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A Human Experience Realist Ontology in Basic Formal Ontology


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A realist ontology of the modern human experience is built using the Basic Formal Ontology. Four measurable and observable entities are identified as upper-level and universal in the domain of human experience. All other entities and abstractions are shown to emerge from these. The universals are: material things, individual humans, money and energy. A four by four matrix of the universals creates ten phenomena-based categories that systematically map the domains codified in the Dewey Decimal Classification. The matrix is an example of the property of low-emergence in human development. A human research study using interview methodology linked the sufficiency of seven common instances of each universal to fully cover the subjective and present life experiences of twenty-five physically, educationally, economically and culturally diverse participants. To address the significant diversity of human experience, the universals and instances used in the human research are realistically mapped onto a Rubik's Cube. Applying the known properties of cube, mathematics implies the sufficiency of the upper-level universals to account for human diversity. Implications for rationally based ethical categorical imperatives in education are discussed.
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Knowl. Org. 43(2016)No.7
J. D. Smith. A Human Experience Realist Ontology in Basic Formal Ontology
A Human Experience Realist Ontology
in Basic Formal Ontology
James D. Smith
101 Beattie Avenue, Lockport, NY 14094, <>
James D. Smith holds a PhD in human and organizational systems from Fielding Graduate University (2013), a
masters of industrial labor relations from Cornell University, and an MBA from Canisius College. His disserta-
tion title is A Synthesis of Prevailing Conflict Management Paradigms: Toward a Unity of Conflict. Since 2010 he has
served as president of the Foundation of Unity, an educational nonprofit promoting interdisciplinary aware-
ness through research, science and art. From 1993-1999 he served as Spiritual Care Director and Bio-ethics
Chairperson at the Niagara Hospice, Inc. Until 2010, he served as advisor with a global financial firm.
Smith, James. D. 2016. “A Human Experience Realist Ontology in Basic Formal Ontology.Knowledge Organization
43: 502-516. 42 references.
Abstract: A realist ontology of the modern human experience is built using the Basic Formal Ontology. Four
measurable and observable entities are identified as upper-level and universal in the domain of human experi-
ence. All other entities and abstractions are shown to emerge from these. The universals are: material things, individual humans, money
and energy. A four by four matrix of the universals creates ten phenomena-based categories that systematically map the domains codified
in the Dewey Decimal Classification. The matrix is an example of the property of low-emergence in human development. A human research
study using interview methodology linked the sufficiency of seven common instances of each universal to fully cover the subjective and
present life experiences of twenty-five physically, educationally, economically and culturally diverse participants. To address the significant
diversity of human experience, the universals and instances used in the human research are realistically mapped onto a Rubik’s Cube. Ap-
plying the known properties of cube, mathematics implies the sufficiency of the upper-level universals to account for human diversity.
Implications for rationally based ethical categorical imperatives in education are discussed.
Received: 7 June 2016; Revised: 27 July 2016; Accepted: 6 August 2016
Keywords: human experience, realist ontology, money, universals, knowledge, individuals, energy, Basic Formal Ontology
1.0 Introduction and hypotheses
Existing ontologies and organizations of knowledge rela-
tive to the experience of being a modern human are gener-
ally too abstract to provide scientific value or too reduc-
tionist to satisfactorily address or codify our human experi-
ence. Jonathan Turner (2006) critiques sociology, the disci-
pline perhaps most closely aligned with human experience,
as in a chaotic state. John Searle (2004) claims social sci-
ence does not rise to the level of science. These assess-
ments beg many questions but few more important than
how knowledge directly related to the human experience
might be organized. Therefore, an integrated object-based
ontology suitable for use in a hybrid classification and inte-
grated knowledge organization system is presented.
The human experience realist ontology in the Basic
Formal Ontology (HERO-BFO) framework is a phe-
nomena-based upper-level ontology that organizes and
codifies human experience, including its emergent prop-
erty of learning. A successful ontology will serve to ob-
jectively unify human knowledge and encompass concep-
tual, contextual and subjective differences. HERO-BFO
identifies four objects or phenomena using strict criteria.
It supports a mapped relational-structure, is further con-
firmed with interviews with individuals and mathemati-
cally extends to demonstrate capacity to deal with diver-
sity. Thus, the four universals are the essence of human
experience. Essence (Zhang and Olson 2015) is a quality
of a genre of experience, in this case a human experi-
ence, that is innate, immutable and independent of con-
text. Section two defines an upper-level universal and
identifies the four objects which qualify. Section three
presents the universals in relationship and systematically
maps the existing disciplines or sub-domains of knowl-
edge within those relationships. Section four links subjec-
tive lived experiences of research participants through in-
terviews to structured sets of instances of the universals.
Section five labels an artifact that has known mathemati-
Knowl. Org. 43(2016)No.7
J. D. Smith. A Human Experience Realist Ontology in Basic Formal Ontology
cal properties with the universals and their instances to
quantify their capacity to address human diversity. Values-
based ethical implications form the conclusion.
The academic seedbed of the universals is French and
Raven’s (1959) bases of social power taxonomy and con-
flict sociology. These original bases were applied in a
meta-analysis of social conflict (Smith 2013) that identi-
fied their presence across conflict models used in indi-
vidual, managerial, bureaucratic, political and game the-
ory approaches to social tensions and outcomes. Searle
(2010) suggests that all social ontology is power structure.
HERO-BFO is a formal presentation of such a structure.
French and Raven’s bases are coercive, reward, socially le-
gitimate, expert and referent powers. These are parallel to
HERO-BFO’s physical matter, money, other individuals
and energy, respectively. Referent power implies a rela-
tionship of respect between individuals or groups who
may perceive innate value, competence or leadership in
others relative to these powers. In this sense, referent
power is an emergent quality.
Ontologies from several disciplines attempt to struc-
ture human experience. In general, these use more ab-
stract forms of these same four universals or apply to
only one discipline. These ontologies are presented, per-
haps too briefly, in this section. These are presented to
map the academic landscape. HERO-BFO’s universals
serve as an object-based legend in the column headings
for comparative purposes.
Including money as a universal is a differentiator of this
ontology. Yet, this may be what makes it workable in the
lives of modern humans. I challenge some of the perspec-
tive of John R. Searle (2006), who views money only as an
institutional derivative rather than a necessary foundation
for modern institutions. Money as a universal of human
experience is supported by the institutional history pro-
vided by Jonathan Turner (2003) and others. No ideologi-
cal claim is made that money ought or ought not to be a
universal. The status of money as a universal simply is as
defined in basic formal ontology. Logically, the power of
money to communicate an objective message of value that
moves with social and individual goals, aspirations and de-
velopments is money’s critical value function.
1.1 An academic landscape: existing ontologies
for human experience
The relatively well-known ontologies in Table 1 are from
the disciplines of psychology, sociology, biology and eco-
nomics. These same disciplines manifest as sub-ontologies
in the knowledge map of section three of this article. The
universals in these other ontologies can be organized co-
gently using HERO-BFO universals as column headings.
