Issue 504: Formulate the philosophical underpinnings of crm and its relation to reality and the objectivity of observations.

Starting Date: 
Working Group: 

In the 47th joint meeting of the CIDOC CRM SIG and ISO/TC46/SC4/WG9; 40th FRBR - CIDOC CRM Harmonization meeting; the sig, during the discussion on issue 386, decided to open a new issue on  how to formulate the philosophical underpinnings of crm and its relation to reality and the objectivity of observations, even though the SIG has already delved in that topic –as part of the changes made in the introduction (Reality, Knowledge Bases and CIDOC CRM). But it would be nice to explore some more, even if we don’t get concrete results.

June 2020

Post by Martin Doerr (9 June 2021)

Dear All,

Here my introduction for issue 504, Philosophical Underpinnings of the CRM ,for the next meeting:

"The new official edition of the CIDOC CRM, version 7.1.1, contains a compact section with title "Reality, Knowledge Bases and CIDOC CRM". This section outlines philosophical underpinnings of the CIDOC CRM, as they emerged from addressing requirement from the community, both in terms of understanding and in terms of creating a model adequate to the scientific attitude of the user community. This paragraph does however not refer to relevant philosophical literature and theories, and does not go into further details of interest.

Therefore this issue should lead to a small working group, which will first define the philosophical question of interest, then assess priorities, collect references and finally select relevant positions supporting the way the model addresses the scientific attitude of the user community and the description of their subject matters. It should further identify counterpositions that may be popular in ontology engineering but are incompatible with the methods applied for building and using the CRM.

Since the most general topic of the CRM can be seen as the attempt to constrain and reconstruct possible pasts from evidence at our hands, and to come to a scientific agreement of reasonable and well-justified alternatives, the relationship to reality and what can be said about it, is central.

Topics of fundamental importance are, among others: reality and (numeric) identity of particulars; the concept of observer-independent reality and its relation to modelling constructs; comparability of reality with alternative modeling constructs (conceptualizations); limitations of propositional logic to describe aspects of reality (such as waves and clouds), and how facts in terms of propositional logic can relate to alternative ways of description (such as functions).

Problematic is the popular "constructivist stance" many ontologists refer to, because it ignores the "evidential constraints" Alison Wiley describes, the idea that observer independent reality limits reasonable conceptualization by empirical contradictions.

Therefore we assume that the current "scientific realism" is a better base for the CRM, however it deals with categorical knowledge produced by natural sciences and not really with the concept of historical reality of past facts in cultural, social and natural history, including geology, paleontology, biological evolution etc.

But there are also more practical issues, such as the meaning of "scientific discourse", disciplinary practices, research bias by the very model itself, and others.