What is Ontology, What Does It Mean?

What is Ontology, What Does It Mean?

July 2, 2021 Off By Felso

Ontology is the branch of philosophy that examines existence in its entirety. It is also known as the science of existence. It is possible to define ontology with clear sentences as follows: Ontology; It is a branch of philosophy that deals with the existence as a whole and examines the most basic qualities of existence.

Ontology; It is a branch of philosophy that determines existence as its subject only in terms of its existence, takes the basic categories of existence and the main principles of existence as a subject, and also aims to discuss beings beyond sense.

Although the term ontology was first used in the 17th century, the treatment of ontology as a philosophical approach dates back to ancient Greece, especially Aristotle. Aristotle used the expression “to treat being as being” for the discipline he called “first philosophy”, which he dealt with in his work, which was later compiled under the name of “Metaphysics”. But Plato’s doctrine of ideas or the search for “arche” of pre-Socratic philosophers can be considered the first informational efforts in the field of ontology (See: What is Philosophy of Being?).


In the Middle Ages, when Christianity was dominant, Thomas Aquinas benefited from Aristotle’s work and was ontologically wounded in order to justify his argument for the existence of God, and he defined this work of Aristotle as “the knowledge of the beings created by God”.

Thomas made use of this Aristotelian philosophy to find a basis for Catholic dogmas. Thus, in the Middle Ages and the New Age, the term metaphysics began to be used in relation to the field that ontology deals with.

Meanwhile, in the New Age, the term metaphysics, which gained an increasingly negative content in parallel with the development of science, was given a meaning such as thinking about unscientific and incomprehensible matters.

In the 17th century, the German philosopher Wolf defines ontology as the science of fundamental principles and examines the basic structure, types and forms of an extrasensory immaterial entity design.

According to the contemporary ontologist Hartmann, the difference of ontology from other sciences is that other branches of science divide the existing into various fields within the understanding of a division of labor, and that ontology deals with the existing in its entirety, as opposed to researching only in those specific fields. For example, while astronomy examines celestial beings and geology examines mineral beings, ontology examines the existence principles of existence altogether.

German idealists opposed ontology.

In the historical process, great German idealists such as Kant, Schelling and Hegel opposed ontology. The ambiguity and inaccuracy of ontology from the Middle Ages did not escape the eyes of these philosophers.

Instead of ontology, Kant suggested “super-experimental philosophy”, Schelling “transcendent idealism”, Hegel “logic”. After these thinkers, on the one hand, the ontological or metaphysical approach as pure philosophy fell out of favor, on the other hand, it started to be handled and processed in a more fundamental way.

Edmund Husserl, the founder of the field of phenomenology, defined ontology as “the branch of philosophy that studies the content of meaningful behaviors”.

According to this, ontology is the discipline that examines the behaviors that enable to reach the existing objects in philosophy. Husserl’s student, Heidegger, sought a type of being in which being has a fundamental existential meaning, calling it “being there” rather than human or person.


Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer Yıldırım