Towards a systematic methodology for foundational ontologies:

properties, relations, and truthmaking.


Giancarlo Guizzardi

Nicola Guarino

Daniele Porello



Formal ontologies are increasingly used in a variety of domains such as AI, Multiagent Systems, Conceptual Modelling, Database Design, NLP and and Software Engineering. Ontologies are a way to express the information about a certain domain in a peculiar way: they intend to make the modelling choices and the assumptions of the modeller clear, justified, and sharable among the community of users.

Formal ontological analysis aims at eliciting and formalizing the implicit ontological foundations of a body of knowledge, i.e., the nature and structure of the world that justifies such knowledge, in terms of very general categories and relations. For instance, notions like object, property, relation, event, time, space, quality, modality, disposition, and so on, are at the core of formal ontological analysis. Nowadays, these general notions are systematized in foundational ontologies (such as DOLCE, BFO and UFO), which have been constructed by means of a tight confrontation with the literature in linguistics, cognitive science, logic, and analytic philosophy, and provide a well-developed theory for comprehending and justifying the modeller’s ontological choices.

In this tutorial, we develop a systematic methodology for identifying ontological commitments by articulating a suitable notion of truthmakers of sentences. We apply this methodology to the identification of the truthmakers of sentences containing unary predicates (properties) and n-ary predicates (relations). We start by relying on the notion of individual quality (common to DOLCE, BFO and UFO), then, by means of the extended treatment of qualities elaborated in UFO, we expand this view towards an account of the specific ontological status of relationships.