While each discipline is critical to understanding human
experience, none is sufficient alone to account for it.
Alone, each tends toward either a reductionist, partial or
unfortunately incomplete account. One challenge for in-
terdisciplinary communications is how to balance the
claims made by proponents of each discipline that tend to
claim dominance in explaining human experience.
These ontologies are organized under the same cate-
gory labels yet exhibit differing levels of abstraction. The
labels suggest similarities parallel to the universals of
HERO-BFO. While there may be other ways to catego-
rize these ontologies, each similarly tends to lend itself to
Table 1. HERO-BFO and other ontologies. Universals used in each ontology are aligned using the universals posited by
HERO-BFO. SFD is Searle’s status function declaration concept.
Knowl. Org. 43(2016)No.7
J. D. Smith. A Human Experience Realist Ontology in Basic Formal Ontology
a categorical description through physical, energy-related,
social, money and emergent universals.
For example, while HERO-BFO entities are less ab-
stract than Wilber’s, they are not categorically different.
The “I” used by Wilber is an abstract term. No one can
measure or point to an “I” but identifying an individual, as
HERO-BFO does, is less problematic. Thus “we” as used
by Wilber is also abstract in that “we” includes “I.” Using
“I” to explain the experience of “I” is not upper-level and
cannot answer the question of what “I” is. The Wilberian
“I” is the human experience. Wilber’s “It” represents
physical reality while “Its,” referring to all things, has a
connection with money to communicate the value of
things that are not “I.” Bernard Lietaer (2000) is explicit
that money and the money system, including communal
and transactional economies, respectively, are represented
by Wilber’s “It” and “Its.” Vitt’s economically focused uni-
versals are exactly parallel to HERO-BFO, not abstract,
and yet narrowly applied to economics. Vitt’s and Wilber’s
ontologies serve as examples of an academic pattern that
other ontologies tend to follow and through which the
nature of HERO-BFO can be grasped and placed. Searle’s
brute facts relate to things but are at a higher level of ab-
straction. Searle’s claim of the status function declaration
as a primary of human life may be, but it is not a higher
level universal. This is argued in section two. Axelrod’s iter-
ated prisoner’s dilemma (IPD) applies in many disciplines
to explain how payoff or reward factors operate overtly or
subtly to focus life decisions and, thus, life itself. While not
a formal ontology, game theory’s payoff matrix could op-
erate to describe how the four universals of HERO-BFO
tend to interact. Yet, IPD is highly abstract and does not
internally account for creative emergence or learning.
The emergent properties of a human ontology are nec-
essary to explain human experience. The emergent prop-
erty of the ontologies is provided for comparative pur-
poses with no specific elaboration save to show how
HERO-BFO relates to others. Emergence is addressed in
section three and the base of it, autonomy, is dealt with in
section two. HERO-BFO builds on these listed ontologies
in a small inductive step toward phenomena-based univer-
sals. The goal is a realist, essential and object-based ontol-
ogy. Those reviewed above were either abstract and con-
cept-based, tended toward reductionism, or were in a sub-
1.2 Hypotheses
Hypothesis one states that modern human experience is
comprised only of relationships between and among the
universals. Ten pairings created by a four by four matrix
consisting only of the four universals are systematically
compared with the ten main categories of the Dewey De-
cimal Classification (DDC) and its 90 sub categories 000-
990. The ten pairing must logically and comprehensively
cover all the areas of the DDC to reject a null hypothesis.
Hypothesis two states that a limited number of in-
stances of each universal generally, yet fully, describes
modern human experience. Twenty-five participants sys-
tematically examined their life experience through a list
of seven instances of each universal. Individuals must
substantially agree these fully describe their present ex-
perience to reject the null hypothesis.
2.0 BFO, human experience and universals
BFO is an upper-level ontology (Arp et al. 2015) used in
knowledge management, bio-medical research, informat-
ics and military operations, among others. BFO’s phi-
losophy of science embraces skeptical realism as do
81.6% of philosophers who held academic positions in
philosophy. Skeptical realism is the approach to the na-
ture of reality which accepts that there is a real world, ob-
jective in nature and that world can be known. In this
sense, BFO is not atheoretical (Hjørland 2016) yet ap-
pears sufficiently neutral to support the plethora of the-
ory that emerges in section three’s knowledge-map.
BFO terms requiring description for this presentation
are: real, upper-level universal, type and instance. Ontol-
ogy seeks to represent reality by designating some com-
bination of universals. Universals are a defined class of
entities (Arp et al. 2015). An entity is anything that exists,
given the best scientific evidence. Existing as real, in this
sense, does not mean that an entity is invariable from any
perspective imaginable. Amanda Geftner (2014) found
that nothing is real using this definition while using wildly
improbable imaginations such as a human experience that
included individuals standing on the edge of a black hole.
The term real, as used here, means simply observable and
measurable. Other than upper-level universals, entities
can include objects, processes or qualities.
Upper-level universals are the most general category
of entities possible to identify in any domain. Upper-level
universals must be real, uniquely relevant, and necessary
to the domain. All experiences in that domain must ema-
nate from the universals or the set is incomplete.
Universals are often combined in relationship to form
a universal type. For example, in the human genome, the
four amino acids of DNA are the universals. Genes are
various relations or configurations of the amino acids.
Upper-level entities in atomic structures are neutrons,
protons, electrons and atomic bonds. Universal types in
atomic structure are elements listed on the periodic table.
Types have many specific instances such as isotopes
and molecules. Instances are specific appearances of the
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universals in forms that are not universal. Instances are
real entities as well. For example, the upper-level of indi-
vidual human has instances of male, female, androgy-
nous, infant, adolescent and adult. The instance male is
an individual, but all individuals are not males. Males are
instances of the individual as universal even though
males are universally present in the species.
Abstractions, such as sets, domain, words, language,
numbers, experience, categories, ideas and other repre-
sentations of reality, are not considered real in BFO.
These abstractions are representative of perceived real
relationships and easily codified in the knowledge map.
2.1 Human experience domain parameters
The domain of human experience is delineated by con-
scious experience and an intuitive openness that there is
more to experience than simply that of which one is con-
scious. Conscious experience is presented herein as
awareness, focus and higher order thought. Subconscious
brain activity influences behavior, however these may be
experienced, revealed or manipulated, they are not a part
of human experience until brought to awareness. It is ea-
sy to be aware that there are things, processes and influ-
ences of which we are only vaguely aware and still not
experience those influences directly. A bias in this study is
the bias or emphasis of conscious awareness.
