Forms of life.

Team:

Prof. Dr. Barry Smith, Universität des Saarlandes, IFOMIS - Institut für formale Ontologie und medizinische Informationswissenschaften

Prof. Dr. Heinz Sass, Universität Leipzig, Lehrstuhl für Genetik, Institut für Biologie II

Prof. Dr. Pirmin Stekeler-Weithofer, Universität Leipzig, Lehrstuhl für Theoretische Philosophie

New information technologies used in biomedical research and the continuously growing flood of data that is associated therewith demand a profound and systematic reflection on the systematization and classification of biological data. We therefore need formally robust and empirically clear concepts such as kind, species, part, whole, function, process, fragment, and so on.

Even though the mastery of corresponding words belong to the implicit stock of ‘knowledge’ of every biologist, in computerized information systems we can only work with explicitly formulated theories and definitions. Hence, philosophical expertise in logic and ‘ontology’ is thus called upon to develop such theories, such that philosophy can play an important role, somehow intermediary between biology and informatics.

Therefore, researches from philosophy, biology and medical informatics have worked in the project “Forms of Life” on a unified theory of the most basic concepts of biomedical research. This theory is designed to serve as the foundation for a new strategy for organizing and integrating information in the domain of biomedical informatics, and thus to show how philosophical research can enjoy a genuine practical relevance.