Jump to content


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
An illustration of Cartesian materialism, which argues that it is possible to find the content of conscious experience moment by moment in the mind. Materialism in general, arguing that matter is the fundamental 'substance', is an influential perspective on ontology.

In metaphysics, ontology is the philosophical study of being. It investigates what types of entities exist, how they are grouped into categories, and how they are related to one another on the most fundamental level (and whether there even is a fundamental level).[1] Ontologists often try to determine what the categories or highest kinds are and how they form a system of categories that encompasses the classification of all entities. Commonly proposed categories include substances, properties, relations, states of affairs, and events. These categories are characterized by fundamental ontological concepts, including particularity and universality, abstractness and concreteness, or possibility and necessity. Of special interest is the concept of ontological dependence, which determines whether the entities of a category exist on the most fundamental level. Disagreements within ontology are often about whether entities belonging to a certain category exist and, if so, how they are related to other entities.[2]

When used as a countable noun, the words ontology and ontologies refer not to the science of being but to theories within the science of being. Ontological theories can be divided into various types according to their theoretical commitments. Monocategorical ontologies hold that there is only one basic category, but polycategorical ontologies rejected this view. Hierarchical ontologies assert that some entities exist on a more fundamental level and that other entities depend on them. Flat ontologies, on the other hand, deny such a privileged status to any entity.


Ontology is the study of being. It is the branch of philosophy that investigates the nature of existence, the features all entities have in common, and how they are divided into basic categories of being.[3] It aims to discover the foundational building blocks of the world and characterize reality as a whole in its most general aspects.[a] In this regard, ontology contrasts with individual sciences like biology and astronomy, which restrict themselves to a limited domain of entities, such as living entities and celestial phenomena.[5] In some contexts, the term ontology refers not to the general study of being but to a specific ontological theory within this discipline. It can also mean a conceptual scheme or inventory of a particular domain.[6]

Ontology is closely related to metaphysics but the exact relation of these two disciplines is disputed. According to a traditionally influential characterization, metaphysics is the study of fundamental reality in the widest sense while ontology is the subdiscipline of metaphysics that restricts itself to the most general features of reality.[7] This view sees ontology as general metaphysics, which is to be distinguished from special metaphysics focused on more specific subject matters, like God, mind, and value.[8] A different conception understands ontology as a preliminary discipline that provides a complete inventory of reality while metaphysics examines the features and structure of the entities in this inventory.[9] Another conception says that metaphysics is about real being while ontology examines possible being or the concept of being.[10] It is not universally accepted that there is a clear boundary between metaphysics and ontology. Some philosophers use both terms as synonyms.[11]

The word ontology has its roots in the ancient Greek terms ὄντως (ontos, meaning being) and λογία (logia, meaning study of), literally, the study of being. The ancient Greeks did not use the term ontology, which was coined by philosophers in the 17th century.[12]


Ontology is closely associated with Aristotle's question of 'being qua being': the question of what all entities in the widest sense have in common.[13][14] The Eleatic principle is one answer to this question: it states that being is inextricably tied to causation, that "Power is the mark of Being".[13] One problem with this answer is that it excludes abstract objects. Another explicit but little-accepted answer can be found in Berkeley's slogan that "to be is to be perceived".[15] Intimately related but not identical to the question of 'being qua being' is the problem of categories.[13] Categories are usually seen as the highest kinds or genera.[16] A system of categories provides a classification of entities that is exclusive and exhaustive: every entity belongs to exactly one category. Various such classifications have been proposed, often including categories for substances, properties, relations, states of affairs, and events.[13][17] At the core of the differentiation between categories are various fundamental ontological concepts and distinctions, for example, the concepts of particularity and universality, of abstractness and concreteness, of ontological dependence, of identity, and of modality.[13][17] These concepts are sometimes treated as categories themselves, and are used to explain the difference between categories or play other central roles for characterizing different ontological theories. Within ontology, there is a lack of general consensus concerning how the different categories are to be defined.[16] Different ontologists often disagree on whether a certain category has any members at all or whether a given category is fundamental.[17]

Particulars and universals[edit]

Particulars or individuals are usually contrasted with universals.[18][19] Universals concern features that can be exemplified by various different particulars.[20] For example, a tomato and a strawberry are two particulars that exemplify the universal redness. Universals can be present at various distinct locations in space at the same time while particulars are restricted to one location at a time. Furthermore, universals can be fully present at different times, which is why they are sometimes referred to as repeatables in contrast to non-repeatable particulars.[17] The so-called problem of universals is the problem to explain how different things can agree in their features, e.g., how a tomato and a strawberry can both be red.[13][20] Realists believe that there are universals. They can solve the problem of universals by explaining the commonality through a universal shared by both entities.[17] Realists are divided among themselves as to whether universals can exist independently of being exemplified by something ("ante res") or not ("in rebus").[21] Nominalists, on the other hand, deny that there are universals. They use other notions to explain how a feature can be common to several entities, for example, by positing either fundamental resemblance-relations between the entities (resemblance nominalism) or a shared membership to a common natural class (class nominalism).[17]

Abstract and concrete[edit]

Many philosophers agree that there is an exclusive and exhaustive distinction between concrete objects and abstract objects.[17] Some philosophers consider this to be the most general division of being.[22] Examples of concrete objects include plants, human beings, and planets while things like numbers, sets, and propositions are abstract objects.[23] But despite the general agreement concerning the paradigm cases, there is less consensus as to what the characteristic marks of concreteness and abstractness are. Popular suggestions include defining the distinction in terms of the difference between (1) existence inside or outside spacetime, (2) having causes and effects or not, and (3) having contingent or necessary existence.[24][25]

Ontological dependence[edit]

An entity ontologically depends on another entity if the first entity cannot exist without the second entity. Ontologically independent entities, on the other hand, can exist all by themselves.[26] For example, the surface of an apple cannot exist without the apple and so depends on it ontologically.[27] Entities often characterized as ontologically dependent include properties, which depend on their bearers, and boundaries, which depend on the entity they demarcate from its surroundings.[28] As these examples suggest, ontological dependence is to be distinguished from causal dependence, in which an effect depends for its existence on a cause. It is often important to draw a distinction between two types of ontological dependence: rigid and generic.[17][28] Rigid dependence concerns the dependence on one specific entity, as the surface of an apple depends on its specific apple.[29] Generic dependence, by contrast, involves a weaker form of dependence, on merely a certain type of entity. For example, electricity generically depends on there being charged particles, but it does not depend on any specific charged particle.[28] Dependence-relations are relevant to ontology since it is often held that ontologically dependent entities have a less robust form of being. This way a hierarchy is introduced into the world that brings with it the distinction between more and less fundamental entities.[28]


Identity is a basic ontological concept that is often expressed by the word "same".[17][30] It is important to distinguish between qualitative identity and numerical identity. For example, consider two children with identical bicycles engaged in a race while their mother is watching. The two children have the same bicycle in one sense (qualitative identity) and the same mother in another sense (numerical identity).[17] Two qualitatively identical things are often said to be indiscernible. The two senses of sameness are linked by two principles: the principle of indiscernibility of identicals and the principle of identity of indiscernibles. The principle of indiscernibility of identicals is uncontroversial and states that if two entities are numerically identical with each other then they exactly resemble each other.[30] The principle of identity of indiscernibles, on the other hand, is more controversial in making the converse claim that if two entities exactly resemble each other then they must be numerically identical.[30] This entails that "no two distinct things exactly resemble each other".[31] A well-known counterexample comes from Max Black, who describes a symmetrical universe consisting of only two spheres with the same features.[32] Black argues that the two spheres are indiscernible but not identical, thereby constituting a violation of the principle of identity of indiscernibles.[33]

The problem of identity over time concerns the question of persistence: whether or in what sense two objects at different times can be numerically identical. This is usually referred to as diachronic identity in contrast to synchronic identity.[30][34] The statement that "[t]he table in the next room is identical with the one you purchased last year" asserts diachronic identity between the table now and the table then.[34] A famous example of a denial of diachronic identity comes from Heraclitus, who argues that it is impossible to step into the same river twice because of the changes that occurred in-between.[30][35] The traditional position on the problem of persistence is endurantism, the thesis that diachronic identity in a strict sense is possible. One problem with this position is that it seems to violate the principle of indiscernibility of identicals: the object may have undergone changes in the meantime resulting in it being discernible from itself.[17] Perdurantism or four-dimensionalism is an alternative approach holding that diachronic identity is possible only in a loose sense: while the two objects differ from each other strictly speaking, they are both temporal parts that belong to the same temporally extended whole.[17][36] Perdurantism avoids many philosophical problems plaguing endurantism, but endurantism seems to be more in touch with how we ordinarily conceive diachronic identity.[34][35]


Modality concerns the concepts of possibility, actuality, and necessity. In contemporary discourse, these concepts are often defined in terms of possible worlds.[17] A possible world is a complete way how things could have been.[37] The actual world is one possible world among others: things could have been different from what they actually are. A proposition is possibly true if there is at least one possible world in which it is true; it is necessarily true if it is true in all possible worlds.[38] Actualists and possibilists disagree on the ontological status of possible worlds.[17] Actualists hold that reality is at its core actual and that possible worlds should be understood in terms of actual entities, for example, as fictions or as sets of sentences.[39] Possibilists, on the other hand, assign to possible worlds the same fundamental ontological status as to the actual world. This is a form of modal realism, holding that reality has irreducibly modal features.[39] Another important issue in this field concerns the distinction between contingent and necessary beings.[17] Contingent beings are beings whose existence is possible but not necessary. Necessary beings, on the other hand, could not have failed to exist.[40][41] It has been suggested that this distinction is the highest division of being.[17][42]


The category of substances has played a central role in many ontological theories throughout the history of philosophy.[43][44] "Substance" is a technical term within philosophy not to be confused with the more common usage in the sense of chemical substances like gold or sulfur. Various definitions have been given but among the most common features ascribed to substances in the philosophical sense is that they are particulars that are ontologically independent: they are able to exist all by themselves.[13][43] Being ontologically independent, substances can play the role of fundamental entities in the ontological hierarchy.[28][44] If 'ontological independence' is defined as including causal independence, then only self-caused entities, like Spinoza's God, can be substances. With a specifically ontological definition of 'independence', many everyday objects like books or cats may qualify as substances.[13][43] Another defining feature often attributed to substances is their ability to undergo changes. Changes involve something existing before, during, and after the change. They can be described in terms of a persisting substance gaining or losing properties, or of matter changing its form.[43] From this perspective, the ripening of a tomato may be described as a change in which the tomato loses its greenness and gains its redness. It is sometimes held that a substance can have a property in two ways: essentially and accidentally. A substance can survive a change of accidental properties, but it cannot lose its essential properties, which constitute its nature.[44][45]

Properties and relations[edit]

