Mereotopology: A theory of parts and boundaries

Data and Knowledge Engineering 20:287–303 (1996)
The paper is a contribution to formal ontology. It seeks to use topological means in order to derive ontological laws pertaining to the boundaries and interiors of wholes, to relations of contact and connectedness, to the concepts of surface, point, neighbourhood, and so on. The basis of the theory is mereology, the formal theory of part and whole, a theory which is shown to have a number of advantages, for ontological purposes, over standard treatments of topology in set-theoretic terms. One central goal of the paper is to provide a rigorous formulation of Brentano's thesis to the effect that a boundary can exist as a matter of necessity only as part of a whole of higher dimension which it is the boundary of. It concludes with a brief survey of current applications of mereotopology in areas such as natural-language analysis, geographic information systems, machine vision, naive physics, and database and knowledge engineering.
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