On Whether It Is and What It Is

Forthcoming in «Acta Analytica», 1-12


This dialogue, taking place between Prof. Whether and Prof. What, focuses on the nature of the relationship between ontology, conceived as the branch of philosophy concerned with the question of what entities exist, and metaphysics, conceived as the complementary part of philosophy that seeks to explain, of those entities, what they are. Most philosophers claim that it is not possible to address the first question without at the same time addressing the second, since knowing whether an entity exists requires knowing what that entity is. Prof. Whether argues against this popular position and offers a detailed analysis of the idea according to which it is possible to do ontology without engaging in metaphysics. Prof. Whether and Prof. What agree that, rather than being merely possible, in some cases it is, for methodological reasons, even preferable to start with a metaphysics-free ontology, postponing any inquiry concerning the nature of the entities included in the ontological inventory to a later stage. However, Prof. What notes that it is not always possible to do ontology without metaphysics, because there are certain kinds of entities, such as universals and possible worlds, that necessarily need a prior metaphysical characterization.

Argo: An Ontology for Arguments

(with Neil Otte, John Beverley, Jean-Baptiste Guillon, Brian Donohue, Alan Ruttenberg, and Yonatan Schreiber)


Although the last decade has seen a proliferation of ontological approaches to arguments, many of them employ ad hoc solutions to representing arguments, lack interoperability with other ontologies, or cover arguments only as part of a broader approach to evidence. To provide a better ontological representation of arguments, we present the Arguments Ontology (ArgO), a small ontology for arguments that is designed to be imported and easily extended by researchers who work in different upper-level ontology frameworks, different logics, and different approaches to argument evaluation. ArgO utilizes Basic Formal Ontology (BFO) as an upper-level ontology, and may be used alongside other commonly used ontologies in the BFO framework, including both the Information Artifact Ontology (IAO) and the Information Entity Ontology (INFO). Critically, our proposal is principled, based on rigorous definitions and formal axioms out of which characterizations of arguments naturally fall. It is our hope that ArgO may assist researchers in many projects, including: integrating heterogeneous sources of evidence, structuring the content of semantic wikis, and enhancing semantic reasoning.

Social Kinds, Social Objects, and Vague Boundaries (2021)

«Proceedings of the 2nd International Workshop on Ontology of Social, Legal and Economic Entities (SoLEE)»


In this paper, I argue against what I call “natural realism” about social kinds, the view according to which social categories have natural boundaries, independent of our thought. First, I draw a distinction between two different types of entity realism, one being about the existence of the entity, “ontological realism”, and the other one being about the direct mind-independence of the entity, “natural realism”. After endorsing ontological realism, I present the natural realist argument according to which there would be certain social kinds, such as economic recessions and racism, even if we had no clue about their existence and nature. I claim that the argument fails insofar it mistakes the single instances for the kinds themselves. I then argue against natural realism by showing how the vagueness characterizing the boundaries of social kinds puts the realist in front of a dilemma: either she accepts the vagueness of these boundaries as ontic, a metaphysically problematic thesis, or she accepts that most or all social kinds remain unknown, an epistemologically problematic thesis. Thus, I argue that antirealism, according to which social kinds are constructed, is a better alternative to the realist account.

An Upper-Level Ontology for SNOMED CT based on OGMS (2018)

(with Shaker El-Sappegh, Farman Ali and Kyung-Sup Kwak)

«BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making», 18 (1): 1-19


Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine—Clinical Terms (SNOMED CT, hereafter abbreviated SCT) is a comprehensive medical terminology used for standardizing the storage, retrieval, and exchange of electronic health data. Some efforts have been made to capture the contents of SCT as Web Ontology Language (OWL), but these efforts have been hampered by the size and complexity of SCT.

Our proposal here is to develop an upper-level ontology and to use it as the basis for defining the terms in SCT in a way that will support quality assurance of SCT, for example, by allowing consistency checks of definitions and the identification and elimination of redundancies in the SCT vocabulary. Our proposed upper-level SCT ontology (SCTO) is based on the Ontology for General Medical Science (OGMS).

The SCTO is implemented in OWL 2, to support automatic inference and consistency checking. The approach will allow integration of SCT data with data annotated using Open Biomedical Ontologies (OBO) Foundry ontologies, since the use of OGMS will ensure consistency with the Basic Formal Ontology, which is the top-level ontology of the OBO Foundry. Currently, the SCTO contains 304 classes, 28 properties, 2400 axioms, and 1555 annotations. It is publicly available through the bioportal at .

The resulting ontology can enhance the semantics of clinical decision support systems and semantic interoperability among distributed electronic health records. In addition, the populated ontology can be used for the automation of mobile health applications.

L’identità diacronica fra ontologia e metafisica (2014)

«Rivista di Filosofia Analitica Junior» 5 (2): 66-81.


In this paper, I tackle the problem of diachronic identity. Far from providing a criterion for identity over time, the aim of this work is to understand if this issue pertains to ontology, conceived as that part of philosophy that tries to answer the question about what entities exist, or metaphysics, conceived as that part of philosophy that tries to explain, of those entities, what they are. On the face of it, only metaphysics has the task to solve this problem, but I argue that this is false. Through the analysis of different theories concerning identity through time, I show how both ontology and metaphysics are concerned with the problem of diachronic identity, and how actually ontology turns out to be primary in solving the problem.

Peer-reviewed presentations

Construction and Value-ladeness in the Making of Social Kinds

The 11th Conference of the European Network for the Philosophy of the Social Sciences (ENPOSS), University of Málaga, Spain, September 21-23, 2022

Construction and Value-ladeness in the Making of Social Kinds

Social Ontology & Collective Intentionality, University of Vienna, Austria, August 23-26, 2022

Social Kinds, Social Objects, and Vague Boundaries

SoLEE 2021: 2nd International Workshop on Ontology of Social, Legal and Economic Entities, held at JOWO 2021: Episode VII The Bolzano Summer of Knowledge, September 11-18, 2021, Bolzano, Italy

Getting Real About Antirealism

SOPhiA 2021: 11th Salzburg Conference for Young Analytic Philosophy – September 9-11, 2021, University of Salzburg

Social Ontology 2021 – August 9-21, 2021, University of California, San Diego, USA


Causality, Conventions, and Natural Kinds

The 12th Biennial Collective Intentionality Conference – July 13-25, 2020 (online)


A Well-Tempered Pluralism about Social Kinds

ENSO VI: the Sixth Conference of the European Network on Social Ontology, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland, August 24, 2019

Defining ‘organization’ with Basic Formal Ontology

2nd Workshop on Representing Social and Legal Entities in the Biomedical Domain at ICBO (International Conference on Biomedical Ontology), Newcastle, UK, September 13, 2017

Organizations: an Ontological Approach

ENSO V: the Fifth Conference of the European Network on Social Ontology, Lund University, Lund, Sweden, August 31, 2017

ArgO: An Ontology for Arguments

(with J. Neil Otte, Brian Donohue, John Beverley, Yonatan Schreiber, Alexander P. Cox and Jean-Baptiste Guillon)

Rich Semantics and Direct Representation for Digital Collections, workshop at JCDL (Joint Conference on Digital Library), University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, June 22, 2017

Reduction, Existence, and Natural Kinds

Meeting of the North Carolina Philosophical Society, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Wilmington, NC, February 25, 2017

Invited presentations

La fragilità come categoria sociale

Istituto Universitario Salesiano Venezia (IUSVE), Italy, November 6, 2023

Generi sociali

University of Rome Tor Vergata, Italy, July 5, 2023