Formal ontologies of space and time. IFOMIS Report

In Thomas Bittner & Barry Smith (eds.), IFOMIS Report (2003)
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We propose an ontological theory that is powerful enough to describe both complex spatio-temporal processes (occurrents) and the enduring entities (continuants) that participate in such processes. For this purpose we distinguish between meta-ontology and token ontologies. Token ontologies fall into two major categories: ontologies of type SPAN and ontologies of type SNAP. These represent two complementary perspectives on reality and result in distinct though compatible systems of categories. The meta-ontological level then describes the relationships between the different token ontologies. In a SNAP (snapshot) ontology we have enduring entities such as substances, qualities, roles, functions as these exist to be inventoried at a given moment of time. In a SPAN ontology we have perduring entities such as processes and their parts and aggregates. We argue that both kinds of ontological theory are required, together with the metaontology which joins them together, in order to give a non-reductionistic account of both static and dynamic aspects of the geospatial world.

Author Profiles

Barry Smith
University at Buffalo
Thomas Bittner
State University of New York, Buffalo


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