The awareness of the realm of unawareness is bridged
by intuition and less structured feelings. Art, experimen-
tation and creative pursuits in most disciplines are fueled
by a desire to expand our awareness and emerge with
new and interesting insights. Thus, the concepts from the
artificial intelligence community defining consciousness
as a function of awareness and focus (Triffet and Green
1999) provide a helpful framework. The simpler concepts
of awareness and focus are complimented by the higher
order thought theory as proposed by Lau and Rosenthal
(2011). Higher order thought frames human experience
as a lower-level perceptual state, similar to awareness, and
the higher order experiential state, similar to focus. In the
higher order state all of the perceptual experiences be-
come one seamless life experience through the integra-
tion of all of the perceptual faculties and the processing
ability of the brain. Brain processing results in energy
that feeds information back to the body or stores it in the
form of new neural pathways.
2.2 Human experience
The conscious human experience can be classified along
four ranges or dichotomies that describe filters individu-
als engage for processing their focus through their higher
order though process. Andrew Feenberg’s (1999) model
of human experience presents this framework. Feenberg’s
dichotomies help explain subjective differences in the
processing objective data.
The first dichotomy is between scientific epistemology
and dogmatic, inflexible belief. Human experience may
be filtered through a realist skeptical philosophy or a re-
ligiously oriented theological perspective. The religious-
spiritual end of this dichotomy appeared in a few of the
research participants. A second dichotomy is filtering ex-
perience as immediate and sensory compared with ex-
perience as deep reflection. A third dichotomy is a devel-
opmental line through immersion in an experience or
community over a long period of enculturation. Lastly, an
experience that transcends the subject-object divide is
different from all the others. While the experiences are
different, the things experienced are not altered by a hu-
man’s experience of the things. It is the things experi-
enced, rather than how they are experienced, that are the
focus of HERO-BFO.
The time frame of this human experience realist on-
tology domain is from birth to death. A foundational as-
sertion of this approach to ontology of the human ex-
perience is that being human is simply an experience
housed in the human body.
2.3 The upper-level universals identified
The definition of upper-level universals was provided at
the beginning of this section. At this point, each of the
four is shown to meet the criteria. The first two univer-
sals are matter and energy. It is hard to argue that both
are not real, unique, necessary and relevant to human ex-
perience. While both are all encompassing and used as
the basis for positivism, they are not sufficient to explain
modern human experience. These fail to explain auton-
omy and the emergence of life or consciousness from in-
animate sources. Thirdly, individual humans display
autonomy at a level not found in other entities. Individu-
als are thus real, unique, and necessary for modern hu-
man experience. Fourthly, money is the entity used
among modern humans to communicate value and facili-
tate the creation and maintenance of the division of la-
bor and knowledge society. Now, more details follow to
establish each of the universals more soundly as real,
relevant, necessary and unique:
1) Physical things, or matter having rest mass, whether
those things are flora, fauna or inanimate. Immediately
experienced instances of things include the body, food,
homes, chemicals and cars.
2) Energy is considered a quality of matter even though
matter can claim no primacy over energy. Energy forms
include electromagnetic waves, gravitational waves, mo-
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lecular bonds and perhaps others. Humans experience
energy without experiencing matter in two critical areas.
Externally, humans experience sunlight without ever
touching the Sun. Sunlight is relevant and necessary to
human life providing vitamin D and threatening health
with skin cancer. Internally, humans experience
thoughts and feelings without experiencing the material
organs or chemicals which stimulate them. Thoughts,
feelings and emotions are biochemical energy experi-
enced through electrical activity of the neurons that de-
liver the experience. Thus, humans experience thought,
without experiencing the brain.
3) Humans experience one another in ways they do not
experience themselves. The unique characteristic of
any individual is autonomy at some measurable level. It
is not necessary to invoke the philosophy of methodo-
logical individualism to affirm individual autonomy. It
is neither circular nor redundant to consider individuals
within the ontology of human experience. Humans
experience other individuals singly and in groups dif-
ferently and uniquely from other entities. Examples of
these are lovers, family, strangers and enemies.
Autonomy, following Killmister’s (2013) schema, is a
function of the knowledge and ability to make informed
choices or create options, reflect upon the options, align
them with self-identity, form an intention to act and act
upon the intention. Any of these factors may be com-
promised and thus levels of autonomy vary. Killmister’s
work aligns with the concept of diminished autonomy, as
opposed to fuller autonomy, cited by the Belmont Report
(United States 1978) on ethical research guidelines.
Autonomy is likely the source of emergent properties in
modern social life that includes growth, learning, devel-
opment, aspirations, identity and culture.
4) Money is a real entity, uniquely relevant and a necessary
communication device. Money objects include com-
modity, specie, currency and crypto-currency. Crypto-
currency like bitcoin functions with natural value as a
payment system as well as a measure of accounts. The
vast majority of economies today use paper, also known
as fiat currency.
Money emerged organically among communities and
grew to modern global proportions connecting commu-
nities directly in nearly every way. Instances of money
can be experienced as cash, earnings, gold, credit, social
welfare payments or many other ways. Unlike spoken lan-
guage or institutional entities, money is fully translatable
and directly exchangeable in its forms. Thus, money tran-
scends language and institutions. While spoken words or
other acts may or may not represent private thoughts, en-
tities or events accurately, the transfer of money is a
communicative action, a speech act, of unambiguous va-
lue. In this characteristic, money is real communication
because of its innate value and relatively consistent value
over time. Consider the words, “the check is in the mail.”
The check may be or may not be in the mail. Handing
over cash is immediately communicative of reality. I
could proclaim to be speaking in Chinese while clearly
speaking in English. The interpretations of contracts or
even religious literature present similar challenges.
Peter Hadreas (1989) states, “Failing to consider money
within the conversational context in which it occurs results
in ontological and conceptual errors.” Money is the human
speech act that allows society and modern institutions to
be possible per Georg Simmel (2004) and Mathieu Deflem
(2003).The use of money in modern society grew organi-
cally from individual personal exchanges within and be-
tween small communities of exchange and all the way to its
modern use to support production, industrialization and
global institutions (Turner 2003). Money rose organically
among individuals, then to masses and finally to the so-
phisticated money structures existent today that facilitate
trading and support diversity of knowledge and expertise.
How does this history fit with John Searle’s claim that
money, multi-colored or green pieces of paper, is money
by virtue of an institutional edict or status function decla-
ration? Searle is both correct and incorrect. Searle is incor-
rect about the need for an institutional declaration as
money emerged organically between individuals and grew
in use without an institutional edict (Smit et al. 2011).
Searle is more correct to the point where consolidation and
control of social power through institutional control of
money became possible and perhaps necessary with
growth and use of more complicated financial devices,
laws and technology.
Searle (2005) points out correctly that an institution can
declare something like green slips of paper will be money
in their nation. Thus X, green slips of paper, is Y, money,
in C the nation. X is Y in C. Money is easily transferable
between nations with little to no problem. If I visit your
tribe and you visit mine, all we must do is exchange our
money at a specific mathematical rate of exchange. Then
each can begin a full life in a foreign land without saying a
word, all other things being equal. The initial exchange is a
simple rate-based exchange set by a person familiar with
the prices of both our tribes. Soon enough, both of us will
know each other’s language for daily communications.