The category of properties consists of entities that can be exemplified by other entities, e.g., by substances.[46] Properties characterize their bearers, they express what their bearer is like.[13] For example, the red color and the round shape of an apple are properties of this apple. Various ways have been suggested concerning how to conceive properties themselves and their relation to substances.[17] The traditionally dominant view is that properties are universals that inhere in their bearers.[13] As universals, they can be shared by different substances. Nominalists, on the other hand, deny that universals exist.[20] Some nominalists try to account for properties in terms of resemblance relations or class membership.[17] Another alternative for nominalists is to conceptualize properties as simple particulars, so-called tropes.[13] This position entails that both the apple and its redness are particulars. Different apples may still exactly resemble each other concerning their color, but they do not share the same particular property on this view: the two color-tropes are numerically distinct.[20] Another important question for any theory of properties is how to conceive the relation between a bearer and its properties.[17] Substratum theorists hold that there is some kind of substance, substratum, or bare particular that acts as bearer.[47] Bundle theory is an alternative view that does away with a substratum altogether: objects are taken to be just a bundle of properties.[44][48] They are held together not by a substratum but by the so-called compresence-relation responsible for the bundling. Both substratum theory and bundle theory can be combined with conceptualizing properties as universals or as particulars.[47]

An important distinction among properties is between categorical and dispositional properties.[13][49] Categorical properties concern what something is like, e.g., what qualities it has. Dispositional properties, on the other hand, involve what powers something has, what it is able to do, even if it is not actually doing it.[13] For example, the shape of a sugar cube is a categorical property, while its tendency to dissolve in water is a dispositional property. For many properties there is a lack of consensus as to how they should be classified, for example, whether colors are categorical or dispositional properties.[50][51] Categoricalism is the thesis that on a fundamental level there are only categorical properties, that dispositional properties are either non-existent or dependent on categorical properties. Dispositionalism is the opposite theory, giving ontological primacy to dispositional properties.[49][50] Between these two extremes, there are dualists who allow both categorical and dispositional properties in their ontology.[46]

Relations are ways in which things, the relata, stand to each other.[13][52] Relations are in many ways similar to properties in that both characterize the things they apply to. Properties are sometimes treated as a special case of relations involving only one relatum.[46] Central for ontology is the distinction between internal and external relations.[53] A relation is internal if it is fully determined by the features of its relata.[54] For example, an apple and a tomato stand in the internal relation of similarity to each other because they are both red.[55] Some philosophers have inferred from this that internal relations do not have a proper ontological status since they can be reduced to intrinsic properties.[53][56] External relations, on the other hand, are not fixed by the features of their relata. For example, a book stands in an external relation to a table by lying on top of it. But this is not determined by the book's or the table's features like their color, their shape, and so forth.[53]

States of affairs and events[edit]

States of affairs are complex entities, in contrast to substances and properties, which are usually conceived as simple.[13][57] Complex entities are built up from or constituted by other entities. Atomic states of affairs are constituted by one particular and one property exemplified by this particular.[17][58] For example, the state of affairs that Socrates is wise is constituted by the particular "Socrates" and the property "wise". Relational states of affairs involve several particulars and a relation connecting them. States of affairs that obtain are also referred to as facts.[58] It is controversial which ontological status should be ascribed to states of affairs that do not obtain.[17] States of affairs have been prominent in 20th-century ontology as various theories were proposed to describe the world as composed of states of affairs.[13][59][60] It is often held that states of affairs play the role of truthmakers: judgments or assertions are true because the corresponding state of affairs obtains.[58][61]

Events take place in time, they are sometimes thought of as involving a change in the form of acquiring or losing a property, like the lawn's becoming dry.[62] But on a liberal view, the retaining of a property without any change may also count as an event, e.g., the lawn's staying wet.[62][63] Some philosophers see events as universals that can repeat at different times, but the more dominant view is that events are particulars and therefore non-repeatable.[63] Some events are complex in that they are composed of a sequence of events, often referred to as a process.[64] But even simple events can be conceived as complex entities involving an object, a time and the property exemplified by the object at this time.[65][66] So-called process philosophy or process ontology ascribes ontological primacy to changes and processes as opposed to the emphasis on static being in the traditionally dominant substance metaphysics.[67][68]

Schools of thought[edit]

Realism and anti-realism[edit]

The term realism is used for various theories[b] that affirm that some kind of phenomenon is real or has mind-independent existence. Ontological realism is the view that there are objective facts about what exists and what the nature and categories of being are. Ontological realists do not make claims about what those facts are, for example, whether elementary particles exist. They merely state that there are mind-independent facts that determine which ontological theories are true.[70] This idea is denied by ontological anti-realists, also called ontological deflationists, who say that there are no substantive facts one way or the other.[71] According to philosopher Rudolf Carnap, for example, ontological statements are relative to language and depend on the ontological framework of the speaker. This means that there are no framework-independent ontological facts since different frameworks provide different views while there is no objectively right or wrong framework.[72]

In a more narrow sense, realism refers to the existence of certain types of entities.[73] Realists about universals say that universals have mind-independent existence. According to Platonic realists, universals exist not only independent of the mind but also independent of particular objects that exemplify them. This means that the universal red could exist by itself even if there were no red objects in the world. Aristotelian realism, also called moderate realism, rejects this idea and says that universals only exist as long as there are objects that exemplify them. Conceptualism, by contrast, is a form of anti-realism, stating that universals only exist in the mind as concepts that people use to understand and categorize the world. Nominalists defend a strong form of anti-realism by saying that universals have no existence. This means that the world is entirely composed of particular objects.[74]

Mathematical realism, a closely related view in the philosophy of mathematics, says that mathematical facts exist independently of human language, thought, and practices and are discovered rather than invented. According to mathematical Platonism, this is the case because of the existence of mathematical objects, like numbers and sets. Mathematical Platonists say that mathematical objects are as real as physical objects, like atoms and stars, even though they are not accessible to empirical observation.[75] Influential forms of mathematical anti-realism include conventionalism, which says that mathematical theories are trivially true simply by how mathematical terms are defined, and game formalism, which understands mathematics not as a theory of reality but as a game governed by rules of string manipulation.[76]

Modal realism is the theory that in addition to the actual world, there are countless possible worlds as real and concrete as the actual world. The primary difference is that the actual world is inhabited by us while other possible worlds are inhabited by our counterparts. Modal anti-realists reject this view and argue that possible worlds do not have concrete reality but exist in a different sense, for example, as abstract or fictional objects.[77]

Scientific realists say that the scientific description of the world is an accurate representation of reality.[c] It is of particular relevance in regard to things that cannot be directly observed by humans but are assumed to exist by scientific theories, like electrons, forces, and laws of nature. Scientific anti-realism says that scientific theories are not descriptions of reality but instruments to predict observations and the outcomes of experiments.[79]

Moral realists claim that there exist mind-independent moral facts. According to them, there are objective principles that determine which behavior is morally right. Moral anti-realists either claim that moral principles are subjective and differ between persons and cultures, a position known as moral relativism, or outright deny the existence of moral facts, a view referred to as moral nihilism.[80]

By number of types and categories[edit]

Monism and dualism are influential ontological theories about the most fundamental types that make up reality. According to monism, there is only one kind of thing or substance on the most basic level.[81] Materialism is an influential monist view; it says that everything is material. This means that mental phenomena, such as beliefs, emotions, and consciousness, either do not exist or exist as aspects of matter, like brain states. Idealists take the converse perspective, arguing that everything is mental. They may understand physical phenomena, like rocks, trees, and planets, as ideas or perceptions of conscious minds.[82] Neutral monism occupies a middle ground by saying that both mind and matter are derivative phenomena.[83] Dualists state that mind and matter exist as independent principles, either as distinct substances or different types of properties.[84] In a slightly different sense, monism contrasts with pluralism as a view not about the number of basic types but the number of entities. In this sense, monism is the controversial position that only a single all-encompassing entity exists in all of reality.[d] Pluralism is more commonly accepted and says that several distinct entities exist.[86]

In addition to the focus on basic types, ontological theories can also be distinguished by the number of categories they use to characterize reality. Monocategorical theories say that there is only one fundamental category, meaning that every single entity belongs to the same universal class.[87] For example, some forms of nominalism state that only concrete particulars exist while some forms of bundle theory state that only properties exist.[88] Polycategorical theories, by contrast, hold that there is more than one basic category, meaning that entities are divided into two or more fundamental classes. They take the form of systems of categories, which list the highest genera of being to provide a comprehensive inventory of everything.[89]

By fundamental categories[edit]

The historically influential substance-attribute ontology is a polycategorical theory. It says that reality is at its most fundamental level made up of unanalyzable substances that are characterized by universals, such as the properties an individual substance has or relations that exist between substances.[90] Substance-attribute ontology is closely related to substratum theory, which says that each concrete object is made up of properties and a bare featureless substratum supporting them.[91]

Various alternative ontological theories have been proposed that deny the role of substances as the foundational building blocks of reality.[92] Stuff ontologies say that the world is not populated by distinct entities but by continuous stuff that fills space. This stuff may take various forms and is often conceived as infinitely divisible.[93][e] According to process ontology, processes or events are the fundamental entities. This view usually emphasizes that nothing in reality is static, meaning that being is dynamic and characterized by constant change.[95] Bundle theories state that there are no regular objects but only bundles of co-present properties. For example, a lemon may be understood as a bundle that includes the properties yellow, sour, and round. According to traditional bundle theory, the bundled properties are universals, meaning that the same property may belong to several different bundles. According to trope bundle theory, properties are particular entities that belong to a single bundle.[96]

Some ontologies focus not on distinct objects but on interrelatedness. According to relationalism, all of reality is relational at its most fundamental level.[97][f] Ontic structural realism agrees with this basic idea and focuses on how these relations form complex structures. Some structural realists state that there is nothing but relations, meaning that individual objects do not exist. Others say that individual objects exist but depend on the structures in which they participate.[99] Fact ontologies present a different approach by focusing on how entities belonging to different categories come together to constitute the world. Facts, also known as states of affairs, are complex entities; for example, the fact that the Earth is a planet consists of the particular object the Earth and the property being a planet. Fact ontologies state that facts are the fundamental constituents of reality, meaning that objects, properties, and relations cannot exist on their own and only form part of reality to the extent that they participate in facts.[100][g]

In the history of philosophy, various ontological theories based on several fundamental categories have been proposed. One of the first theories of categories was suggested by Aristotle, whose system includes ten categories: substance, quantity, quality, relation, place, date, posture, state, action, and passion.[102] An early influential system of categories in Indian philosophy, first proposed in the Vaisheshika school, distinguishes between six categories: substance, quality, motion, universal, individuator, and inherence.[103] Immanuel Kant's transcendental idealism includes a system of twelve categories, which Kant saw as pure concepts of understanding. They are subdivided into four classes: quantity, quality, relation, and modality.[104] In more recent philosophy, theories of categories were developed by C. S. Peirce, Edmund Husserl, Samuel Alexander, Roderick Chisholm, and E. J. Lowe.[105]


