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RE: [ontac-forum] ISO 15926 and BFO

To: ONTAC-WG General Discussion <ontac-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Barry Smith <phismith@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 21 Nov 2005 09:21:52 +0100
Message-id: <>

> > > > Uniquely, among existing
> > > > contributions, the BFO Relation Ontology allows the drawing of a
> > > > clear distinction between relations on the level of
> > instances (e.g.
> > > > between your heart and your body) and relations on the
> > level of types
> > > > (e.g. between the type human heart and the type human body).
> > >
> > >MW: Just for the record, ISO 15926 also supports this.
> > >
> > >
> > >Regards
> > >
> > >Matthew West
> >
> > ISO 15926 does indeed distinguish between relationships and classes
> > of relationships:
> >
> > A <relationship> is an <abstract_object> that indicates something
> > that one thing has to do with another.
> >
> > A <class_of_relationship> is a <class_of _abstract_object> whose
> > members are members of <relationship>.
> >
> > However, it does not provide an account of the distinction between
> > relationships BETWEEN CLASSES (for example in general assertions such
> > as: human heart PART_OF human body, capital city PART_OF country) and
> > relationships BETWEEN INSTANCES (such as Matthew's heart part_of
> > Matthew's body; London part_of England).
>MW: It does precisely this. We have class_of_composition_of_individual
>for classes of relationship between classes (e.g. heart part of body)
>and composition_of_individual for relationships between individuals,
>e.g. Matthew's heart part of Matthew (which would of course be an
>instance of the former example).    (01)

You have both this relation (call it 'r')
composition_of_individual    (02)

A <composition_of_individual> is a <relationship> that indicates that 
the part <possible_individual> is a part of the whole 
<possible_individual>. A simple composition is indicated, unless a 
subtype is instantiated too.
at the instance level, and this class
A <class_of_composition_of_individual> is a <class_of_relationship> 
whose members are members of <composition_of_individual>.
EXAMPLE: That piles of sand may have grains of sand as parts is an 
example of <class_of_composition_of_individual>.
The name of the class 'class of composition_of_individual' looks at 
first sight as if it would mean 'class of composition of individual'. 
(This would be good, wouldn't it?*) The example, suggests, however, 
that it does not mean that, but that it means rather something like: 
the analogue of composition_of_individual at the class level. That 
is, it designates not a class of relations but rather a relation (at 
the class level) in its own right. Call this relation 'R'.    (03)

If I understand your example correctly, then you are asserting that 
the class grain_of_sand stands in R to the class pile_of_sand. (The 
analogue at the class level, therefore, if this instance-level 
statement: this grain of sand here before me now stands in r to this 
pile of sand here before me now.)    (04)

My question now is: what is the relation between r and R? The latter 
cannot be just the class of which the former is an instance, for a 
class of relations is not itself a relation, just as a class of 
horses is not itself a horse.
BS    (05)

*It is one of my complaints about ISO/FDIS 15926, as you know, that 
its semi-regimented English language is both counterintuitive for 
normal users and hard to learn even for experts.    (06)

>MW: We also recognise that in some cases there are relationships between
>classes that are not classes of relationship. Specialisation would be
>an example of this. Do you support this sort of distinction too? We even
>have class_of_specialisation for saying that a member of one class has
>a member of another class as a superclass.
> > As is shown in
> >
> > http://genomebiology.com/2005/6/5/R46
>MW: I've downloaded the PDF. I'll take a look when I get a moment. Its a
>bit late now.
> >
> > these are formally two quite distinct sorts of relationships. And
> > only if we provide an account of how they are connected one to the
> > other can we understand how an ontology (which deals with
> > relationships BETWEEN CLASSES) can be linked to the real world of oil
> > rigs and generators.
>MW: Indeed, which is why we do.
>MW: For you not to have seen this I wonder
>how you are looking at the model. Have you found the diagrams? If you
>click on the little icon beside the entity type name in the list, you
>will be taken to a diagram of the part of the model that entity type is
>in. I find diagrams much easier than text, and since you use diagrams
>in your ontologies you might too.
> >
> > BS
> >
> >
> >
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