Status function declarations alone have failed to exert
sufficient influence to declare currency as money. The
Weimar Republic lost control over the mark which became
worthless. The entire world refused to buy U.S. Bonds in
1978 unless those bonds were denominated not in dollars
but in German and Swiss currencies. Money was able to
Knowl. Org. 43(2016)No.7
J. D. Smith. A Human Experience Realist Ontology in Basic Formal Ontology
circulate without declaration in the days of free banking.
The United States’ military intelligence practices include fi-
nancial warfare games (Rickards 2011) that demonstrate
how nations are destroyed by targeting only their money.
It may be that neither language nor institution is neces-
sary for the money to emerge among non-modern barter,
exchange and gift economies. Yet, money appears to be a
requirement to move from simpler hunter-gatherer com-
munities to a modern global set of communities in spite of
the tensions between and within the communal economies
and those significantly more trade-based.
Spoken or written language is not upper level. It is at
best representative of the four universals. A shared lan-
guage is a facet of relationship. Language is simply mutu-
ally recognized modulated pulses of air (energy) beating
upon the nerves of the ear, becoming sparks in the brain,
initiating a feeling of awareness in the hearer. That is the
objective reality.
3.0 Mapping human experience through
knowledge organization
A conceptual map formed by the creation of a four by
four matrix with the four universals serving as headings
both the column and row (Figure 1) is compared to the
contents in the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC). The
matrix creates sixteen individual cells. Four cells are u-
nique. Six have duplicates. The duplicates are ignored as
simple and trivial inversions. The DDC library classifica-
tion serves to approximate extant human knowledge. The
DDC is not significantly at variance (Zins and Santos
2011) with the Library of Congress Classification system
or the Universal Decimal Classification system. There-
fore, the DDC serves as a reasonable proxy.
The comparison consists of three steps. First is de-
scribing the ten universal types. Next, the universal types
are matched systematically with the DDCs contents.
Thirdly, interdisciplinary classification connections are
briefly discussed.
The benefit of this phenomena-based knowledge map
is that these universals support a knowledge organization
founded on objective reality. Interdisciplinary knowledge
organization scholars (Szostak et al. 2016) suggest orga-
nizing a conceptual map of phenomena linked by rela-
tionships to create a web of relations. This style of map-
ping follows the resource description framework (RDF)
used in the semantic web development: object, concept
and subject. The universal phenomena of section two are
linked to concepts, domains, theories and such in the
knowledge map, and eventually connected to specific
Figure 1. Rows and columns have same labels (E equals Energy and so on). Grey cells are primary to
the individual human experience. Numbers and names are from the Dewey Decimal Classification top
level 000-900 and the second level of the 10s between each top level hundred as needed. Econom-
ics, 330-339 is fully presented in the bottom row.
Knowl. Org. 43(2016)No.7
J. D. Smith. A Human Experience Realist Ontology in Basic Formal Ontology
subject attributes. Specific instances in human experience
are presented in section four on human research.
3.1 Cell descriptions
For clarity, the ten unique cells are classified as three dif-
ferent types: primary pairs, pure pairs and other pairs.
Each pair links closely with one or more related disci-
plines but remains distinct from other pairs. Primary pairs
are the four cells that contain the individual human uni-
versal. Primary pairs are slightly greyer in Figure 1 and
represent direct human experience and perception. The
remaining six cells represent the external entities, context
and environment of human experience.
Pure pairs form where the row and column share the
same name. Pure pairs represent the universals them-
selves except for the individual-individual cell. The indi-
vidual-individual cell is both a pure and primary cell. This
cell is primary in human experience. The three other cells
are neither pure nor do they contain the autonomous in-
dividual. Technically, there are four primary cells, three
pure cells and three context cells.
The primary pairs are the core of the human experi-
1) An individual human interacting with energy (object
level) is the academic domain of neuroscience, psychol-
ogy, cognitive science, neurology and branches of
medicine (concept level) associated with sunlight and
radiation as associated with vitamin D synthesis or skin
cancer, among many other related factors (subject level).
2) An individual interacting with other individuals (object
level) is the academic domain of sociology, anthropol-
ogy, language, history, religion and cultural studies
(concept level). Subjects include wars, teamwork, edu-
cation, family and tribes.
3) An individual interacting with physical things is the
academic domain of positivism. It includes the human
body, medicine focused on the physical, biology, ge-
netics, nutrition and ergonomics (concept level). Sub-
jects include pharmaceuticals, surgery, housing and
recreational sports and style.
4) An individual interacting with money (object level) is
conceptualized with economics, marginal utility and
delayed gratification. The subject experiences income,
net worth and saving habits among others.
Primary cells represent the core human experience as
evidenced in section three where the assessment by indi-
vidual research participants is reported. The ability of
these four to define and identify experience at the upper-
level and subjective levels gives HERO-BFO high ex-
planatory value.
The three pure pairs are: 5) money and money; 6) things
and things; and, 7) energy and energy. Things and things
represents pure nature. It is often divided further to ani-
mal, plant and mineral types. Things need only have rest
mass. Energy and energy is pure energy. This encompasses
the physics of movement, astronomy of heavenly bodies,
electro-magnetic waves, gravity waves and quantum sci-
ences. Money and money is the domain of money as a sys-
tem including banking, central banks and financial proc-
esses. Three other cells exist: 8) things and money; 9)
money and energy; and, 10) energy and things. Things and
money is specifically the things that can be money, types of
money, payment systems, stocks, bonds and insurances.
Money and energy is human economic motivation, discre-
tionary power and compounding interest. This includes the
velocity of money, a measure of how fast money changes
hands. Energy and things categorizes most of the natural
sciences while considering kinetic energy, potential energy
and waves in physics.
No crisp demarcation of any of these in human experi-
ence is claimed. Logically, experience requires enough over-
lap of these universal types to facilitate a smoothness of
the human experience as discussed in higher order
3.2 Library comparison
Library systems categorize human knowledge by organiz-
ing through enumeration each subject and their facets in-
ductively. HERO-BFO builds deductively upon the four
upper-level universals. Rather than organizing around dis-
ciplines, phenomena are used. Library systems organize
knowledge by virtue of the knowledge itself. The map has
a starting point separate from books, other knowledge
maps or culture. While DDC uses abstract categories, such
as science in the 500s, the human experience keeps the fo-
cus on the things with rest mass and the energy itself.
When things or energy are used or applied, they populate
technology in the 600s, under the universal type of indi-
viduals and things. Though subtle, this distinction is not
based upon abstraction but upon real facets and relation-
Mathematics, 510, is a language of patterns and rela-
tionships understood and shared by individuals. Math
could fit many places as all things relate in theory.
The map substantially mirrors the DDC in all aspects
save the primacy of the category of money and the ab-
sence of supernatural beings as codified through religions.
Economics is classified as a sub group under social science.
Religion enjoys the entire major heading of the 200s.