The dispute between constituent and relational ontologies[h] concerns the internal structure of concrete particular objects. Constituent ontologies say that objects have an internal structure with properties as their component parts. Bundle theories are an example of this position: they state that objects are bundles of properties. This view is rejected by relational ontologies, which say that objects have no internal structure, meaning that properties do not inhere in them but are externally related to them. According to one analogy, objects are like pin-cushions and properties are pins that can be stuck to objects and removed again without becoming a real part of objects. Relational ontologies are common in certain forms of nominalism that reject the existence of universal properties.[107]

Hierarchical ontologies state that the world is organized into levels. Entities on all levels are real but low-level entities a more fundamental than high-level entities. This means that they can exist without high-level entities while high-level entities cannot exist without low-level entities.[108] An example is the idea that elementary particles are more fundamental than the macroscopic objects they compose, like chairs and tables. Other hierarchical ontologies include the view that substances are more fundamental than the properties they have or that nature is more fundamental than culture.[109] Flat ontologies, by contrast, deny that any entity has a privileged status, meaning that all entities exist on the same level. For them, the main question is only whether something exists or not rather than identifying the level at which it exists.[110][i]

The ontological theories of endurantism and perdurantism aim to explain how material objects persist through time. Endurantism is the view that material objects are three-dimensional entities that travel through time while being fully present in each moment. They remain the same even when they gain or lose properties as they change. Perdurantism is the view that material objects are four-dimensional entities that extend not just through space but also through time. This means that they are composed of temporal parts and, at any moment, only one part of them is present but not the others. According to perdurantists, change means that an earlier part exhibits different qualities than a later part. When a tree loses its leaves, for instance, there is an earlier temporal part with leaves and a later temporal part without leaves.[112]

Differential ontology is a poststructuralist approach interested in the relation between the concepts of identity and difference. It says that traditional ontology sees identity as the more basic term by first characterizing things in terms of their essential features and then elaborating differences based on this conception. Differential ontologists, by contrast, privilege difference and say that the identity of a thing is a secondary determination that depends on how this thing differs from other things.[113]

Object-oriented ontology belongs to the school of speculative realism and examines the nature and role of objects. It sees objects as the fundamental building blocks of reality. As a flat ontology, it denies that some entities have a more fundamental form of existence than others. It uses this idea to argue that objects exist independently of human thought and perception.[114]


Methods of ontology are ways of conducting ontological inquiry and deciding between competing theories. There is no single standard method; the diverse approaches are studied by metaontology.[115]

Conceptual analysis is a method to understand ontological concepts and clarify their meaning.[116] It proceeds by analyzing their component parts and the necessary and sufficient conditions under which a concept applies to an entity.[117] This information can help ontologists decide whether a certain type of entity, such as numbers, exists.[118] Eidetic variation is a related method in phenomenological ontology that aims to identify the essential features of different types of objects. Phenomenologists start by imagining an example of the investigated type. They proceed by varying the imagined features to determine which ones cannot be changed, meaning they are essential.[119][j] The transcendental method begins with a simple observation that a certain entity exists. In the following step, it studies the ontological repercussions of this observation by examining how it is possible or which conditions are required for this entity to exist.[121]

Another approach is based on intuitions in the form of non-inferential impressions about the correctness of general principles.[122] These principles can be used as the foundation on which an ontological system is built and expanded using deductive reasoning.[123] A further intuition-based method relies on thought experiments to evoke new intuitions. This happens by imagining a situation relevant to an ontological issue and then employing counterfactual thinking to assess the consequences of this situation.[124] For example, some ontologists examine the relation between mind and matter by imagining creatures identical to humans but without consciousness.[125]

Naturalistic methods rely on the insights of the natural sciences to determine what exists.[126] According to an influential approach by Willard Van Orman Quine, ontology can be conducted by analyzing[k] the ontological commitments of scientific theories. This method is based on the idea that scientific theories provide the most reliable description of reality and that their power can be harnessed by investigating the ontological assumptions underlying them.[128]

Principles of theory choice aim to offer guidelines for assessing the advantages and disadvantages of ontological theories rather than guiding their construction.[129] The principle of Ockham's Razor says that simple theories are preferable.[130] A theory can be simple in different respects, for example, by using very few basic types or by describing the world with a small number of fundamental entities.[131] Ontologists are also interested in the explanatory power of theories and give preference to theories that can explain many observations.[132] A further factor is how close a theory is to common sense. Some ontologists use this principle as an argument against theories that are very different from how ordinary people think about the issue.[133]

In applied ontology, ontological engineering is the process of creating and refining conceptual models of specific domains.[134] Developing a new ontology from scratch involves various preparatory steps, such as delineating the scope of the domain one intends to model and specifying the purpose and use cases of the ontology. Once the foundational concepts within the area have been identified, ontology engineers proceed by defining them and characterizing the relations between them. This is usually done in a formal language to ensure precision and, in some cases, automatic computability. In the following review phase, the validity of the ontology is assessed using test data.[135] Various more specific instructions for how to carry out the different steps have been suggested. They include the Cyc method, Grüninger and Fox's methodology, and METHONTOLOGY.[136] In some cases, it is feasible to adapt a pre-existing ontology to fit a specific domain and purpose rather than creating a new one from scratch.[137]


Ancient Greek[edit]

Parmenides was among the first to propose an ontological characterization of the fundamental nature of reality.

In the Greek philosophical tradition, Parmenides was among the first to propose an ontological characterization of the fundamental nature of existence. In the prologue (or proem) to On Nature, he describes two views of existence. Initially, nothing comes from nothing, thus existence is eternal. This posits that existence is what may be conceived of by thought, created, or possessed. Hence, there may be neither void nor vacuum, and true reality may neither come into being nor vanish from existence. Rather, the entirety of creation is eternal, uniform, and immutable, though not infinite (Parmenides characterized its shape as that of a perfect sphere). Parmenides thus posits that change, as perceived in everyday experience, is illusory.

Opposite to the Eleatic monism of Parmenides is the pluralistic conception of being. In the 5th century BCE, Anaxagoras and Leucippus replaced[138] the reality of being (unique and unchanging) with that of becoming, therefore by a more fundamental and elementary ontic plurality. This thesis originated in the Hellenic world, stated in two different ways by Anaxagoras and by Leucippus. The first theory dealt with "seeds" (which Aristotle referred to as "homeomeries") of the various substances. The second was the atomistic theory,[139] which dealt with reality as based on the vacuum, the atoms and their intrinsic movement in it.[140]

The materialist atomism proposed by Leucippus was indeterminist, but Democritus (c. 460 – c. 370 BCE) subsequently developed it in a deterministic way. Later (4th century BCE), Epicurus took the original atomism again as indeterministic. He saw reality as composed of an infinity of indivisible, unchangeable corpuscles, or atoms (from the Greek atomon, lit. 'uncuttable'), but he gives weight to characterize atoms, whereas for Leucippus they are characterized by a "figure", an "order", and a "position" in the cosmos.[141] Atoms are, besides, creating the whole with the intrinsic movement in the vacuum, producing the diverse flux of being. Their movement is influenced by the parenklisis (Lucretius names it clinamen) and that is determined by chance. These ideas foreshadowed the understanding of traditional physics until the advent of 20th-century theories on the nature of atoms.[142][page needed]

Plato developed the distinction between true reality and illusion, in arguing that what is real are eternal and unchanging forms or ideas (a precursor to universals), of which things experienced in sensation are at best merely copies, and real only in so far as they copy ("partake of") such forms. In general, Plato presumes that all nouns (e.g., "beauty") refer to real entities, whether sensible bodies or insensible forms. Hence, in The Sophist, Plato argues that being is a form in which all existent things participate and which they have in common (though it is unclear whether "being" is intended in the sense of existence, copula, or identity); and argues, against Parmenides, that forms must exist not only of being, but also of negation and of non-being (or difference).[citation needed]

In his Categories, Aristotle (384–322 BCE) identifies ten possible kinds of things that may be the subject or the predicate of a proposition. For Aristotle there are four different ontological dimensions:[143]

  1. according to the various categories or ways of addressing a being as such
  2. according to its truth or falsity (e.g., fake gold, counterfeit money)
  3. whether it exists in and of itself or simply 'comes along' by accident
  4. according to its potency, movement (energy) or finished presence (Metaphysics Book Theta).

Hindu philosophy[edit]

Ontology features in the Samkhya school of Hindu philosophy from the first millennium BCE.[144] Samkhya philosophy regards the universe as consisting of two independent realities: puruṣa (pure, contentless consciousness) and prakṛti (matter). The substance dualism between puruṣa and prakṛti is similar but not identical to the substance dualism between mind and body that, following the works of Descartes, has been central to many disputes in the Western philosophical tradition.[145]: 845  Samkhya sees the mind as being the subtle part of prakṛti. It is made up of three faculties: the sense mind (manas), the intellect (buddhi), and the ego (ahaṁkāra). These faculties perform various functions but are by themselves unable to produce consciousness, which belongs to a distinct ontological category and for which puruṣa alone is responsible.[146][145] The Yoga school agrees with Samkhya philosophy on the fundamental dualism between puruṣa and prakṛti but it differs from Samkhya's atheistic position by incorporating the concept of a "personal, yet essentially inactive, deity" or "personal god" (Ishvara).[147][148][149][150] These two schools stand in contrast to Advaita Vedanta, which adheres to non-duality by revealing that the apparent plurality of things is an illusion (Maya) hiding the true oneness of reality at its most fundamental level (Brahman).[151][152]


Medieval ontology was strongly influenced by Aristotle's teachings. The thinkers of this period often relied on Aristotelian categories like substance, act and potency, or matter and form to formulate their own theories. Important ontologists in this epoch include Avicenna, Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, and William of Ockham.[153][154][155]

According to Avicenna's interpretation of Greek Aristotelian and Platonist ontological doctrines in medieval metaphysics, being is either necessary, contingent qua possible, or impossible. Necessary being is that which cannot but be, since its non-being would entail a contradiction. Contingent qua possible being is neither necessary nor impossible for it to be or not to be. It is ontologically neutral, and is brought from potential existing into actual existence by way of a cause that is external to its essence. Its being is borrowed—unlike the necessary existent, which is self-subsisting and impossible not to be. As for the impossible, it necessarily does not exist, and the affirmation of its being would involve a contradiction.[156]

Fundamental to Thomas Aquinas's ontology is his distinction between essence and existence: all entities are conceived as composites of essence and existence.[157][158][159] The essence of a thing is what this thing is like, it signifies the definition of this thing.[160] God has a special status since He is the only entity whose essence is identical to its existence. But for all other, finite entities there is a real distinction between essence and existence.[161] This distinction shows itself, for example, in our ability to understand the essence of something without knowing about its existence.[162] Aquinas conceives of existence as an act of being that actualizes the potency given by the essence. Different things have different essences, which impose different limits on the corresponding act of being.[157] The paradigm examples of essence-existence composites are material substances like cats or trees. Aquinas incorporates Aristotle's distinction between matter and form by holding that the essence of material things, as opposed to the essence of immaterial things like angels, is the composition of their matter and form.[157][163] So, for example, the essence of a marble statue would be the composition of the marble (its matter) and the shape it has (its form). Form is universal since substances made of different matter can have the same form. The forms of a substance may be divided into substantial and accidental forms. A substance can survive a change of an accidental form, but ceases to exist upon a change of a substantial form.[157]


