Today, an interesting presentation was on the schedule of DHD 2014 (“Digital Humanities — Methodical Bridging or ‘Hostile Acquisition’?”). Kindly they made it online available: “Using Ontologies as Heuristic Tools: Sources in the History of Philosophy and Their Interpretation in the Semantic Web”.
The author does appreciate the reservations which many humanities scholars have against ontologies and “experts that often share the conviction of the natural scientist that their respective domain is ‘classifiable in principle'”. He acknowledges that “as soon as we enter the sphere of the cultural, the surplus of such a methodological approach is more questionable”. He points out “a neglect of contextuality” and an “overemphasis on the compositionality”, and the need to “respect the semantic interdependence of concepts and propositions”.
But he found a trick (building ontologies inductively), that would still allow automated reasoning about the cultural. And in the center of his considerations, there is still the idea of the proposition.
For me, it is a surprise that such formalization seems acceptable. I have always admired the humanities scholars for their capability to juggle with complex ideas without needing formal tools.