pp 1–29 | Cite as

Ontological commitments of frame-based knowledge representations

  • David Hommen


In this paper, I shall assess the ontological commitments of frame-based methods of knowledge representation. Frames decompose concepts (statements, theories) into recursive attribute-value structures. The question is: are the attribute values in frames to be interpreted as universal properties or rather as tropes? I shall argue that universals realism and trope theory face similar complications as far as non-terminal values, i.e., values which refer to the determinable properties of objects, are concerned. It is suggested that these complications can be overcome if one is prepared to adopt an ontology of structured complexes. Such an ontology, in turn, is indifferent as to whether attribute values are interpreted as universals or as tropes.


Frame theory Ontological commitment Universals realism Trope theory 



This research was funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG). For comments and criticisms I am grateful to members of the Collaborative Research Centre 991 “The Structure of Representations in Language, Cognition, and Science,” as well as two anonymous reviewers of Synthese.


  1. Andersen, H., Barker, P., & Chen, X. (2006). The cognitive structure of scientific revolutions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Andersen, H., & Nersessian, N. (2000). Nomic concepts, frames, and conceptual change. Philosophy of Science, 67, 224–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Armstrong, D. (1989). Universals: An opinionated introduction. Focus Series. Boulder: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  4. Armstrong, D. (1997). A world of states of affairs. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Barsalou, L. W. (1992). Frames, concepts, and conceptual fields. In A. Lehrer & E. F. Kittay (Eds.), Frames, fields and contrasts. New essays in semantic and lexical organization (pp. 21–74). Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  6. Campbell, K. (1990). Abstract particulars. Oxford: B. Blackwell.Google Scholar
  7. Campbell, K., Franklin, J., & Ehring, D. (2015). Donald Cary Williams. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (summer 2015 ed.).
  8. Carnap, R. (1956). The methodological character of theoretical terms. In H. Feigl & M. Scriven (Eds.), Minnesota studies in the philosophy of science (pp. 38–76). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  9. Carpenter, B. (1992). The logic of typed feature structures: With applications to unification grammars, Logic programs and constraint resolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chen, X., & Barker, P. (2000). Continuity through revolutions: A frame-based account of conceptual change during scientific revolutions. Philosophy of Science, 67, 208–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cover, J., & O’Leary-Hawthorne, J. (1999). Substance and individuation in Leibniz. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Eysenck, M., & Keane, M. (1990). Cognitive psychology. A student’s handbook. East Sussex: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  13. Fales, E. (1990). Causation and universals. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  14. Fine, K. (2017). Naive metaphysics. Philosophical Issues, 27(1), 98–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Forrest, P. (1993). Just like quarks. In J. Bacon, K. Campbell, & L. Reinhardt (Eds.), Ontology, causality, and mind: Essays in honor of D. M. Armstrong (pp. 45–65). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Funkhouser, E. (2006). The determinable–determinate relation. Noûs, 40(3), 548–569.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Funkhouser, E. (2014). The logical structure of kinds. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Garcia, R. K. (2015a). Is trope theory a divided house? In M. Loux & G. Galluzzo (Eds.), The problem of universals in contemporary philosophy (pp. 133–155). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Garcia, R. K. (2015b). Two ways to particularize a property. Journal of the American Philosophical Association, 1(4), 635–652.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Giberman, D. (2014). Tropes in space. Philosophical Studies, 167(2), 453–472.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gillet, C., & Rives, B. (2005). The non-existence of determinables: Or, a world of absolute determinates as default hypothesis. Nous, 39(3), 483–504.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Guarino, N. (1992). Concepts, attributes and arbitrary relations: Some linguistic and ontological criteria for structuring knowledge bases. Data and Knowledge Engineering, 8(3), 249–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hommen, D., & Osswald, T. (2016). Knowledge structures and the nature of concepts. Concepts and categorization. Systematic and historical perspectives (pp. 95–122). Mentis: Münster.Google Scholar
  24. Johnson, W. E. (1921). Logic (Vol. 1). New York: Dover.Google Scholar
  25. Kornmesser, S. (2016). A frame-based approach for theoretical concepts. Synthese, 193, 145–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Löbner, S. (2011). Concept types and determination. Journal of Semantics, 28(3), 279–333.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Loux, M. J. (2015). An exercise in constituent ontology. In G. Galluzzo & M. J. Loux (Eds.), The problem of universals in contemporary philosophy (pp. 9–45). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lowe, E. (2006). The four-category ontology: A metaphysical foundation for natural science. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Markosian, N. (2014). A spatial approach to mereology. In S. Kleinschmidt (Ed.), Mereology and location (pp. 69–90). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Martin, C. (1980). Substance substantiated. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 58, 3–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Maurin, A. S. (2010). Trope theory and the bradley regress. Synthese, 175, 311–326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Minsky, M. (1974). A framework for representing knowledge. In P. Winston (Ed.), The psychology of computer vision (pp. 211–277). New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  33. Moltmann, F. (2017). Natural language ontology. In M. Aronoff (Ed.), Oxford research encyclopedia of linguistics.
  34. Petersen, W. (2007). Representation of concepts as frames. In J. Skilters, F. Toccafondi, & G. Stemberger (Eds.), Complex cognition and qualitative science (pp. 151–170). Riga: University of Latvia.Google Scholar
  35. Petersen, W., & Werning, M. (2007). Conceptual fingerprints: Lexical decomposition by means of frames—A neuro-cognitive model. In U. Priss, S. Polovina, & R. Hill (Eds.), Conceptual structures: Knowledge architectures for smart applications (pp. 415–428). Berlin and Heidelberg and New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Quine, W. V. (1948). On what there is. The review of metaphysics, 2(5), 21–38.Google Scholar
  37. Schaffer, J. (2001). The individuation of tropes. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 79(2), 247–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Sider, T. (2007). Parthood. The Philosophical Review, 116(1), 51–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Strawson, P. (1959). Individuals. An essay in descriptive metaphysics. London: Methuen.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Thagard, P. (1990). Concepts and conceptual change. Synthese, 82, 255–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. van Cleve, J. (1985). Three versions of the bundle theory. Philosophical Studies, 47, 95–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Votsis, I., & Schurz, G. (2014). Reconstructing scientific theory change by means of frames. Concept types and frames. Application in language, cognition, and science (pp. 93–110). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  43. Wieland, J. W., & Betti, A. (2008). Relata-specific relations: A response to Vallicella. Dialectica, 62(4), 509.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Williams, D. C. (1953). The elements of being: I. Review of Metaphysics, 7(2), 3–18.Google Scholar
  45. Wilson J (2008) Trope determination and contingent characterization, unpublished manuscript.Google Scholar
  46. Yablo, S. (1992). Mental causation. The Philosophical Review, 101(2), 245–280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Heinrich-Heine-Universität DüsseldorfDüsseldorfGermany

Personalised recommendations