Ontology is increasingly seen as a separate domain of philosophy in the modern period.[155][164] Many ontological theories of this period were rationalistic in the sense that they saw ontology largely as a deductive discipline that starts from a small set of first principles or axioms, a position best exemplified by Baruch Spinoza and Christian Wolff. This rationalism in metaphysics and ontology was strongly opposed by Immanuel Kant, who insisted that many claims arrived at this way are to be dismissed since they go beyond any possible experience that could justify them.[165][166]

René Descartes' ontological distinction between mind and body has been one of the most influential parts of his philosophy.[166][167] On his view, minds are thinking things while bodies are extended things. Thought and extension are two attributes that each come in various modes of being. Modes of thinking include judgments, doubts, volitions, sensations and emotions while the shapes of material things are modes of extension.[168] Modes come with a lower degree of reality since they depend for their existence on a substance.[169] Substances, on the other hand, can exist on their own.[168] Descartes' substance dualism asserts that every finite substance is either a thinking substance or an extended substance.[170][171] This position does not entail that minds and bodies actually are separated from each other, which would defy the intuition that we both have a body and a mind. Instead, it implies that minds and bodies can, at least in principle, be separated, since they are distinct substances and therefore are capable of independent existence.[167][172] A longstanding problem for substance dualism since its inception has been to explain how minds and bodies can causally interact with each other, as they apparently do, when a volition causes an arm to move or when light falling on the retina causes a visual impression.[167]

Baruch Spinoza is well known for his substance monism: the thesis that only one substance exists.[166][173] He refers to this substance as "God or Nature", emphasizing both his pantheism and his naturalism.[174] This substance has an infinite amount of attributes, which he defines as "what the intellect perceives of substance as constituting its essence".[175] Of these attributes, only two are accessible to the human mind: thought and extension. Modes are properties of a substance that follow from its attributes and therefore have only a dependent form of existence.[176] Spinoza sees everyday-things like rocks, cats or ourselves as mere modes and thereby opposes the traditional Aristotelian and Cartesian conception of categorizing them as substances.[177] Modes compose deterministic systems in which the different modes are linked to each other as cause and effect.[173] Each deterministic system corresponds to one attribute: one for extended things, one for thinking things, and so forth. Causal relations only happen within a system while the different systems run in parallel without causally interacting with each other.[177] Spinoza calls the system of modes Natura naturata ("nature natured"), and opposes it to Natura naturans ("nature naturing"), the attributes responsible for the modes.[178] Everything in Spinoza's system is necessary: there are no contingent entities. This is so since the attributes are themselves necessary and since the system of modes follows from them.[173]

Christian Wolff defines ontology as the science of being in general. He sees it as a part of metaphysics besides cosmology, psychology and natural theology.[179][180][181] According to Wolff, it is a deductive science, knowable a priori and based on two fundamental principles: the principle of non-contradiction ("it cannot happen that the same thing is and is not") and the principle of sufficient reason ("nothing exists without a sufficient reason for why it exists rather than does not exist").[166][179] Beings are defined by their determinations or predicates, which cannot involve a contradiction. Determinates come in three types: essentialia, attributes, and modes.[179] Essentialia define the nature of a being and are therefore necessary properties of this being. Attributes are determinations that follow from essentialia and are equally necessary, in contrast to modes, which are merely contingent. Wolff conceives existence as just one determination among others, which a being may lack.[180] Ontology is interested in being at large, not just in actual being. But all beings, whether actually existing or not, have a sufficient reason.[165] The sufficient reason for things without actual existence consists in all the determinations that make up the essential nature of this thing. Wolff refers to this as a "reason of being" and contrasts it with a "reason of becoming", which explains why some things have actual existence.[180]

Arthur Schopenhauer was a proponent of metaphysical voluntarism:[182] he regards will as the underlying and ultimate reality.[183] Reality as a whole consists only of one will, which is equated with the Kantian thing-in-itself. Like the Kantian thing-in-itself, the will exists outside space and time. But, unlike the Kantian thing-in-itself, the will has an experiential component to it: it comes in the form of striving, desiring, feeling, and so forth.[184][185] The manifold of things we encounter in our everyday experiences, like trees or cars, are mere appearances that lack existence independent of the observer. Schopenhauer describes them as objectivations of the will. These objectivations happen in different "steps", which correspond to the Platonic forms.[186] All objectivations are grounded in the will. This grounding is governed by the principium individuationis, which enables a manifold of individual things spread out in space and time to be grounded in the one will.[187]

20th century[edit]

Dominant approaches to ontology in the 20th century were phenomenology, linguistic analysis, and naturalism. Phenomenological ontology, as exemplified by Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger, relies for its method on the description of experience. Linguistic analysis assigns to language a central role for ontology, as seen, for example, in Rudolf Carnap's thesis that the truth value of existence-claims depends on the linguistic framework in which they are made. Naturalism gives a prominent position to the natural sciences for the purpose of finding and evaluating ontological claims. This position is exemplified by Quine's method of ontology, which involves analyzing the ontological commitments of scientific theories.[155][166]

Edmund Husserl sees ontology as a science of essences.[155] Sciences of essences are contrasted with factual sciences: the former are knowable a priori and provide the foundation for the later, which are knowable a posteriori.[166][188] Ontology as a science of essences is not interested in actual facts, but in the essences themselves, whether they have instances or not.[189] Husserl distinguishes between formal ontology, which investigates the essence of objectivity in general,[190] and regional ontologies, which study regional essences that are shared by all entities belonging to the region.[155] Regions correspond to the highest genera of concrete entities: material nature, personal consciousness, and interpersonal spirit.[191][192] Husserl's method for studying ontology and sciences of essence in general is called eidetic variation.[188] It involves imagining an object of the kind under investigation and varying its features.[193] The changed feature is inessential to this kind if the object can survive its change, otherwise it belongs to the kind's essence. For example, a triangle remains a triangle if one of its sides is extended, but it ceases to be a triangle if a fourth side is added. Regional ontology involves applying this method to the essences corresponding to the highest genera.[194]

Central to Martin Heidegger's philosophy is the notion of ontological difference: the difference between being as such and specific entities.[195][196] He accuses the philosophical tradition of being forgetful of this distinction, which has led to the mistake of understanding being as such as a kind of ultimate entity, for example as "idea, energeia, substance, monad or will to power".[155][195][197] Heidegger tries to rectify this mistake in his own "fundamental ontology" by focusing on the meaning of being instead, a project which is akin to contemporary meta-ontology.[198][199] One method to achieve this is by studying the human being, or Dasein, in Heidegger's terminology.[166] The reason for this is that we already have a pre-ontological understanding of being that shapes how we experience the world. Phenomenology can be used to make this implicit understanding explicit, but it has to be accompanied by hermeneutics in order to avoid the distortions due to the forgetfulness of being.[195] In his later philosophy, Heidegger attempted to reconstruct the "history of being" in order to show how the different epochs in the history of philosophy were dominated by different conceptions of being.[200] His goal is to retrieve the original experience of being present in the early Greek thought that was covered up by later philosophers.[197]

Nicolai Hartmann is a 20th-century philosopher within the Continental tradition of philosophy. He interprets ontology as Aristotle's science of being qua being: the science of the most general characteristics of entities, usually referred to as categories, and the relations between them.[201][202][203] According to Hartmann, the most general categories are moments of being (existence and essence), modes of being (reality and ideality), and modalities of being (possibility, actuality, and necessity). Every entity has both existence and essence.[204] Reality and ideality, by contrast, are two disjunctive categories: every entity is either real or ideal. Ideal entities are universal, returnable and always existing, while real entities are individual, unique, and destructible.[205] Among the ideal entities are mathematical objects and values.[206] The modalities of being are divided into the absolute modalities (actuality and non-actuality) and the relative modalities (possibility, impossibility, and necessity). The relative modalities are relative in the sense that they depend on the absolute modalities: something is possible, impossible, or necessary because something else is actual. Hartmann asserts that reality is made up of four levels (inanimate, biological, psychological, and spiritual) that form a hierarchy.[207][208]

Rudolf Carnap proposed that the truth value of ontological statements about the existence of entities depends on the linguistic framework in which these statements are made: they are internal to the framework.[2][155] As such, they are often trivial in that it just depends on the rules and definitions within this framework. For example, it follows analytically from the rules and definitions within the mathematical framework that numbers exist.[209] The problem Carnap saw with traditional ontologists is that they try to make framework-independent or external statements about what really is the case.[166][210] Such statements are at best pragmatic considerations about which framework to choose, and at worst outright meaningless, according to Carnap.[211] For example, there is no matter of fact as to whether realism or idealism is true: their truth depends on the adopted framework.[212] The job of philosophers is not to discover which things exist by themselves but is a kind of "conceptual engineering" to create interesting frameworks and to explore the consequences of adopting them.[2][209] Since there is no framework-independent notion of truth, the choice of framework is guided by practical considerations like expedience or fruitfulness .[213]

The notion of ontological commitment plays a central role in Willard Van Orman Quine's contributions to ontology.[214][215] A theory is ontologically committed to an entity if that entity must exist in order for the theory to be true.[216] Quine proposed that the best way to determine this is by translating the theory in question into first-order predicate logic. Of special interest in this translation are the logical constants known as existential quantifiers, whose meaning corresponds to expressions like "there exists..." or "for some...". They are used to bind the variables in the expression following the quantifier.[217] The ontological commitments of the theory then correspond to the variables bound by existential quantifiers.[218] This approach is summed up by Quine's famous dictum that "[t]o be is to be the value of a variable".[219] This method by itself is not sufficient for ontology since it depends on a theory in order to result in ontological commitments. Quine proposed that we should base our ontology on our best scientific theory.[216] Various followers of Quine's method chose to apply it to different fields, for example to "everyday conceptions expressed in natural language".[220][221]

Other ontological topics[edit]

Information science and natural sciences[edit]

In information science ontologies are classified in various ways, using criteria such as the degree of abstraction and field of application:[222]

  1. Upper ontology: concepts supporting development of an ontology, meta-ontology.
  2. Domain ontology: concepts relevant to a particular topic, domain of discourse, or area of interest, for example, to information technology or to computer languages, or to particular branches of science.
  3. Interface ontology: concepts relevant to the juncture of two disciplines.
  4. Process ontology: inputs, outputs, constraints, sequencing information, involved in business or engineering processes.