HERO-BFO naturally expands money to a full top-level
category enjoyed by upper-level universals. Religion is
folded into sociology as a cultural experience. The inver-
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J. D. Smith. A Human Experience Realist Ontology in Basic Formal Ontology
sion is important. Other than this, only minor regroupings
are needed to fit all DDC subjects into the map. Fitting all
knowledge logically and cogently into the matrix is the test.
Duplicating the structure of the DDC is not.
The prominence given to money is a logical outcome of
the claim that modern society is based on the organic de-
velopment of money and the assertion that money is
foundational to institutions and to modern sociology.
Money can be said to supervene on sociology just as the
environment supervenes on that which exists in it. In
much of the world today, supernatural beliefs supervene
on society.
3.3 Emergence
HERO-BFO posits that each modern human is born as a
potentially autonomous individual, surrounded by other
individuals, various things, feeling or experiencing energy,
and soon to learn about money. These do not change ca-
tegorically. Albert Bergeson (2012) provided well-ac-
cepted evidence of the nature of an infant as conscious
of collectives, groups and even individuals with goals
prior to socialization. Language development is globally
similar. The desire to make sense of the world categori-
cally and mathematically is present immediately.
The nurture of the individual’s autonomy is a central
factor in emergence. According to Neil Postman (1994) it
was an expanding knowledge in a traditionally ignorant
adult population that created the new social status of
childhood. Just as expanding and codified knowledge
bases are a natural and emergent property of humanity, the
matrix is a naturally emergent property of HERO-BFO.
Bergesen’s work identifies some emergent capacities at
birth, prior to any socialization. Advances in knowledge
are the primary evidence of emergence in our species.
The knowledge map presents a macroscopically coherent
(Goldstein 2013) structure that contains the major foci of
human knowledge. This coherent emergence is tractable
along physical, emotional social and economic lines.
While the universals exist as entities with being,
changes occur and an emergent becoming is evident.
With the universal base as being and the core of knowl-
edge expanding or emerging, the concepts of Heidegger’s
(1987) being and becoming over time is touched upon.
3.4 Interdisciplinary application
Scholars have suggested (Gnoli, Szostak, et al.) the devel-
opment of a hybrid classification system based on real ob-
jects, subject to classification using integrative levels classi-
fication (ILC) or basic concepts classification (BCC). This
hybrid must allow for sub-ontologies or disciplines to clas-
sify in as specific a place as possible. The map identifies a
specific space for each discipline using real objects. DDC’s
disciplines have already been classified in BCC. The objects
forming the upper-level ontology exhibit minimal ambigu-
ity while the sub-ontologies, the disciplines, can allow for
constructivist bias and authorial perspective without losing
all touch with real phenomena of human experience.
It appears possible to identify disciplines under
HERO-BFO’s upper-level categories and further organ-
ize the disciplines as has already been done already with
BCC. Disciplines are categorized by the objects upon
which they focus. Next, general overview works specific
to concepts and authorial are organized in BCC.
Linked with systems such as ILC and BCC, items are
classified for their physical, energy, individuals and money
claims and characteristics as well as others. Bread can serve
as one example. In HERO-BFO, bread is classified under
individuals and things. How does bread impact the body
(thing)? What are the physical characteristics defining or
encompassed by bread? Who uses which types of bread
and how? Calories in bread is in the subdomain of nutri-
tion. The common phrase “shall not live by bread alone”
connotes a psychological impact (energy internal). A new
added question to these established questions is, “how
much is bread in compared with other food?” Bread also is
slang for money. Perhaps this multidisciplinary process
brings us a step closer to interdisciplinary interactions
through providing clear linkages via the knowledge map.
Multidisciplinary views are a change in focus from one
cell to another with the same object or process in view.
Consider how the matrix may also serve as a multidisci-
plinary map for a researcher or entrepreneur creating and
delivering a new process or program. Consider a creative
idea emerging in the mind of an entrepreneur. Ideas are
an experience categorized in the individual and energy
cell. This cell is where the vision, passion and desire fit.
Following the development of the idea, like the Heimlich
choking assistance maneuver, a multidisciplinary pattern
can be traced on Table 1. After the initial idea, Dr. Heim-
lich had to perfect the technique for use on the body.
Technique is technology and thus fits in the individuals
and things cell. The technique was the thing or manifest
idea. Dr. Heimlich then had to show the benefits of this
thing to influential individuals. The other individuals fit in
the individuals and individuals cell. In his presentation,
Dr. Heimlich had to appeal to the others’ passions for
health, thus entering again the individuals and energy cell
but this time it is their energy, emotion or desire rather
than his alone.
Once the value of his technology is successfully com-
municated, he may price it and make it available in the
market. This is the individuals and money cell. Even if he
is not paid directly, the fame of his name, a relationship,
is a payoff in the individuals and individuals cell that may
Knowl. Org. 43(2016)No.7
J. D. Smith. A Human Experience Realist Ontology in Basic Formal Ontology
lead to other payoffs. The order of steps on the multidis-
ciplinary path may change, but they are mapped.
4.0 Individual experience research
Rather than experiencing upper-level categories, humans
experience specific instances of those objects in some
common-sense everyday schema. If human experience is
a matter of a common or cultural sense, cognitive recog-
nition and formal science of the objects themselves
(Smith 1995), then it can be tested on a common sense
level. The results of this will test any assumptions re-
maining in underlying ontology.
This test presents common instances of the objects
stated as possible goals. By definition, individuals possess
autonomy to move in any direction of their choosing gi-
ven the constraints outlined by Killmister. An individual’s
desires, vision, need and feelings interacting with the
outer environment is the context of this section. Do the
instances of the universal types, stated as goals, hold in
this context?
PDF files containing 4 lists of 7 items each were de-
livered to 25 self-selected participants from Cornell Uni-
versity, Fielding Graduate University and John Jay Col-
lege’s Dispute Resolution Group. Participants included 17
females and 8 males; 19 were born in the United States, 3
in the UK, 1 in Africa, 1 in Iran and 1 in China. Nine had
bachelor degrees, eight master degrees, four JD’s, and
four PhD’s. Ages ranged from 18-65 and incomes from
less than $30,000 to over $175,000. Specifics of how ma-
ny in each category responded in what way are provided
in Table 3 at end of this section.
The goals were recognizable instances of the four pri-
mary universal types. The instances could be considered
the most common instances of each universal type. Each
instance was framed as a possible goal, desired experience
or state. Participants were asked to write a near-term goal
that came to mind for each instance then prioritize them
by selecting two from each category as most important
The two priority goals from each list formed a fifth
short list of eight top priority goals. Finally, participants
were asked to select a single top-most and second most
important goal from their short list.
Some participants selected based on how they felt in-
tuitively. Others used logic to consider which goal seemed
to link all the rest. Using a one to ten scale each assessed
how difficult reaching the top two goals on the short list
seemed. After answering any questions each participant
might have, the evaluation and demographic were com-
pleted. In most of the cases, the evaluation was com-
pleted verbally with no prompting or explanatory discus-
sion until after completion.
