Reblogging 2011: Essay on the Nonviolent Personality

From the “10 years of keetblog – reblogging: 2011”: of the general interest ones, this was most definitely the one that has taken up most time—not to write the post, but what it talks about: it reports on the Italian->English translation of a booklet “The nonviolent personality”, which took over 2 years to complete. Giuliano Pontara, whom I had the pleasure to finally meet in person in Stockholm last October, wrote the original in Italian. 

Essay on the Nonviolent Personality; March 3


La personalità nonviolenta—the nonviolent personality—is the title of a booklet I stumbled upon in a bookshop in Trento in spring 2004 whilst being in the city for my internship at the Laboratory for Applied Ontology. The title immediately raises the question: what, then, actually does constitute a nonviolent personality? The author of the booklet, Giuliano Pontara, since recently an emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Stockholm, aims to contribute to answer this question that certainly does not have simple answer.

The booklet itself is out of print (having been published in 1996) and, moreover, written in Italian, which most people in the world cannot understand. However, in my opinion at least, Pontara’s proposed answer certainly deserves a wider audience, contemplation, and further investigation. So I set out to translate it into English and put it online for free. That took a while to accomplish, and the last year was certainly the most interesting one with multiple email exchanges with Giuliano Pontara about the finer details of the semantics of the words and sentences in both the Italian original and the English translation. Now here it is: The Nonviolent Personality [pdf, 1.7MB] (low bandwidth version [pdf, 287KB]).

So what is it about? Here is the new back flap summary of the booklet:

At the beginning of the new century, the culture of peace finds itself facing many and difficult challenges. This booklet surveys some of these challenges and the characteristics that a mature culture of peace should have in order to respond to them. Particularly, it investigates what type of person is more apt to be a carrier of such a mature culture of peace: the nonviolent personality. Finally, it addresses the question regarding the factors that in the educative process tend to impede and favour, respectively, the development of moral subjects equipped with a nonviolent personality.

The original Italian version was written by Giuliano Pontara, emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Stockholm, and published in 1996, but its message is certainly not outdated and perhaps even more important in the current climate. Why this is so, and why it is useful to have a more widely accessible version of the booklet available, is motivated in the introduction by Maria Keet, Senior Lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

A slightly longer description

The first chapter of the book, having been written in the mid-nineties, discusses the then-current political situation in the world. Pontara describes the post-Cold War situation, touches upon separatism, nationalism, fundamentalism, exploitation and totalitarian capitalism (among other challenges). This includes the “cow-boy ethics” and the return of the Nazi mentality, the latter not being about Arian supremacy, but the glorification of force (and violence in general) and contempt for ‘the weak’, the might-is-right adagio, and that cow-boy ethics has been elevated to prime principle of conducting international politics. You can analyse and decide yourself if the shoe fits for a particular country’s culture and politics, be it then or now. After this rather gloomy first chapter, the first step toward a positive outlook is described in Chapter 2, which looks at several basic features of a mature culture of peace.

The core of the booklet is Chapter 3, which commences with listing ten characteristics of a nonviolent personality:

  • Rejection of violence
  • The capability to identify violence
  • The capability to have empathy
  • Refusal of authority
  • Trust in others
  • The disposition to communicate
  • Mildness
  • Courage
  • Self-sacrifice
  • Patience

These characteristics are discussed in detail in the remainder of the chapter. Read it if you want to know what is meant with these characteristics, and why.

Chapter 4 considers education at school, at home, and through other influences (such as the TV), describing both the problems in the present systems and what can to be done to change it. For example, educating students to develop a critical moral conscience, analyse, and to be able to think for oneself (as opposed to rote-learning in a degree-factory), not taking a dualistic approach but facilitating creative constructive solutions instead, and creating an atmosphere that prevents the numbing of conscience, the weakness of the senses, consumerism, and conformism of the mass-media. Also some suggestions for class activities are suggested, but note that education does not end there: it is a continuous process in life.

The English writing style may not be perfect (the spelling and grammar checkers do not complain though); either way, it tries to strike a balance between the writing style of the original and readability of the English text. And no, the translation was not done with Google translate or a similar feature, but manually and there are some notes on the translation at the end of the new booklet. Other changes or additions compared to the Italian original are the new foreword by Pontara and introduction by me, an index, bibliography in alphabetical order and several Italian translations in the original have been substituted with the original English reference, and there are biographical sketches. I did the editing and typesetting in Latex, so it looks nice and presentable.

Last, but not least:
Creative Commons License
The Nonviolent Personality by Maria Keet is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


Applied Ontology article on a framework for ontology modularity

I intended to post this writeup to coincide with the official publication of the 10th anniversary edition of the Applied Ontology journal due to go in print this month, but I have less patience than I thought. The reason for this is that my PhD student, Zubeida Khan, and I got a paper accepted for the anniversary edition, which is online in the issue preprint as An empirically-based framework for ontology modularity [1]. It was one of those I’m-not-sure-but-lets-be-bold-and-submit-anyway papers, with Zubeida as main author. It is her first ISI-index journal article, and congrats to that! (The article bean counting is [somewhat/very] important in academia in South Africa). UPDATE (22-12): from the editorial by Guarino & Musen: it was one of the 2 papers accepted out of the 7 submitted, and IOS Press has awarded a prize for it.

So, what is the paper about? As the blog post’s title suggest: ontology modules. The first part is a highly structured and comprehensive literature review to figure out what all the parameters are for ontology modularisation, which properties modules have, and so on. The second part takes a turn to an experimental approach, where almost 200 ontology modules are classified according to those parameters. Both seek to answer questions like: “What are the use-cases, techniques, types, and annotation features that exist for modules? How do module types differ with respect to certain use-cases? Which techniques can we use to create modules of a certain type? Which techniques result in modules with certain annotation features?” Answers to that can be found in Section 6, with the very short version to the first question (explanations in the paper):

  • use-cases: maintenance, reasoning, validation, processing, comprehension, collaborative efforts, and reuse.
  • techniques: graph partitioning, modularity maximisation, hierarchical clustering, locality-based modularity, query-based modularity, semantic-based abstraction, a priori modularity, and manual modularity.
  • types: ODPs, subject domain-based, isolation branch, locality, privacy, domain coverage, ontology matching, optimal reasoning, axiom abstraction, entity type, high-level abstraction, weighted, expressiveness sub-language, and expressiveness feature modules.
  • annotation features: seed signature, information removal, abstraction (breadth and depth), refinement, stand-alone, source ontology, proper subset, imports, overlapping, mutual exclusion, union equivalence, partitioning, inter-module interaction, and pre-assigned number of modules.

This, then, feeds into the third part of the paper that puts the two previous ones together into a framework for ontology modularity, which links the various dimensions (groups of parameters) based on the dependencies that surfaced from the literature review and analysis of modules, and proposes how to proceed in some modularization scenario. That is, it answers the other three main questions. They are easier to show in a figure, imo, like the following one on dependencies between module type and the techniques to create them:

Dependencies between type of module and technique to create the module (Source: [1])

Dependencies between type of module and technique (Source: [1])

With it, you’d be able to answer a case like: “Given that we wish to create an ontology module with a certain purpose or use-case in mind, which modularity type of module could this result in?” and so on to which technique to use, and which properties such a module will have.

Space limitations caused the paper to have only one illustrative example with the Symptom Ontology, but the general idea hopefully will be clear nevertheless. At the moment, before official print, the article is still behind a paywall if you don’t have either institutional or IAOA access, but feel free to contact either Zubeida or me for a copy.


[1] Khan, Z.C., Keet, C.M. An empirically-based framework for ontology modularity. Applied Ontology, 2015, in print (25p). DOI: 10.3233/AO-150151.