Structure (What holds this together?)


0.0 MARY: Now, the question of how ontologies hang together. Within ontologies in both their material and ideal aspects, things hang together according to their relations. There are several cardinal relations: kinds of things, parts of things, properties of things, and causes of things.

0.33 MARY: Kinds of things: Giraffes are a kind of animal. Parts of things: Giraffes have necks. Properties of things: Giraffes are tall animals. Causes: Giraffes eat the leaves on trees.

0.54 MARY: Here are some of the ways in which relations are figured across the different forms of meaning: prepositions, case and negation in text; array in image; placement in space; the structures of objects; contrasts in sound; and prosody in speech.

Of course, no two relations are the same. The causal relations in your knee are quite fundamentally different from the causes in a bureaucracy. And for that matter, what’s happening in your knee might be quite different from mine, and your experience of bureaucracy. Cause is just a kind of relation that you might want to parse, and when you do, you will find that no two causes are ever quite the same. This is why we need specialized ontologies for bodies, organizations, and all the other stuff of the world.

  • Reference: Cope, Bill and Mary Kalantzis, 2020, Making Sense: Reference, Agency and Structure in a Grammar of Multimodal Meaning, Cambridge UK, Cambridge University Press, pp. 307-10.