The seven instances or goals of individuals-things are:
housing, transportation, toys (video games to yachts),
clothing, physique, food or medicine and “other.” The
“other” is a thing only the participant might know.
The seven instances of the individual-individual con-
tained: family, lover, community, colleagues, career,
school and “other.” The “other” is a relationship only the
participant might know.
The seven instances of individuals-money contained:
net worth, credit score, income, cash on hand, insurance,
stocks or bonds and retirement funds.
The seven instances of individuals-energy, or feeling
goals, contained: feelings of security, excitement, signifi-
cance, connection and love, growth, giving (Madanes
1993 2009) and positive belief (Seligman et al. 2005).
4.1 Results
The four primary assessment statements addressed clarity
of the process, power of it to list all present life situa-
tions, the ability of the process to help organize or make
sense of life and the preparation formal education pro-
vided. Table 2, below, shows the mean, median and mode
of the 1-5 Likert scale where 1 is fully disagree, 2 some-
what disagree, 3 neither agree nor disagree, 4 somewhat
agree and 5 is fully agree.
Statements Mean Median Mode
Generally, all my life situa-
tions were listed 4.28 5 5
The process was clear even
though new to me 4.32 5 5
My formal education taught
me knowledge in all these
2.60 2 1
The process helps me make
sense of my life situation 4.24 4 4
Table 2. Responses of research participants that link the 7 goals
in each of the 4 categories to life experience.
In Figure 2, the graph is skewed to the positive for all state-
ments but the formal education statement, which is neg-
atively skewed. Two outliers for the most main statement
of the hypothesis, generally, this covered all my life situa-
tions, appeared. These participants somewhat disagreed.
The disagreement may have included not finding the
process clear. The same two neither agreed nor disagreed
the process was clear. Yet, both somewhat agreed the
process helped them make sense of their life situation.
There seems to be a conceptual challenge with both of
Knowl. Org. 43(2016)No.7
J. D. Smith. A Human Experience Realist Ontology in Basic Formal Ontology
these that is critical to this entire process of realism. This
conceptual challenge, and teaching opportunity, is clarity
between the abstract and the real in this realist ontology.
One said spirituality was missing. She was correct. Yet,
if spirituality is not real in the sense of skeptical realism,
how can it ever be present? Spirituality can be experi-
enced as a derivative of the four universals. It can fit as a
type of positive belief which is an instance of energy and
the individual. Spirituality can also be framed as a balance
and or harmony of the four ontological areas and growth
in them. This implied definition of spirituality has a firm
basis in the real and traditional ethics.
The other said the desire to create a business or leader-
ship center was missing. Conceptually, business is an insti-
tution that requires all four parts of the ontology to suc-
cessfully emerge. Leadership itself is a relationship with
community, school, career or colleagues. Business answers
the question of how to obtain desire, not of what.
Spirituality, business and growth tend to serve an inte-
grative and identity purpose relative to the universal ob-
jects. The manner in which an individual autonomously
organizes their life and knowledge is relative to the concept
of identity located under individuals and energy. Identity
can be reached by this ontology and thus apply within and
across social groups. As Szostak (2014) suggests, a web-of-
relations organization supports such integration.
Nine of the participants had been through other pro-
grams they considered somewhat similar yet not signifi-
cantly comparable including: cognitive behavioral therapy,
personality assessments, personal development groups, col-
lege courses, energy audits, reading, inner guides and full
circle leadership. Indications of the inability of the present
formal educational curriculum to address life experience
are found in the firm disagreement that formal education
prepared participants in all these areas (Table 2).
The group’s responses to the main statement are pre-
sented in Table 3 by demographic. The five numbers each
group represent the number of people at each level of
agreement. Interpret 1,0,3,0,2 to mean of the six people in
that group, one fully disagreed, three were neutral and two
fully agreed. Categories add to 25.
Figure 2. The raw scores graphically.
Birth Nation Gender I.D. Age Income (‘000s) Education
0,2,1,6,10 F
0,2,2,3,10 18-24
0,0,0,0,2 <$30
0,0,0,1,2 BA
Europe 0,0,1,1,1 M
0,0,0,5,3 25-35
0,1,1,3,1 $30-60
0,1,2,0,2 MA
0,0,0,0,1 36-40
Near East-Asia
0,0,0,1,1 41-50
0,0,1,2,3 $100-175 0,0,0,2,4 PhD
All Participants
0,2,2,8,13 51-65 0,1,0,2,0,3 $175+
Table 3. Responses to the statement “generally all of my life situations were listed” by demographic.
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J. D. Smith. A Human Experience Realist Ontology in Basic Formal Ontology
5.0 Diversity, math and the Rubik’s Cube
This section presents the ability of the universal matrix and
the instances used in the participant research to account
for human diversity. The mathematical characteristics of
the Rubik’s Cube, its physical structure, and how that struc-
ture accommodates the stories and life experiences are ap-
plied. This is a demonstration of the HERO-BFO ontol-
ogy to serve as a categorical foundation globally.
The cube was designed for engineers to experience
three dimensional problem solving and is used for similar
purposes in other scientific disciplines. Here, the cube is
used in understanding variations in human experience in
real time. Like an individual, the cube is variable in pres-
entation yet stable as a three dimensional object. It
changes position and resultant appearance over time.
5.1 Cube structure and mathematical properties
The Rubik’s Cube can be positioned in over 43,000,000,
000,000,000,000 (43 quintillion) (Korf 1997) different per-
fectly cube shaped positions. That large number is just
about 6 billion times larger than the population of earth. If
each position of a cube can represent a different experi-
ence of human life, the number is sufficient to account for
human diversity mathematically and realistically.
When in the solved position the cube has six sides each
of a different solid color comprised of nine square sur-
faces, also called facets, of the same size. HERO-BFO’s
equivalents to the six different colors are six cells applied
directly from the knowledge map. The four primary cells
that involve the individual and the two cells providing the
greatest context of life experience, pure things and things
and energy. These are mapped onto the two dimensional
graphic of the three dimensional cube in Figure 3.
The six center squares, one on each side, are each la-
beled with one of the six universal types from the map,
related disciplines and the original color of an official
Rubik’s Cube. Eight instances of each universal type
complete the labeling of each side. All the goal instances
used in the human research are used as labels.
The squares or facets on each side, though the same
size and color, are of three different types.
1) The center square on each side, labeled with the uni-
versal types, rotates in place but never moves from its
center place. These squares are analogous to the uni-
versal types. They are immovable, stable and define the
color of the other squares that surround them.
2) The four corner squares on each side are each con-
nected to the corner squares on two other adjacent
sides. These three corner squares always move to-
gether. All adjacent squares are labeled with the same
upper-case letters, A-G, and different instances relative
to the center square’s universal type.
3) The four edge squares on each side are located directly
above the center squares and between the corner
squares. Edge squares are connected to one other edge
square on the adjacent side. These edge squares always
move together as sets of two. Adjacent squares are
numbered with the same number, 1-12.