In the biomedical sciences, ontologies have been used to create terminologies for various aspects of living organism or medical applications. A prominent example is the gene ontology, but many other ontologies exist, e.g., for anatomical terms or physiology.[223] Standards have been established to maintain and organize biological ontologies under the OBO (Open Biological Ontologies) project.[223]

Ontological formations[edit]

The concept of ontological formations refers to formations of social relations understood as dominant ways of living. Temporal, spatial, corporeal, epistemological, and performative relations are taken to be central to understanding a dominant formation. That is, a particular ontological formation is based on how ontological categories of time, space, embodiment, knowing, and performing are lived—objectively and subjectively. Different ontological formations include the customary (including the tribal), the traditional, the modern, and the postmodern. The concept was first introduced by Paul James in 2006, together with a series of writers including Damian Grenfell and Manfred Steger.[224]

In the engaged theory approach, ontological formations are seen as layered and intersecting rather than singular formations. They are 'formations of being'. This approach avoids the usual problems of a great divide being posited between the modern and the pre-modern. From a philosophical distinction concerning different formations of being, the concept then provides a way of translating into practical understandings concerning how humans might design cities and communities that live creatively across different ontological formations; for example, cities that are not completely dominated by modern valences of spatial configuration. Here the work of Tony Fry is important.[225]

Ontology of fictional characters[edit]

According to Edward N. Zalta, the ontology of fiction analyses such sentences as:[226]

According to Amie L. Thomasson, fictional discourse can be of four sorts:

Jeremy Bentham distinguished three kinds of entities:[228]

  • the real: those that can be perceived, or can be inferred from perception
  • the fictitious: abstractions that referred to perceptible things; and,
  • the fabulous: those that can be found only in the imagination, where the word 'exist' applies to such only in the sense that they do not really exist.

Francis Herbert Bradley thought that real things exist, respectively, at particular times and places. He recognized several kinds of entity:[229]

  • the genuinely historical;
  • the fictional;
  • the real;
  • the merely imagined;
  • the existent; and,
  • the non-existent.

Alexius Meinong would put fictional entities into the category that he called subsistence.[230] This category contains objects that neither exist spatially or non-spatially. However, they do have properties. The properties are given to these objects in the way they are said to be described. For example, we can talk about the tall unicorn even though the tall unicorn does not exist. We can say the unicorn is, in fact, tall because this follows from the properties in which the object is characterized.[230]

Ontological and epistemological certainty[edit]

René Descartes, with cogito, ergo sum (je pense donc je suis: "I think, therefore I am"), argued that a person's thinking agency, their res cogitans – as distinct from their material body, their res extensa – is something that we can know exists with epistemological certainty. Descartes argued further that this knowledge could lead to a proof of the certainty of the existence of God, using the ontological argument that had been formulated first by Anselm of Canterbury.[231]

Body and environment, questioning the meaning of being[edit]

Schools of subjectivism, objectivism, and relativism existed at various times in the 20th century, and the postmodernists and body philosophers tried to reframe all these questions in terms of bodies taking some specific action in an environment. This relied to a great degree on insights derived from scientific research into animals taking instinctive action in natural and artificial settings—as studied by biology, ecology,[232] and cognitive science.[citation needed]

The processes by which bodies related to environments became of great concern, and the idea of being itself became difficult to define. What did people mean when they said "A is B", "A must be B", "A was B"...? Some linguists advocated dropping the verb "to be" from the English language, leaving "E Prime", supposedly less prone to bad abstractions. Others, mostly philosophers, tried to dig into the word and its usage. Martin Heidegger distinguished human being as existence from the being of things in the world. Heidegger proposed that our way of being human and the way the world is for us are cast historically through a fundamental ontological questioning. These fundamental ontological categories provide the basis for communication in an age: a horizon of unspoken and seemingly unquestionable background meanings, such as human beings understood unquestioningly as subjects and other entities understood unquestioningly as objects. Because these basic ontological meanings both generate, and are regenerated in everyday interactions, the locus of our way of being in a historical epoch is the communicative event of language in use.[233] For Heidegger, however, communication in the first place is not among human beings, but language itself shapes up in response to questioning (the inexhaustible meaning of) being.[234] Even the focus of traditional ontology on the 'whatness' or quidditas of beings in their substantial, standing presence can be shifted to pose the question of the 'whoness' of human being itself.[235]

Ontology and language[edit]

Some philosophers suggest that the question of "What is?" is (at least in part) an issue of usage rather than a question about facts.[236] This perspective is conveyed by an analogy made by Donald Davidson: Suppose a person refers to a 'cup' as a 'chair' and makes some comments pertinent to a cup, but uses the word 'chair' consistently throughout instead of 'cup'. One might readily catch on that this person simply calls a 'cup' a 'chair' and the oddity is explained.[237] Analogously, if we find people asserting 'there are' such-and-such, and we do not ourselves think that 'such-and-such' exist, we might conclude that these people are not nuts (Davidson calls this assumption 'charity'); they simply use 'there are' differently than we do. The question of What is? is at least partly a topic in the philosophy of language, and is not entirely about ontology itself.[238] This viewpoint has been expressed by Eli Hirsch.[239][240]

Hirsch interprets Hilary Putnam as asserting that different concepts of "the existence of something" can be correct.[240] This position does not contradict the view that some things do exist, but points out that different 'languages' will have different rules about assigning this property.[240][241] How to determine the 'fitness' of a 'language' to the world then becomes a subject for investigation.

Common to all Indo-European copula languages is the double use of the verb "to be" in both stating that entity X exists ("X is") as well as stating that X has a property ("X is P"). It is sometimes argued that a third use is also distinct, stating that X is a member of a class ("X is a C"). In other language families these roles may have completely different verbs and are less likely to be confused with one another. For example they might say something like "the car has redness" rather than "the car is red". Hence any discussion of "being" in Indo-European language philosophy may need to make distinctions between these senses.[citation needed]

Ontology and human geography[edit]

In human geography there are two types of ontology. The first, small "o" accounts for the practical orientation, describing functions of being a part of the group, thought to oversimplify and ignore key activities. The second "o", or big "O", systematically, logically, and rationally describes the essential characteristics and universal traits. This concept relates closely to Plato's view that the human mind can only perceive a bigger world if it continues to live within the confines of its "caves". However, in spite of the differences, ontology relies on the symbolic agreements among members. That said, ontology is crucial for the axiomatic language frameworks.[242]


The topic of ontology has received increased attention in anthropology since the 1990s. This is sometimes termed the "ontological turn".[243] This type of inquiry is focused on how people from different cultures experience and understand the nature of being. Specific interest in this regard has been given to the ontological outlook of indigenous people and how their outlook tends to differ from a more Western perspective.[243][244] As an example of this contrast, it has been argued that various indigenous communities ascribe intentionality to non-human entities, like plants, forests, or rivers. This outlook is known as animism[245] and is also found in Native American ontologies, which emphasize the interconnectiveness of all living entities and the importance of balance and harmony with nature.[246][247][248]

Reality and actuality[edit]

According to Alfred N. Whitehead, for ontology, it is useful to distinguish the terms 'reality' and 'actuality'. In this view, an 'actual entity' has a philosophical status of fundamental ontological priority, while a 'real entity' is one which may be actual, or may derive its reality from its logical relation to some actual entity or entities. For example, an occasion in the life of Socrates is an actual entity. But Socrates' being a man does not make 'man' an actual entity, because it refers indeterminately to many actual entities, such as several occasions in the life of Socrates, and also to several occasions in the lives of Alcibiades, among others. But the notion of man is real. It derives its reality from its reference to those many actual occasions, each of which is an actual entity. An actual occasion is a concrete entity, while terms such as 'man' are abstractions from many concrete relevant entities.[citation needed]

According to Whitehead, an actual entity must earn its philosophical status of fundamental ontological priority by satisfying several philosophical criteria, as follows:[citation needed]

  • There is no going behind an actual entity, to find something more fundamental in fact or in efficacy. This criterion is to be regarded as expressing an axiom, or postulated distinguished doctrine.
  • An actual entity must be completely determinate in the sense that there may be no confusion about its identity that would allow it to be confounded with another actual entity. In this sense an actual entity is completely concrete, with no potential to be something other than itself. It is what it is. It is a source of potentiality for the creation of other actual entities, of which it may be said to be a part cause. Likewise it is the concretion or realization of potentialities of other actual entities which are its partial causes.
  • Causation between actual entities is essential to their actuality. Consequently, for Whitehead, each actual entity has its distinct and definite extension in physical Minkowski space, and so is uniquely identifiable. A description in Minkowski space supports descriptions in time and space for particular observers.
  • It is part of the aim of the philosophy of an ontology such as Whitehead's that the actual entities should be all alike, qua actual entities; they should all satisfy a single definite set of well stated ontological criteria of actuality.

Whitehead proposed that his notion of an occasion of experience satisfies the criteria for its status as the philosophically preferred definition of an actual entity. From a purely logical point of view, each occasion of experience has in full measure the characters of both objective and subjective reality. Subjectivity and objectivity refer to different aspects of an occasion of experience, and in no way do they exclude each other.[249]

Examples of other philosophical proposals or candidates as actual entities, in this view, are Aristotle's 'substances', Leibniz' monads, and Descartes' res verae, and the more modern 'states of affairs'. Aristotle's substances, such as Socrates, have behind them as more fundamental the 'primary substances', and in this sense do not satisfy Whitehead's criteria. Whitehead is not happy with Leibniz' monads as actual entities because they are "windowless" and do not cause each other. 'States of affairs' are often not closely defined, often without specific mention of extension in physical Minkowski space; they are therefore not necessarily processes of becoming, but may be, as their name suggests, simply static states in some sense. States of affairs are contingent on particulars, and therefore have something behind them.[250] One summary of the Whiteheadian actual entity is that it is a process of becoming. Another summary, referring to its causal linkage to other actual entities, is that it is "all window", in contrast with Leibniz' windowless monads.[citation needed]

This view allows philosophical entities other than actual entities to really exist, but not as fundamentally and primarily factual or causally efficacious; they have existence as abstractions, with reality only derived from their reference to actual entities. A Whiteheadian actual entity has a unique and completely definite place and time. Whiteheadian abstractions are not so tightly defined in time and place, and in the extreme, some are timeless and placeless, or 'eternal' entities. All abstractions have logical or conceptual rather than efficacious existence; their lack of definite time does not make them unreal if they refer to actual entities. Whitehead calls this 'the ontological principle'.[251]

Microcosmic ontology[edit]

There is an established and long philosophical history of the concept of atoms as microscopic physical objects. They are far too small to be visible to the naked eye. It was as recent as the nineteenth century that precise estimates of the sizes of putative physical atoms began to become plausible. Almost direct empirical observation of atomic effects was due to the theoretical investigation of Brownian motion by Albert Einstein in the very early twentieth century. Even then, the real existence of atoms was debated by some. Such debate might be labeled 'microcosmic ontology'. Here the word 'microcosm' is used to indicate a physical world of small entities, such as for example atoms.[252]

Subatomic particles are usually considered to be much smaller than atoms. Their real or actual existence may be very difficult to demonstrate empirically.[253] A distinction is sometimes drawn between actual and virtual subatomic particles. Reasonably, one may ask, in what sense, if any, do virtual particles exist as physical entities? For atomic and subatomic particles, difficult questions arise, such as do they possess a precise position, or a precise momentum? A question that continues to be controversial is "to what kind of physical thing, if any, does the quantum mechanical wave function refer?"[254]

Ontological argument[edit]

In the Western Christian tradition, in his 1078 work Proslogion, Anselm of Canterbury proposed what is known as 'the ontological argument' for the existence of God.[l] Anselm defined God as "that than which nothing greater can be thought", and argued that this being must exist in the mind, even in the mind of the person who denies the existence of God. He suggested that, if the greatest possible being exists in the mind, it must also exist in reality. If it only exists in the mind, then an even greater being must be possible—one which exists both in the mind and in reality. Therefore, this greatest possible being must exist in reality. Seventeenth-century French philosopher René Descartes deployed a similar argument. Descartes published several variations of his argument, each of which centered on the idea that God's existence is immediately inferable from a 'clear and distinct' idea of a supremely perfect being. In the early eighteenth century, Gottfried Leibniz augmented Descartes's ideas in an attempt to prove that a 'supremely perfect' being is a coherent concept. Norman Malcolm revived the ontological argument in 1960 when he located a second, stronger ontological argument in Anselm's work; Alvin Plantinga challenged this argument and proposed an alternative, based on modal logic. Attempts have also been made to validate Anselm's proof using an automated theorem prover.[256]

More recently, Kurt Gödel proposed a formal argument for God's existence. Other arguments for God's existence have been advanced, including those made by Islamic philosophers Mulla Sadra[257] and Allama Tabatabai.[258]

Hintikka's locution for existence[edit]

Jaakko Hintikka offers the view that a useful explication of the notion of existence is in the words "one can find" implicitly in some world or universe of discourse.[259]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ This focus on general principles rather than specific entities is traditionally expressed in the characterization of ontology as the science of being qua being or being insofar as it is being.[4]
  2. ^ They are usually distinguished by combining them with a qualifier to express which type is meant, as in ontological realism, mathematical realism, and moral realism. The qualifiers are sometimes left out if the meaning is clear in the context.[69]
  3. ^ The exact definition of the term is disputed.[78]
  4. ^ According to some pantheists, this entity is God.[85]
  5. ^ This view contrasts with atomism, which states that the world is composed of discrete, indivisible units.[94]
  6. ^ For example, relationalism about spacetime says that space and time are nothing but relations. Spacetime substantivalists reject this view and state that spacetime is a distinct object rather than a relational structure between objects.[98]
  7. ^ This is expressed in a slogan by Ludwig Wittgenstein: "The world is the totality of facts, not of things".[101]
  8. ^ In this context, the term "relational ontology" has a slightly different meaning than the term "relationalism", which says that, at the most basic level, reality is made up of relations.[106]
  9. ^ Some flat ontologies allow that there are entities on higher levels but stipulate that they are reducible to the lowest level, meaning that they are no addition to being.[111]
  10. ^ For example, it is essential for a triangle to have three sides since it ceases to be a triangle if a fourth side is added.[120]
  11. ^ An essential step in Quine's analysis is to translate the theory into first-order logic to make its ontological assumptions explicit.[127]
  12. ^ "There are three main periods in the history of ontological arguments. The first was in 11th century, when St. Anselm of Canterbury came up with the first ontological argument."[255]


