Ontology

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Ontology

Word which is formed from to Greek terms: ontos and logos. The first one can be literally translated by “of the entity” or “about the entity” , since it is the genitive of the active participle of the Greek verb eimi (“being” in English). Logos is a very polysemous word, which brings to mind both language and thought. In this context it can be translated as study, so ontology would be the study of that which is. Ontology is, though, a part of Metaphysics. The question is whether that which is poses a philosophical or merely scientific problem. It is possible, as suggested by Manuel Sacristán, to consider that Philosophy’s take on these matters has to build on the contributions of science, but striving for a generality which escapes the individual sciences. The main problem in many philosophical works is that their authors are not aware of the contributions from science, so posing the question on what there is and answering that what is there is being may end up as a mere redundancy. The issue is more complex: if there is something, what is it? For example, let’s suppose there are green chairs. Is that equivalent to the existence of the idea of chair and the idea of green? The question can be formulated differently: isn’t what we call chair nothing but an aggregate of particles which are constantly changing? Furthermore, is the particular object (green chair) a part of an undivided whole or is it an individual?

The most radical take on these problems was formulated by Gorgias, who put it like this: “nothing is” but, if there was something, “we wouldn’t be able to know it” and, even if we could know it, “we wouldn’t be able to communicate it.”

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