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  • Michael DeBellis

Universal Moral Grammar (UMG) Ontology

Updated: Oct 18, 2019

In his book Moral Minds, Marc Hauser hypothesized the existence of what he termed a Universal Moral Grammar (UMG):


I argue that our moral faculty is equipped with a universal moral grammar, a toolkit for building specific moral systems. Once we have acquired our culture’s specific moral norms… we judge whether actions are permissible, obligatory, or forbidden, without conscious reasoning and without explicit access to the underlying principles. 


I have developed an ontology that is a formal model of a UMG. In September of 2018 I presented this paper on the ontology at the Semantics 2018 conference in Vienna:

A Universal Moral Grammar (UMG) Ontology


This page consists of additional materials to support that paper such as a link to the actual ontology as well as a much extended version of the Semantics 2018 paper. I’m also pleased to say that the UMG ontology below won the award for Best Vocabulary at the Semantics 2018 Vocabulary Carnival.


Here is a PDF of the presentation that I gave at the Semantics 2018 Conference: Semantics 2018 Presentation


Here is the OWL version of the ontology: UMG-Ontology-8-30-18.OWL


This is a significantly longer version of the Semantics 2018 paper:  UMG Extended Paper


Here is a link to the ontology in Web Protege:  UMG Ontology in Web Protege


The UMG ontology is released under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License

Note that to view the WebProtege link above you need to first set up an account on the Stanford WebProtege server. Setting up an account is easy, all you need to do is to provide a user name, email, and password. To set up an account go here: https://webprotege.stanford.edu/#accounts/new


You need to setup the account and login before you click on the WebProtege link to the ontology. Also, note that if you wish to download the ontology from WebProtege you can do that. Click on the History icon (the far right one in the group starting with Classes, Properties, etc.) This will show a list of revisions. Select the latest revision (there should be a little grey icon in the right corner of the history like "R1") and then select the option "Download revision 1" from the pop-up menu.


For questions and comments please feel free to add a comment here, I check comments regularly and usually respond within a day.  Also, feel free to contact me directly. My email is included at the top of the Semantics 2018 Paper and the  UMG Extended Paper.



#Ontology #OWL #UMG