5.2 Labeling the squares
The center squares are labeled with both the universal type
and a color as already described. The corner and edge
squares bear the names of instances used in the human
research plus one extra to complete additional eight re-
quired. Thus, this flattened version of the Rubik’s can
“really” be linked to any standard three by three cube.
Labeling the squares with the instances of real human
experience validated in the human research is an impor-
tant step to justify extending the cube’s mathematical
property to HERO-BFO. The corner labeled “E” in Fig-
ure 3 serves as an example. The “E” corner has three
squares, each labeled “E.” The squares are labeled with
one instance each. Those instances are school, toys and
bricks. On a real cube, this is the corner with the blue,
yellow and red squares, respectively. Thus each square is
precisely identified. After identifying all the squares, la-
beled as real things in the human experience, a human
story can be constructed from the cube itself with no
necessary truth behind it. What could be more human
than that? In the DDC, after philosophy, science and
technology, comes art and literature. The cube is needed
for the diversity of literature, or understanding the poten-
tially unlimited number of ways human life presents.
5.3 Interpreting the Rubik’s Cube
The research participants described in the previous sec-
tion identified and prioritized their goals down to a
“short list” of their eight top goals. From this short list,
the top priority goal was selected. This short list was gen-
erally assessed and then reviewed as representing their to-
tal life. Note that the short list of eight contains exactly
the number as the number of squares surrounding each
center square on the cube. Determining which center
square these eight surround is logically accomplished by
arranging the eight around the center square of the uni-
versal type of which the top goal is an instance.
One participant’s top goal was physical stamina to care
for a new daughter. The other seven goals included un-
packing in a new home, finding a new source of income,
learning about retirement options, enhancing the feeling of
giving support to others, feeling significant as a person, ca-
Knowl. Org. 43(2016)No.7
J. D. Smith. A Human Experience Realist Ontology in Basic Formal Ontology
reer networking and accessing colleagues. Since the top
goal is physical stamina, related mostly to the body, the
center is the yellow center of things and individuals. In
Figure 3, these goals are represented by colors as follows:
two from the white, blue, yellow and green or individuals
and energy, individuals and individuals, individual and
things and individuals and money. Not all sides will be this
well balanced with two from each area. In the research
cases, the research process required that a set of choices be
from each category. Not all cases or people will follow this
neatly outside of the research laboratory.
To test a more random possibility, I scrambled the
cube with 40 varied moves as is done in competitions for
speed solving a cube. Then, I chose a side and used the
map of Figure 3 to interpret it. From the scrambled cube
these eight instances surrounded the center square on the
individuals and money, or green side. Toys came on the
corner of square “E.” “E” is the corner piece of the cube
with yellow, blue and red squares connected. The yellow
square is one of the eight squares showing on the green
center’s side. The other corners are green from the green,
orange and white corner “B.” This is income. Molecular
bond is the orange on the “O,” “Y,” “B” corner “F.” Iron
weights or the red square form the “R,” “W,” “B” corner
“C.” The four edge squares appearing on the green side
include reflection as orange from the orange and green
combination of 12, community as blue from 7, food as
yellow from 8, and intuition as white from 4.
The top goal of this person is income. This is ascer-
tained by the side of the cube I randomly chose to view:
the green center square of economics or money and indi-
viduals. Surrounding this center were priorities of income,
food, iron weights, community, intuition, reflection, mo-
lecular bond and toys. Now, I just need the story.
This could be the story of a scientist, in jail and iron
chains as a dangerous person, because of a crime against
Figure 3. Rubik’s Cube displayed in two dimensions and realistically labeled.
Knowl. Org. 43(2016)No.7
J. D. Smith. A Human Experience Realist Ontology in Basic Formal Ontology
the community through some food experiment that did
not work out. As the scientist reflects, in a flash intuition,
a childhood toy that caused a problem the child scientist
did not cause but was blamed for crosses his mind. If on-
ly he could get the income from former inventions he
could get the evidence needed to exonerate him.
Only one side of the cube has been read here. The
deeper connections must include all sides of the cube.
Leaving one story or side of the cube to start talking on
another side may be a form of digression from a main
There are limits to how much validity the cube mathe-
matics may have to fully apply, but the connections pre-
sented here are significant and representative of real life
and diversity. The Rubik’s Cube extends the use of the on-
tology to deal with the experience of human diversity.
6.0 Conclusion
HERO-BFO identified a set of four universals that cata-
logue the essential elements of human experience. The re-
lationship map identified and specifically placed the disci-
plines and concepts classified in the DDC with little ambi-
guity. Hypothesis one is accepted.
Seven instances of each universal tend to fully describe
real humans’ life experience. Modes of five, or fully agree,
for the instances’ ability to cover all life experiences of par-
ticipants from widely different age groups, educational lev-
els, income levels and birth nations. Hypothesis two can be
Research participants were in nearly full disagreement
that formal education taught them knowledge in all these
areas. Any resultant knowledge gap, if not compensated
for at home or informally, likely impairs many people’s
ability to engage the full human experience and achieve
or contribute in the most meaningful manner. This repre-
sents both opportunity and value of phenomena-based
education, focus and classification. The mathematics of
the Rubik’s Cube extends this pattern globally.
The ethical implications carry weight. At its core, mo-
rality and deontology may be a concern for how all people
have opportunity and go about enjoying the four universal
categories of human experience. The identification, priori-
tization and alignment of goals can support all individuals
in building trusting relations, recognizing the inherent and
personal value of knowledge of how money facilitates
communication, sharing and giving. Education is missing a
key to supporting modern consciousness and autonomy,
especially considering step one of Susan Killmister’s tax-
Self-interest and empathy can be married philosophi-
cally and practically. A value embracing this ontology
brings is the ability to understand that each human desires
the four universals in different ways, different amounts
and different times. Thus, each person can see the mani-
festation of these desires in others.
If money was not one of the universals, it is difficult
to imagine how people with goals for earning, for things
or to help someone they loved, could fully describe their
experience. Bringing money out of the DDC category of
social science or into more prominence supports educa-
tion for a full life.
Denying money education, implying money education is
only for some and not others, finds no basis. If there is a
definition of wrong, not teaching money’s universal place
in institutions, nations and individuals along with how
money works, is wrong. This wrong is unethical. This par-
ticular wrong is a systemic, well-recognized wrong, ancient
as slavery itself, and calls have been made (United States
2015) for teaching money and finance systematically. While
not solving all problems, this education can make for bet-
ter problems such as how to negotiate creatively with a lar-
ger enfranchised population.
Belief, as used in positive psychology, was included.
Faith is a thought pattern closely aligned with positive be-
lief. When included this way, HERO-BFO is non-an-
tagonistic toward belief in the supernatural. At the same
time, HERO-BFO provides a level ground for all belief
and thus may serve a purpose of a common ground be-
tween rival belief systems.
