Difference between revisions of "Philosophy on Rails"

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==August 31: Introduction: Philosophy on Rails
==August 31: Introduction: Philosophy on Rails==
==September 7: Labor Day (no class) ==
==September 7: Labor Day (no class) ==

Revision as of 08:25, 17 December 2019

Philosophy on Rails

Special Topic PHI 579


Class#: 24032 (PHI)

Instructors: Barry Smith, David Limbaugh

Prerequisites: Open to all persons with an undergraduate degree.

Office hours: By appointment via email at phismith@buffalo.edu or dglimbau@buffalo.edu

The Course

Course Description: Philosophy has been crippled by the degree to which different philosophers fail to define their terms in a common framework of definitions that would enable comparison of different theories and arguments. This class will explore a new strategy for resolving this problem resting on the use of a common, standard ontology (BFO, ISO/IEC 21838-2) as a framework for definitions.

Course Structure: This is a three credit hour graduate seminar, with a practical exercise forming part of each class. The final session will be structured around youtube videos created by the students in the class. Students will be trained in the basic tools and methods of ontology, and become involved in the attempt to use BFO to capture data about philosophical methods, hypotheses and results.

Target Audience: The course is open to all interested students, and will presupposen no knowledge of philosophy or of intelligence analysis.


August 31: Introduction: Philosophy on Rails

September 7: Labor Day (no class)

==September 14:

Pierre Grenon and Barry Smith, “Foundations of an Ontology of Philosophy”, Synthese, 2011, 182 (2), 185-204.
Abstract: We describe an ontology of philosophy that is designed to help navigation through philosophical literature, including literature in the form of encyclopedia articles and textbooks and in both printed and digital forms. The ontology is designed also to serve integration and structuring of data pertaining to the philosophical literature, and in the long term also to support reasoning about the provenance and contents of such literature, by providing a representation of the philosophical domain that is orientated around what philosophical literature is about.
The Philosophome

September 21: An Introduction to Basic Formal Ontology


September 28: Methods

All editions of TopBraid (including the free edition) allow editors to establish links using the GUI to dbpedia resources, and to download resources and their annotations from dbpedia as part of their local knowledge base. Despite DBpedia being a hot mess, there is a lot of interesting content therein. It would be very easy to build an exercise around this for students, who could use it for exploratory purposes, enrichment, testing, pointing out errors, etc…


October 5:

October 12:

October 19:

October 26:

November 2: Philosophy of Language

From Speech Acts to Document Acts


November 9: Norms and Values

Deontic Entities in Basic Formal Ontology


November 16: Capabilities


Eric Merrell, et al., "Mental Capabilities", ICBO, 2019

November 23: Philosophy of Information

The Information Ontology

Werner Ceusters and Barry Smith, "Aboutness: Towards Foundations for the Information Artifact Ontology", Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Biomedical Ontology (ICBO). CEUR vol. 1515. pp. 1-5 (2015).

November 30:

December 7: Student Projects



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

Student Learning Outcomes

Program Outcomes/Competencies Instructional Method(s) Assessment Method(s)
The student will acquire a knowledge of the principles and procedures of intelligence analysis, and an insight into the philosophical methods and theories relevant thereto. The student will also acquire a familiarity with current theoretical research in areas relating to intelligence analysis. Lectures and class discussions Review of reading matter and associated online content and participation in class discussions
The student will acquire experience in practical tasks involved in intelligence analysis Participation in practical experiments Review of results
The student will acquire experience in communicating the results of work on intelligence analysis and its philosophical understanding Creation of youtube presentation and of associated documentation Review of results

How to Write an Essay

Jordan Peterson's Essay Writing Guide

Important Dates

Sep 20 - about now start to discuss by email the content of your video and essay with Drs Smith and Limbaugh
Sep 28 - submit a proposed title and abstract
Oct 31 - submit a table of contents and 300 word summary plus draft of associated ppt slides
Nov 20 - submit penultimate draft of essay and powerpoint
Dec2 - class presentation
Dec 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 material presented in classes 1-13

All students are required to take an active part in class (and where relevant 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 Drs Smith or Limbaugh. 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

40% - class discussions
20% - youtube video presentation
20% - powerpoint slides
20% - essay / ontology content

Final Grades

Percentages refer to sum of assignment grades as listed above

Grade Quality Percentage

A 4.0 90.0% -100.00%
A- 3.67 87.0% - 89.9%
B+ 3.33 84.0% - 86.9%
B 3.00 80.0% - 83.9%
B- 2.67 77.0% - 79.9%
C+ 2.33 74.0% - 76.9%
C 2.00 71.0% - 73.9%
C- 1.67 68.0% - 70.9%
D+ 1.33 65.0% - 67.9%
D 1.00 62.0% - 64.9%
F 0 61.9% 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 http://grad.buffalo.edu/Academics/Policies-Procedures/Academic-Integrity.html.

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