UDC Consortium

UDC Philosophy Revision Report 2

Version 2 : 2011.08.31
by Claudio Gnoli

Please address any comment to italia@udcc·org


Contents of the previous report have been presented and discussed at the editorial Round Table held in The Hague in Fall 2009. This report summarizes the ideas emerged from both that discussion and further discussion via the UDC Italia electronic mailing list, and subsequent choices that have been done in developing the revision proposal.

The UDC Italia mailing list has continued to be working with occasional discussions, and has been joined by several non-Italian intersted persons, some of which have also participated in the discussion on the revision of philosophy.

The contents of this reports in turn are expected to be shortly presented and discussed at the editorial meeting to be held in The Hague on September 21, 2011.

Subjects across philosophy and religion

Various relationships, or even overlaps, can be noticed between philosophy and religion, although these are two separate main classes in the traditional, Dewey-derived structure of UDC. Oriental traditions of wisdom, like Buddhism, especially include both religious and philosophical contents.

The extreme hypothesis of merging philosophy and religion into one main class, however, has been discarded. Indeed, that would have imposed a major change to users without yielding substantial advantages in practical terms, as the two classes are adjacent anyway (1 and 2). Also, most philosophical literature is well distinguished from religious literature, so that keeping them separated agrees with the principle of literary warrant. Hence e.g. Buddhist concepts will be defined in 24 and combined with philosophy where needed, for example the book Buddhist logic by Theodore Stcherbatsky could be classed in 24:16.

Several people have suggested that occultism and/or mysticism be moved from philosophy into religion. Occultism is currently developed under 133 "The paranormal. The occult. