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Vagueness and the trade-off between the classification and delineation of geographic regions – an ontological analysis

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For inherently vague and granular phenomena such as ecoregions, ecosystems, biomes, and biotopes, the interplay of granularity and vagueness leads to a trade-off in the classification and delineation of such phenomena: the goal of preciseness (lack of vagueness) of the delineation contradicts the goal of building a sophisticated classification system using the Aristotelian method of classification. This trade-off is based on the reliance on local qualities for a precise delineation of particular regions and the reliance on nonlocal qualities that serve as differentia in the Aristotelian classification. An ontological analysis of the logical interrelations between vagueness, granularity, and scale is critical for developing logically rigorous, nonlocal, and nonarbitrary classification and delineation systems for inherently vague and granular geographic phenomena.
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Keywords: applied ontology; ecoregion classification and delineation; geospatial ontology; granularity; mereology; top-level ontology; vagueness

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Departments of Philosophy and Geography,National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA), State University of New York at Buffalo, BuffaloNY, USA

Publication date: May 1, 2011

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