  1. ^ Schaffer, Jonathan (2003-07-18). "Is There a Fundamental Level?". Noûs. 37 (3): 498–517. doi:10.1111/1468-0068.00448. ISSN 0029-4624.
  2. ^ a b c Hofweber, Thomas (2020). "Logic and Ontology". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. Retrieved 23 December 2020.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ Jaroszyński 2018, p. 6
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Borchert, Donald (2006). "Ontology". Macmillan Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd Edition. Macmillan.
  14. ^ Sandkühler, Hans Jörg (2010). "Ontologie: 2.1 Antike". Enzyklopädie Philosophie (in German). Meiner. Archived from the original on 2021-03-11. Retrieved 2020-12-16. Nach einer berühmten Formulierung von Aristoteles (384–322 v. Chr.), der zwar wie auch Platon nicht den Ausdruck ›O.‹ verwendet, sich jedoch der Sache nach in seiner ›ersten Philosophie‹ ausführlich damit befasst, lässt sich O. charakterisieren als die Untersuchung des Seienden als Seiendem (to on he on).
  15. ^ Flage, Daniel E. "Berkeley, George". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 4 January 2021.
  16. ^ a b Thomasson, Amie (2019). "Categories". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. Archived from the original on 8 Jul 2015. Retrieved 27 December 2020.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Sandkühler, Hans Jörg (2010). "Ontologie: 4 Aktuelle Debatten und Gesamtentwürfe". Enzyklopädie Philosophie (in German). Meiner. Archived from the original on 2021-03-11. Retrieved 2020-12-16.
  18. ^ Honderich, Ted (2005). "particulars and non-particulars". The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. Oxford University Press.
  19. ^ Craig, Edward (1996). "Particulars". Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Routledge.
  20. ^ a b c d MacLeod, Mary C. "Universals". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 4 January 2021.
  21. ^ "Realism – Universals". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 4 January 2021.
  22. ^ Honderich, Ted (2005). "Ontology". The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. Oxford University Press.
  23. ^ Rosen, Gideon (2020). "Abstract Objects". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. Retrieved 4 January 2021.
  24. ^ Honderich, Ted (2005). "abstract entities". The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. Oxford University Press.
  25. ^ Craig, Edward (1996). "Abstract objects". Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Routledge.
  26. ^ Sandkühler, Hans Jörg (2010). "Ontologie: 4.2.3 Ontologische Unabhängigkeit. Ganz grob gesagt versteht man unter existenzieller oder ontologischer (im Gegensatz z.B. zu logischer) Unabhängigkeit die Fähigkeit, ›alleine zu existieren‹.". Enzyklopädie Philosophie (in German). Meiner. Archived from the original on 2021-03-11. Retrieved 2020-12-16.
  27. ^ Varzi, Achille (2015). "Boundary". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. Retrieved 4 January 2021.
  28. ^ a b c d e Tahko, Tuomas E.; Lowe, E. Jonathan (2020). "Ontological Dependence". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. Retrieved 4 January 2021.
  29. ^ Erices, Gonzalo Nuñez (2019). "Boundaries and Things. A Metaphysical Study of the Brentano-Chisholm Theory". Kriterion: Journal of Philosophy. 33 (2): 15–48. doi:10.1515/krt-2019-330203. S2CID 245494576.
  30. ^ a b c d e Noonan, Harold; Curtis, Ben (2018). "Identity". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. Retrieved 4 January 2021.
  31. ^ Forrest, Peter (2020). "The Identity of Indiscernibles". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
  32. ^ Black, Max (1952). "The Identity of Indiscernibles". Mind. 61 (242): 153–164. doi:10.1093/mind/LXI.242.153.
  33. ^ Cowling, Sam (2015). "Non-Qualitative Properties". Erkenntnis. 80 (2): 275–301. doi:10.1007/s10670-014-9626-9. S2CID 122265064.
  34. ^ a b c Gallois, Andre (2016). "Identity Over Time". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. Retrieved 23 January 2021.
  35. ^ a b Costa.
  36. ^ Hawley, Katherine (2020). "Temporal Parts". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. Retrieved 23 January 2021.
  37. ^ Vander Laan, David A. (1997). "The Ontology of Impossible Worlds". Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic. 38 (4): 597–620. doi:10.1305/ndjfl/1039540772.
  38. ^ Menzel, Christopher (2017). "Possible Worlds". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. Retrieved 5 January 2021.
  39. ^ a b Parent.
  40. ^ Davidson, Matthew (2019). "God and Other Necessary Beings". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. Retrieved 5 January 2021.
  41. ^ Reichenbach, Bruce (2019). "Cosmological Argument". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. Retrieved 6 January 2021.
  42. ^ "Contingent". newadvent.org. CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA. Retrieved 5 January 2021.
  43. ^ a b c d Kim, Jaegwon; Sosa, Ernest; Rosenkrantz, Gary S. (1994). "substance". A Companion to Metaphysics. Wiley-Blackwell.
  44. ^ a b c d Robinson, Howard (2020). "Substance". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University.
  45. ^ Robertson Ishii, Teresa; Atkins, Philip (2020). "Essential vs. Accidental Properties". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University.
  46. ^ a b c Orilia, Francesco; Paolini Paoletti, Michele (2020). "Properties". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University.
  47. ^ a b Benovsky, Jiri (2008). "The Bundle Theory and the Substratum Theory: Deadly Enemies or Twin Brothers?". Philosophical Studies. 141 (2): 175–190. doi:10.1007/s11098-007-9158-0. S2CID 18712931.
  48. ^ Rodriguez-Pereyra, Gonzalo (2004). "The Bundle Theory is Compatible with Distinct but Indiscernible Particulars". Analysis. 64 (1): 72–81. doi:10.1093/analys/64.1.72.
  49. ^ a b Kriegel, Uriah (2019). "Introverted Metaphysics: How We Get Our Grip on the Ultimate Nature of Objects, Properties, and Causation". Metaphilosophy. 50 (5): 688–707. doi:10.1111/meta.12391. S2CID 211938090.
  50. ^ a b Choi, Sungho; Fara, Michael (2018). "Dispositions". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University.
  51. ^ Rubenstein, Eric M. "Color". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 7 January 2021.
  52. ^ Honderich, Ted (2005). "relations". The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. Oxford University Press.
  53. ^ a b c MacBride, Fraser (2020). "Relations". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  54. ^ Honderich, Ted (2005). "relations, the nature of". The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. Oxford University Press.
  55. ^ Allen, Sophie. "Properties". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
  56. ^ Borchert, Donald (2006). "Relations, Internal and External". Macmillan Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd Edition. Macmillan.
  57. ^ Meinertsen, Bo R. (2018). Metaphysics of States of Affairs: Truthmaking, Universals, and a Farewell to Bradley's Regress. Springer Singapore. p. 1.
  58. ^ a b c Textor, Mark (2020). "States of Affairs". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  59. ^ Wittgenstein, Ludwig; Colombo, G. C. M.; Russell, Bertrand (1922). Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Fratelli Bocca.
  60. ^ Armstrong, D. M. (1996). A World of States of Affairs. Cambridge University Press.
  61. ^ Asay, Jamin. "Truthmaker Theory". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  62. ^ a b Honderich, Ted (2005). "events". The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. Oxford University Press.
  63. ^ a b Kim, Jaegwon; Sosa, Ernest; Rosenkrantz, Gary S. (1994). "event theory". A Companion to Metaphysics. Wiley-Blackwell.
  64. ^ Craig, Edward (1996). "processes". Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Routledge.
  65. ^ Audi, Robert (1999). "event". The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy. Cambridge University Press.
  66. ^ Schneider, Susan. "Events". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  67. ^ Seibt, Johanna (2020). "Process Philosophy". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  68. ^ Hustwit, J. R. "Process Philosophy". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  69. ^ Niiniluoto 2002, pp. 1–2, 21, 25–26, 28–29
  70. ^
  71. ^
  72. ^
  73. ^ Niiniluoto 2002, pp. 1–2, 21, 25–26, 28–29
  74. ^
  75. ^
  76. ^
  77. ^
  78. ^ Chakravartty 2017, § 1. What is Scientific Realism?
  79. ^
  80. ^
  81. ^
  82. ^
  83. ^
  84. ^
  85. ^ Levine 2002, p. 71–72, 84–85
  86. ^ Schaffer 2018, Lead Section
  87. ^
  88. ^ Van Inwagen 2011, pp. 389–390
  89. ^
  90. ^
  91. ^
  92. ^
  93. ^
  94. ^ Esfeld 2020, pp. 459–460
  95. ^
  96. ^
  97. ^
  98. ^
  99. ^
  100. ^
  101. ^ Wittgenstein 2001
  102. ^
  103. ^
  104. ^
  105. ^
  106. ^
  107. ^
  108. ^
  109. ^
  110. ^
  111. ^ Houng 2012, pp. 106–110
  112. ^
  113. ^
  114. ^
  115. ^
  116. ^ Thomasson 2012, pp. 175–176
  117. ^
  118. ^ Garcia-Godinez 2023, pp. 186, 188–189
  119. ^
  120. ^ Spear, § 3. Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phenomenological Philosophy: The Perceptual Noema
  121. ^
  122. ^
  123. ^
  124. ^
  125. ^ Kirk 2023, Lead Section, § 2. Zombies and Physicalism
  126. ^
  127. ^
  128. ^
  129. ^
  130. ^
  131. ^
  132. ^
  133. ^
  134. ^
  135. ^
  136. ^
  137. ^
  138. ^ Graham, Daniel W. (2006-08-06). Explaining the Cosmos. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-12540-4.
  139. ^ "Ancient Atomism (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)". Plato.stanford.edu. Retrieved 2010-02-21.
  140. ^ Lloyd, G. E. R. (2006). Leucippus and Democritus. In D. M. Borchert (Ed.), Encyclopedia of philosophy (2nd ed., Vol. 5, pp. 297–303). Macmillan Reference USA.
  141. ^ Aristotle, Metaphysics, I, 4, p. 985.
  142. ^ Lawson, Clive; Latsis, John Spiro; Martins, Nuno, eds. (2007). Contributions to Social Ontology. Routledge Studies in Critical Realism. London: Routledge (published 2013). ISBN 978-1136016066. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  143. ^ Studtmann, Paul (2007-09-07). "Aristotle's Categories". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  144. ^ Larson, G.J., R.S. Bhattacharya, and K. Potter, eds. 2014. "Samkhya." pp. 3–11 in The Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies 4. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0691604411.
  145. ^ a b Schweizer, Paul (1993). "Mind/Consciousness Dualism in Sankhya–Yoga Philosophy". Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. 53 (4): 845–859. doi:10.2307/2108256. JSTOR 2108256.
  146. ^ Ruzsa, Ferenc. "Sankhya". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 11 December 2020.
  147. ^ Mikel Burley (2012), Classical Samkhya and Yoga – An Indian Metaphysics of Experience, Routledge, ISBN 978-0415648875, pp. 39–41.
  148. ^ Lloyd Pflueger, Person Purity and Power in Yogasutra, in Theory and Practice of Yoga (Editor: Knut Jacobsen), Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120832329, pp. 38–39.
  149. ^ Kovoor T. Behanan (2002), Yoga: Its Scientific Basis, Dover, ISBN 978-0486417929, pp. 56–58.
  150. ^ Bryant, Edwin. "Yoga Sutras of Patanjali". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 11 December 2020.
  151. ^ Menon, Sangeetha. "Vedanta, Advaita". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 11 December 2020.
  152. ^ Ranganathan, Shyam. "Hindu Philosophy". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 11 December 2020.
  153. ^ Gracia, Jorge; Newton, Lloyd (2016). "Medieval Theories of the Categories". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. Retrieved 1 January 2021.
  154. ^ Brower, Jeffrey (2018). "Medieval Theories of Relations". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. Retrieved 1 January 2021.
  155. ^ a b c d e f g Dahlstrom, D. O. (2004). "Ontology". New Catholic Encyclopedia. Gale.
  156. ^ Nader El-Bizri, 'Ibn Sina and Essentialism, Review of Metaphysics, Vol. 54 (2001), pp. 753–778.
  157. ^ a b c d Kerr, Gaven. "Aquinas: Metaphysics". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 18 December 2020.
  158. ^ Brown, Christopher M. "Thomas Aquinas". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 18 December 2020.
  159. ^ Magee, Joseph (9 February 2020). "Ontology". Thomistic Philosophy Page. Retrieved 18 December 2020.
  160. ^ Magee, Joseph (4 February 2020). "Essence and Existence". Thomistic Philosophy Page. Retrieved 18 December 2020.
  161. ^ Craig, Edward (1996). "Aquinas, Thomas". Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Routledge.
  162. ^ Borchert, Donald (2006). "Thomas Aquinas, St.". Macmillan Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd Edition. Macmillan.
  163. ^ McInerny, Ralph; O'Callaghan, John (2018). "Saint Thomas Aquinas". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. Retrieved 18 December 2020.
  164. ^ Jaroszyski, Piotr (2018). "Summary of Part 2". Metaphysics or Ontology?. Brill.
  165. ^ a b Borchert, Donald (2006). "Ontology, History of". Macmillan Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd Edition. Macmillan.
  166. ^ a b c d e f g h Sandkühler, Hans Jörg (2010). "Ontologie: 2 Zur Begriffs- und Problemgeschichte". Enzyklopädie Philosophie. Meiner. Archived from the original on 2021-03-11. Retrieved 2020-12-16.
  167. ^ a b c Skirry, Justin. "Descartes, Rene: Mind-Body Distinction". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 19 December 2020.
  168. ^ a b Smith, Kurt (2018). "Descartes' Theory of Ideas". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University.
  169. ^ Nelson, Alan (1997). "Introduction: Descartes's Ontology". Topoi. 16 (2): 103–109. doi:10.1023/A:1005877628327. S2CID 170986842.
  170. ^ Rodriguez-Pereyra, Gonzalo (2008). "Descartes's Substance Dualism and His Independence Conception of Substance". Journal of the History of Philosophy. 46 (1): 69–89. doi:10.1353/hph.2008.1827. S2CID 201736234.
  171. ^ Robinson, Howard (2020). "Dualism". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University.
  172. ^ Craig, Edward (1996). "Descartes, René". Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Routledge.
  173. ^ a b c Dutton, Blake D. "Spinoza, Benedict De". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 21 December 2020.
  174. ^ Mander, William (2020). "Pantheism". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. Retrieved 21 December 2020.
