In an hierargical ontology definition I'm stating that: Artist <= Person <= Human <= Mamal <= Thing or Phone <= Product <= Thing. I could also do the same for Walking <= Moving <= Action.

This creates a tree structure with at the top of the hierarchy: Things and Actions.

What single word can I use above Things and Actions to combine both?

So that I'll get:

  • Artist <= Person <= Human <= Mamal <= Thing <= ???
  • Walking <= Moving <= Action <= ???
  • 1
    A thing or object or entity " is something that exists as itself, as a subject or as an object, actually or potentially, concretely or abstractly, physically or not. It need not be of material existence." If we agree on this, it is hard to imagine a "common" term for entity and action: an action is not existing as itself (withou an agent). – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Sep 11 at 9:41
  • Good point, that is exactly why I'm struggling with this. – Bob van Luijt Sep 11 at 9:46
  • I call it a pattern but it is wider than just thing and action, it also includes concepts, words, grammars, abilities, etc. – rus9384 Sep 11 at 10:51
  • 1
    In Buddhist ontology the term would be dhamma or 'thing-event'. . – PeterJ Sep 11 at 11:01
  • 1
    @MauroALLEGRANZA, we can't know. What our minds comprehend is dependent on senses. Yes, it makes sense to say there are things existing without minds. This is the most useful way of thought. Action requires an agent? Well, atoms are agents then. However, I would generalize action to verbative (not a word) and ask if verbatives exist on themselves. Existence itself is a verbative as anything else which can be expressed as a verb (to exist). – rus9384 Sep 11 at 14:12

Bertrand Rusell had somehow suggested that events would be the a priori elements of existence. In such case, a thing is an event on our mind, and so is an action or reaction. This, due to all things exist really in our mind (as Berkeley suggests).

The difference between action and thing in your example is just mental. Actions belong to the realm of ideas, and despite things seem to be different, they are the same: things are part of our mental experience. For an informatic system, both have an start-timestamp and end-timestamp, and exist the same way in our mind.

But instead of event, I would call them ideas or entities, clarifying that an idea is associated with a start, duration, end, and an idea represents a whole, (as it occurs in our mind):

Artist <= Person <= Human <= Mamal <= Thing <= Idea (or Entity)
Walking <= Moving <= Action <= Idea (or Entity)
  • Ideas exist in human minds, so... I don't think it's good idea to call them so. – rus9384 Sep 11 at 12:05
  • 1
    On a system we're developing, they're called entities, following the same considerations. Right, we prefer not to call a dog or a crime an idea. You can use entities. – RodolfoAP Sep 11 at 12:12
  • I like entity it makes sense in this context. – Bob van Luijt Sep 16 at 12:42

I believe you could use,

Thing <= Entity or Existence


Action <= State

If you want to combine both, what about this?

The word 'Thing' can be anything--animate, inanimate, tangible and intangible. If you examine all the words you used (in the first case), you will understand that the change is gradual. A sudden variation is not reasonable in the first case. So, the last word 'Thing' cannot contain forms, ideas etc.

So, if you want a common factor to combine Things and Actions, you could use the following abstraction:

  • Artist <= Person <= Human <= Mammal <= Thing <= Form <= State
  • Walking <= Moving <= Action <= State

Your Answer


By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.