could also be generalized to other humanities disciplines). Our approach favors specific pragmatic goals that rely on human interpretation rather than complete formal specification. Thus, our "dynamic ontology" approach can be contrasted with a "formal ontology" approach, which aims for a level of explicit definition that is essential to some machine reasoning tasks. This tale of two ontologies argues that the the benefits of dynamic flexibility outweigh the costs of incomplete formalization, especially in the context of humanities computing where skilled interpretation of meaning is a central skill. Ontologies are repositories of meaning that serve as intermediaries between people and machines -- the question is which is to be master, that's all!