  175. ^ Shein, Noa (2018). "Spinoza's Theory of Attributes". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. Retrieved 21 December 2020.
  176. ^ Viljanen, Valtteri (2009). "Spinoza's Ontology". The Cambridge Companion to Spinoza's Ethics. Cambridge University Press. pp. 56–78.
  177. ^ a b Waller, Jason. "Spinoza, Benedict de: Metaphysics". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 21 December 2020.
  178. ^ Craig, Edward (1996). "Spinoza, Benedict de (1632–77)". Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Routledge.
  179. ^ a b c Craig, Edward (1996). "Wolff, Christian". Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Routledge.
  180. ^ a b c Hettche, Matt; Dyck, Corey (2019). "Christian Wolff". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. Retrieved 16 December 2020.
  181. ^ Wolff, Christian (1963). Preliminary Discourse on Philosophy in General. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill. pp. 45–46.
  182. ^ "Voluntarism". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 21 November 2020.
  183. ^ Ortegat, P.; Walker, L. J. "Voluntarism". New Catholic Encyclopedia Volume 14. p. 582.
  184. ^ Wicks, Robert (2019). "Arthur Schopenhauer". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. Retrieved 21 November 2020.
  185. ^ Young, Julian (2005). "3. Metaphysics: The World as Will". Schopenhauer. Routledge.
  186. ^ Frauenstädt, Julius (1871). "Objektivation". Schopenhauer-Lexikon. Ein Philosophisches Wörterbuch, Nach Arthur Schopenhauers Sämmtlichen Schriften Und Handschriftlichem Nachlass. F. A. Brockhaus.
  187. ^ Kastrup, Bernardo (2020). "10. Individuality and dissociation". Decoding Schopenhauer's Metaphysics: The Key to Understanding How It Solves the Hard Problem of Consciousness and the Paradoxes of Quantum Mechanics. John Hunt Publishing. ISBN 978-1789044270.
  188. ^ a b Gander, Hans-Helmuth (2009). "Ontologie". Husserl Lexikon. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft.
  189. ^ Føllesdal, Dagfinn (2006). "Husserl's Reductions and the Role They Play in His Phenomenology". A Companion to Phenomenology and Existentialism. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. pp. 105–114. doi:10.1002/9780470996508.ch8. ISBN 978-0470996508.
  190. ^ Drummond, John J. (2009). "Formal ontology". Historical Dictionary of Husserl's Philosophy. Scarecrow Press.
  191. ^ Poli, Roberto (1993). "Husserl's Conception of Formal Ontology". History and Philosophy of Logic. 14: 1–14. doi:10.1080/01445349308837207.
  192. ^ Moran, Dermot; Cohen, Joseph (2012). "Regional ontology". The Husserl Dictionary. Continuum.
  193. ^ Drummond, John J. (2009). "Eidetic variation". Historical Dictionary of Husserl's Philosophy. Scarecrow Press.
  194. ^ Spear.
  195. ^ a b c Wheeler, Michael (2020). "Martin Heidegger". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University.
  196. ^ Schalow, Frank (2010). "Ontological difference". Historical Dictionary of Heidegger's Philosophy. Scarecrow Press.
  197. ^ a b Korab-Karpowicz, W. J. "Heidegger, Martin". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  198. ^ Inwood, Michael (1999). "Ontology and fundamental ontology". A Heidegger Dictionary. Wiley-Blackwell.
  199. ^ Inwagen, Peter Van (1998). "Meta-Ontology". Erkenntnis. 48 (2–3): 233–250. doi:10.1023/A:1005323618026. S2CID 267942448.
  200. ^ Inwood, Michael (1999). "History of being". A Heidegger Dictionary. Wiley-Blackwell.
  201. ^ Hartmann, Nicolai (1935). "1. Kapitel. Die ontologische Grundfrage". Zur Grundlegung der Ontologie. W. De Gruyter.
  202. ^ Aristotle; Reeve, C. D. C. (2016). "Book Epsilon". Metaphysics. Hackett Publishing. ISBN 978-1624664410.
  203. ^ Spiegelberg, Herbert (1963). The Phenomenological Movement a Historical Introduction (3rd ed.). M. Nijhoff. pp. 309–310.
  204. ^ Hartmann, Nicolai (1935). "12. Kapitel. Die Trennung von Dasein und Sosein". Zur Grundlegung der Ontologie. W. De Gruyter.
  205. ^ Cicovacki, Predrag (2014). "I.3 Modifications of Being". The Analysis of Wonder: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Nicolai Hartmann. Bloomsbury Publishing US. ISBN 978-1623569747.
  206. ^ Mohanty, J. N. (1997). "Chapter 3: Nicolai Hartmann's Phenomenological Ontology". Phenomenology. Between Essentialism and Transcendental Philosophy. Northwestern University Press.
  207. ^ Poli, Roberto (2017). "Nicolai Hartmann". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University.
  208. ^ Hartmann, Nicolai (2012). "9 Dependence and Autonomy in the Hierarchy of Strata". New Ways of Ontology. Transaction Publishers. ISBN 978-1412847049.
  209. ^ a b Leitgeb, Hannes; Carus, André (2020). "Rudolf Carnap". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. Retrieved 23 December 2020.
  210. ^ Leitgeb, Hannes; Carus, André. "Rudolf Carnap > H. Tolerance, Metaphysics, and Meta-Ontology (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  211. ^ Murzi, Mauro. "Carnap, Rudolf". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 23 December 2020.
  212. ^ Blatti, Stephan; Lapointe, Sandra (2016). "Introduction". Ontology After Carnap. Oxford University Press UK.
  213. ^ Craig, Edward (1996). "Carnap, Rudolf". Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Routledge.
  214. ^ Craig, Edward (1996). "Ontological commitment". Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Routledge.
  215. ^ "Ontology". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 13 December 2020.
  216. ^ a b Bricker, Phillip (2016). "Ontological Commitment". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. Retrieved 13 December 2020.
  217. ^ Magnus, P. D.; Ichikawa, Jonathan Jenkins (2020). "V. First-order logic". Forall X (UBC ed.). Creative Commons: Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0.
  218. ^ Schaffer 2009.
  219. ^ Quine, Willard Van Orman (1948). "On What There Is". Review of Metaphysics. 2 (5): 21–38.
  220. ^ Inwagen, Peter van (2004). "A Theory of Properties". Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, Volume 1. Clarendon Press. pp. 107–138.
  221. ^ Kapelner, Zsolt-kristof (2015). "3. Quinean Metaontology". Reconciling Quinean and neo-Aristotelian Metaontology (PDF).
  222. ^ Petrov, Vesselin (2011). "Chapter VI: Process ontology in the context of applied philosophy". In Vesselin Petrov (ed.). Ontological Landscapes: Recent Thought on Conceptual Interfaces Between Science and Philosophy. Ontos Verlag. pp. 137ff. ISBN 978-3868381078.
  223. ^ a b Bard, Jonathan B. L.; Rhee, Seung Y. (March 2004). "Ontologies in biology: design, applications and future challenges". Nature Reviews Genetics. 5 (3): 213–222. doi:10.1038/nrg1295. ISSN 1471-0064. PMID 14970823. S2CID 10618089.
  224. ^ James, Paul (2006). Globalism, Nationalism, Tribalism: Bringing Theory Back. In Volume 2 of Towards a Theory of Abstract Community. London, England: Sage Publications.
  225. ^ James, Paul (2014). "Urban Design in the Global South: Ontological Design in Practice". In Fry, Tony; Kalantidou, Eleni (eds.). Design in the Borderlands. London, England: Routledge.
  226. ^ Zalta, Edward N. 2009. "Fictional truth, objects, and characters." pp. 267–269 in A Companion to Metaphysics (2nd ed.), edited by J. Kim G. S. Rosenkrantz, and E. Sosa. Chichester, UK: Wiley–Blackwell. ISBN 978-1405152983. p. 267.
  227. ^ Thomasson, Amie L. (2009). "Fictional Entities" (PDF). In Kim, Jaegwon; Sosa, Ernest; Rosenkrantz, Gary S. (eds.). A Companion to Metaphysics (Second ed.). Wiley-Blackwell.
  228. ^ Harrison, R. (2009). Jeremy Bentham, p. 145 in A Companion to Metaphysics, ed. Kim, J., Rosenkrantz, G.S., Sosa, E., Wiley–Blackwell, Chichester UK, 2nd ed., ISBN 978-1405152983.
  229. ^ Stock, G. (2009). Francis Herbert Bradley, pp. 155–158 in A Companion to Metaphysics, ed. Kim, J., Rosenkrantz, G.S., Sosa, E., Wiley–Blackwell, Chichester UK, 2nd ed., ISBN 978-1405152983, p. 157.
  230. ^ a b Kroon, Fred; Voltolini, Alberto (2018). "Fictional Entities". In Zalta, Edward N. (ed.). The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  231. ^ "Anselm: Ontological Argument for God's Existence". IEP.
  232. ^ Smith, Barry (2001). "Objects and their environments: From Aristotle to ecological ontology" (PDF). Retrieved 2023-11-26.
  233. ^ Hyde, R. Bruce. "Listening Authentically: A Heideggerian Perspective on Interpersonal Communication". In Interpretive Approaches to Interpersonal Communication, edited by Kathryn Carter and Mick Presnell. State University of New York Press, 1994. ISBN 0791418472.
  234. ^ Heidegger, Martin. 1971 [1959]. On the Way to Language. New York: Harper & Row. original: 1959. Unterwegs zur Sprache Neske. Pfullingen.
  235. ^ Eldred, Michael (2008). Social ontology: recasting political philosophy through a phenomenology of whoness. Frankfurt: Ontos Verl. pp. xiv, 688. ISBN 978-3-938793-78-7.
  236. ^ Carvalko, Joseph (Summer 2005). Introduction to an Ontology of Intellectual Property. The Scitech Lawyer, ABA.
  237. ^ Davidson, Donald (1974). "On the very idea of a conceptual scheme" (PDF). Proceedings and Address of the American Philosophical Association. 47: 5–20. Davidson refers to a 'ketch' and a 'yawl' (p. 18).
  238. ^ Kriegel, Uriah (2011). "Two defenses of common-sense ontology" (PDF). Dialectica. 65 (2): 177–204. doi:10.1111/j.1746-8361.2011.01262.x. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-12-21. Retrieved 2013-04-27.
  239. ^ Hirsch, Eli. 2011. "Physical-object ontology, verbal disputes and common sense." pp. 144–177 in Quantifier Variance and Realism: Essays in Metaontology. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199732111. First published as "Physical-Object Ontology, Verbal Disputes, and Common Sense."
  240. ^ a b c Hirsch, Eli. 2011. "Quantifier variance and realism." pp. 68–95 in Quantifier Variance and Realism: Essays in Metaontology. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199732111. First published as "Quantifier variance and realism."
  241. ^ Hirsch, Eli (2004). "Sosa's Existential Relativism". In John Greco (ed.). Ernest Sosa and His Critics. Blackwell. pp. 224–232. ISBN 978-0470755471.
  242. ^ Harvey, F. 2006. "Ontology. pp. 341–343 in Encyclopedia of Human Geography, edited by B. Warf. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
  243. ^ a b Scott, Michael W. (2013). "The anthropology of ontology (religious science?)". The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. 19 (4): 859–872. doi:10.1111/1467-9655.12067. JSTOR 42001687. Since roughly the 1990s, a growing number of anthropologists have become interested in the study of ontology – the investigation and theorization of diverse experiences and understandings of the nature of being itself. This generally takes the form of ethnographic accounts of indigenous non-Western modes and models of being, presented in more or less explicit contrast with aspects of a Euro-American or modern ontology imputed to conventional anthropology.
  244. ^ Heywood, Paolo (2012). "Anthropology and What There Is: Reflections on 'Ontology'". The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology. 30 (1): 143–151. doi:10.3167/ca.2012.300112. ISSN 0305-7674. JSTOR 43610895.
  245. ^ Ludwig, David; Weiskopf, Daniel A. (September 2019). "Ethnoontology: Ways of world-building across cultures". Philosophy Compass. 14 (9). doi:10.1111/phc3.12621. S2CID 199516840. Consider the animism debate. Animists consider nonhuman entities (e.g., plants, forests, or rivers) as intentional actors (Harvey, 2005). There is substantial evidence that animism is a widespread metaphysical view. For example, the Nayaka people of South India consider not only certain animals but also stones, hills, cups, and knives to be devaru: beings that stand in active, quasi-social relationships with them (Bird-David, 1999). Devaru are aspects of a larger kin structure that incorporates potential "partners" in the nonhuman world. In addition to these ethnographic observations, there are intriguing cross-cultural similarities in animist ontologies. Indigenous communities around the world tend to be much more permissive in their ascription of intentionality than Western participants (Ojalehto, Douglas, & García, 2017).
  246. ^ Pack, Justin (2023). "Animist Ontologies, Abstraction, and Slavery". Money and Thoughtlessness: A Genealogy and Defense of the Traditional Suspicions of Money and Merchants. Springer Nature. pp. 105–107. ISBN 978-3-031-22261-0.
  247. ^ Pack, Justin (2022). Environmental Philosophy in Desperate Times. Broadview Press. pp. 162–163. ISBN 978-1-77048-866-3.
  248. ^ Sinclair, Rebekah (11 March 2022). "Righting Names: The Importance of Native American Philosophies of Naming for Environmental Justice". In Dhillon, Jaskiran (ed.). Indigenous Resurgence: Decolonialization and Movements for Environmental Justice. Berghahn Books. p. 96. ISBN 978-1-80073-247-6.
  249. ^ Whitehead, Alfred N. 1929. Process and Reality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. passim.
  250. ^ Armstrong, D. M. (1997). A World of States of Affairs, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England, ISBN 0521580641, p. 1.
  251. ^ Haring, Ellen S. (1962). "The Ontological Principle". The Review of Metaphysics. 16 (1): 3–13. ISSN 0034-6632. JSTOR 20123918.
  252. ^ "Definition of Microcosm". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2022-09-13.
  253. ^ Kaiser, D. 1994. "Niels Bohr's legacy in contemporary particle physics." pp. 257–268 in Niels Bohr and Contemporary Philosophy, edited by J. Faye and H. J. Folse. Dordrecht, Holland: Springer. ISBN 978-9048142996. s. 4 ("Questions of ontology and particle physics phenomenology"). pp. 262–264.
  254. ^ Isham, C. J. 1995. Lectures on Quantum Theory: Mathematical and Structural Foundations. London, England: Imperial College Press. ISBN 1860940005. pp. 63–67.
  255. ^ Szatkowski, Miroslaw, ed. 2012. Ontological Proofs Today. Ontos Verlag. p. 22.
  256. ^ Benzmuller, Christoph; Woltzenlogel Paleo, Bruno (2014), "Automating Gödel's Ontological Proof of God's Existence with Higher-order Automated Theorem Provers" (PDF), ECAI 2014, pp. 93–98, doi:10.3233/978-1-61499-419-0-93, S2CID 46020663, retrieved 2023-11-26
  257. ^ Ayatollahy, Hamidreza. Mulla Sadra's Seddiqin Argument for the Existence of God An Islamic Response to Hume and Kant.
  258. ^ Tabatabai, Allama. "Encyclopaedia Iranica". iranicaonline.org. Retrieved 2023-11-18.
  259. ^ Hintikka, Jaakko. 1998. Paradigms for Language Theory and Other Essays. Dordrecht, Holland: Springer Science+Business Media. ISBN 978-9048149308. p. 3.


External links[edit]