Philosophy for the Intelligence Analyst

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PHI 589: Special Topic: Philosophy for the Intelligence Analyst


Class#: XXXXX (PHI)

'Instructors: Barry Smith, David Limbaugh

Prerequisites: Open to all persons with an undergraduate degree.

Office hours: By appointment via email at

The Course

Course Description: The aim of the course is to provide an introduction to philosophy by focusing on a series of topics of interest to intelligence analysts. This will include topics and motivating examples in areas such as: the cognitive processes involved in intelligence analyst, the different types of evidence, the definition of 'classification' and 'clearance', the goals of intelligence analysis, statistical aspects of analytic reasoning, analytic reasong and deep learning. Philosophical ideas introduced and used will include those of epistemology, social ontology, cognitive ontology, and the philosophy of computing and information.

Course Structure: This will be a three credit hour graduate seminar. The final session will be structured around youtube videos created by the students in the class. In addition, components of each three-hour seminar will be incorporated into a series of on-line videos.


Background Reading: Robert Arp, Barry Smith and Andrew Spear, Building Ontologies with Basic Formal Ontology, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, August 2015.

Jobst Landgrebe and Barry Smith, "Making AI Meaningful Again", arXiv, 2019.

Intelligence Analysis in Buffalo: UB scientists are involved in a variety of projects in which intelligence analysis plays a role.


Provisional list of topics

Ontology, AI and Robotics
Services, Commodities, Infrastructure
Product Life Cycle Ontology
Ontology and Information Engineering in the Healthcare Domain
The Science of Document Informatics
Finance Ontology
The Ontology of Plans
Ontology of Military Logistics
Ontology and Intelligence Analysis
Ontology and Data Fusion
Ontology of Terrorism

Student Learning Outcomes

Program Outcomes/Competencies Instructional Method(s) Assessment Method(s)
The student will acquire a thorough knowledge of current ontology research in areas relating to engineering, data fusion, defense and intelligence Video lectures and online discussions Review of submitted online content and of participation in online discussion forum
The student will acquire experience in ontology development Video lectures and critique of successive drafts Review of results in the form of xsl spreadsheet or Protégé file
The student will acquire experience in communicating the results of work on ontology development Creation of youtube presentation and of associated documentation Review of results

Important dates

Jan 28 - first video released by Dr Smith at 9am
Feb 20 - about now start to discuss by email the content of your video and essay with Dr Smith
Feb 28 - submit a proposed title and abstract
Mar 16 - create a simple ontology using Protege
Mar 31 - submit a table of contents and 300 word summary plus draft of associated ppt slides
Apr 27 - submit penultimate draft of essay and powerpoint
May 4 - submit final version of essay and powerpoint and upload final version of video to youtube


Grading will be based on two factors:

I: understanding and criticism of the videos presented in classes 1-13

All students are required to ingest the content of all videos and to take an active part in on-line discussions throughout the semester.

II: preparation of a youtube video and associated documentation (including powerpoint slides and essay).

Content and structure of the essay should be discussed with Dr Smith. Where the essay takes the form of the documentation of a specific ontology developed by the student it should include:

Statement of scope of the ontology
Summary of existing ontologies in the relevant domain
Explanation of how your ontology differs from (or incorporates) these ontologies
Screenshots of parts of the ontology with some examples of important terms and definitions
Summaries of potential applications of the ontology

Grading Policy: Grading follows standard Graduate School policies. Grades will be weighted according to the following breakdown:

Weighting Assignment

26% - video summaries (2% per summary)
14% - forum participation
20% - youtube video
20% - powerpoint slides
20% - essay / ontology content

Final Grades

Grade Quality Percentage

A 4.0 93.0% -100.00%
A- 3.67 90.0% - 92.9%
B+ 3.33 87.0% - 89.9%
B 3.00 83.0% - 86.9%
B- 2.67 80.0% - 82.9%
C+ 2.33 77.0% - 79.9%
C 2.00 73.0% - 76.9%
C- 1.67 70.0% - 72.9%
D+ 1.33 67.0% - 69.9%
D 1.00 60.0% - 66.9%
F 0 59.9% or below

An interim grade of Incomplete (I) may be assigned if the student has not completed all requirements for the course. An interim grade of 'I' shall not be assigned to a student who did not attend the course. The default grade accompanying an interim grade of 'I' shall be 'U' and will be displayed on the UB record as 'IU.' The default Unsatisfactory (U) grade shall become the permanent course grade of record if the 'IU' is not changed through formal notice by the instructor upon the student's completion of the course.

Assignment of an interim 'IU' is at the discretion of the instructor. A grade of 'IU' can be assigned only if successful completion of unfulfilled course requirements can result in a final grade better than the default 'U' grade. The student should have a passing average in the requirements already completed. The instructor shall provide the student specification, in writing, of the requirements to be fulfilled.

The university’s Graduate Incomplete Policy can be found here.

Related Policies and Services

Academic integrity is a fundamental university value. Through the honest completion of academic work, students sustain the integrity of the university while facilitating the university's imperative for the transmission of knowledge and culture based upon the generation of new and innovative ideas. See

Accessibility resources: If you have any disability which requires reasonable accommodations to enable you to participate in this course, please contact the Office of Accessibility Resources in 60 Capen Hall, 645-2608 and also the instructor of this course during the first week of class. The office will provide you with information and review appropriate arrangements for reasonable accommodations, which can be found on the web here.

Background Reading and Video Materials