The lack of a control group is addressed by consider-
ing the world itself as the control group. Poverty, igno-
rance, terrorist attacks, ontological arguments galore and
the inability to use real terms to impact the general beliefs
that often define perception and cognitive processing are
evidence that formal education did not present knowl-
edge necessary for life. From the 9/11 terror attacks to
Occupy Wall Street to the refugee crisis of Syrian citi-
zens, the symptoms and need for some reality control is
apparent. HERO-BFO suggests a framework that may al-
low for full diversity of human expression without arbi-
trary bias through providing this realist set of four uni-
versals and their instances as educational benchmarks
which can be applied by each individual.
In a presentation to the International Society for
Knowledge Organization (ISKO), Jeremy Shapiro (2002)
posited that no hierarchical or linear knowledge organiza-
tion system could suffice to organize information. His ref-
erence to a chain mail type of knowledge structure, par-
ticularly one based on metaphorical symbols is compatible
with HERO-BFO’s universals. The universals themselves
form a linked chain of knowledge.
Modern life is based on, and now requires a division
of labor, expertise and knowledge that allows for no true
Renaissance man or woman who knows everything in
sufficient detail to emerge. Though the value of this divi-
Knowl. Org. 43(2016)No.7
J. D. Smith. A Human Experience Realist Ontology in Basic Formal Ontology
sion of expertise surrounds humanity, it elicits a physical
wound to the desire of the self-aware human to feel at
one and connected with the beauty of the life environ-
ment. The division of knowledge necessary to create our
world of choice and sense of aliveness carries a wound-
ing potential of a divided psyche.
The possibilities of this ontology and its applications
may be one step closer to finding that impossible dream of
connection and differentiation in a world of expanding
knowledge. Like a light particle that jumps suddenly to a
new level of energy and insight, it remains still a particle.
The idea that human experience emerges from four real
and upper-level categories and four sources of human
power holds a promise of sense-making that can support
universal inclusion and global oneness. Transforming edu-
cation through the inclusion of evidence-based or real-
based classification may assure inclusion of these four
things to all as early in life as possible. It also may begin to
heal divisions both perceived and real among us and bring
all to higher levels of engagement and respect.
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A distinction can be made between "artificial classifications" and "natural classifications," where artificial classifications may adequately serve some limited purposes, but natural classifications arc overall most fruitful by allowing inference and thus many different purposes. There is strong support for the view that a natural classification should be based on a theory (and, of course, that the most fruitful theory provides the most fruitful classification). Nevertheless, atheoretical (or "descriptive") classifications are often produced. Paradoxically, atheoretical classifications may be very successful. The best example of a successful "atheoretical" classification is probably the prestigious Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) since its third edition from 1980. Based on such successes one may ask: Should the claim that classifications ideally are natural and theory-based be reconsidered? This paper argues that the seemingly success of atheoretical classifications hides deeper problems and that the ideal of theory-based classification should be maintained.
This book proposes a novel approach to classification, discusses its myriad advantages, and outlines how such an approach to classification can best be pursued. It encourages a collaborative effort toward the detailed development of such a classification. This book is motivated by the increased importance of interdisciplinary scholarship in the academy, and the widely perceived shortcomings of existing knowledge organization schemes in serving interdisciplinary scholarship. It is designed for scholars of classification research, knowledge organization, the digital environment, and interdisciplinarity itself. The approach recommended blends a general classification with domain-specific classification practices. The book reaches a set of very strong conclusions: -Existing classification systems serve interdisciplinary research and teaching poorly. -A novel approach to classification, grounded in the phenomena studied rather than disciplines, would serve interdisciplinary scholarship much better. It would also have advantages for disciplinary scholarship. The productivity of scholarship would thus be increased. -This novel approach is entirely feasible. Various concerns that might be raised can each be addressed. The broad outlines of what a new classification would look like are developed. -This new approach might serve as a complement to or a substitute for existing classification systems. -Domain analysis can and should be employed in the pursuit of a general classification. This will be particularly important with respect to interdisciplinary domains. -Though the impetus for this novel approach comes from interdisciplinarity, it is also better suited to the needs of the Semantic Web, and a digital environment more generally. Though the primary focus of the book is on classification systems, most chapters also address how the analysis could be extended to thesauri and ontologies. The possibility of a universal thesaurus is explored. The classification proposed has many of the advantages sought in ontologies for the Semantic Web. The book is therefore of interest to scholars working in these areas as well.
The book offers a profound understanding of how we create a social reality-a reality of money, property, governments, marriages, stock markets and cocktail parties. The paradox addressed is that these facts only exist because we think they exist and yet they have an objective existence. Continuing a line of investigation begun in his earlier book The Construction of Social Reality, the author identifies the precise role of language in the creation of all "institutional facts." His aim is to show how mind, language and civilization are natural products of the basic facts of the physical world described by physics, chemistry and biology. The author explains how a single linguistic operation, repeated over and over, is used to create and maintain the elaborate structures of human social institutions. These institutions serve to create and distribute power relations that are pervasive and often invisible. These power relations motivate human actions in a way that provides the glue that holds human civilization together. The author then applies the account to show how it relates to human rationality, the freedom of the will, the nature of political power and the existence of universal human rights. In the course of his explication, he asks whether robots can have institutions, why the threat of force so often lies behind institutions, and he denies that there can be such a thing as a "state of nature" for language-using human beings.
This paper argues that a new approach to classification best supports and respects social diversity. We should want a classification that facilitates communication both within groups and across groups. We should also want no group to be privileged within the classification. These goals are best accomplished through a truly universal classification, grounded in basic concepts, that classifies works in terms of authorial perspective. Strategies for classifying perspective are discussed. The paper then addresses issues of classification structure. It follows a feminist approach to classification, and shows how a web-of-relations approach can be instantiated in a classification. Finally the paper turns to classificatory process. The key argument here is that much (perhaps all) of the concern regarding the possibility that classes can be subdivided into subclasses in multiple ways, each favored by different groups or individuals, simply vanishes within a web-of-relations approach. The reason is that most of these supposed ways of subdividing classes are in fact ways of subdividing different relationships among classes.
The construction of concepts achieved by the apparently incompatible ideas of essence and context is examined through genre. Essence is defined by essential characteristics: innate, immutable, independent of context. Unlike essences, contexts are fluid, changing with time and location. Genre has the stability of the essential characteristics that define essence and the fluidity of differing circumstances that define context, thus making it effective for the exploration of essence and context. Controlled vocabularies reveal diachronically and synchronically the stable/fluid ambivalence of genre classes. The Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC1, DDC13, DDC23) exhibits stability (and modest fluidity) in the Divisions, the primary reflection of academic disciplines one hierarchical step below the main classes and the development of the standard subdivisions as a slow multi-edition evolution. Genre serves as a lens for us to better understand essences, contexts, and concepts and their manifestations, classes. Rather than being incompatible opposites, essences and contexts complement each other in the definition of concepts. How these abstractions relate to classification is a question both theoretical and practical to our efforts to further knowledge organization.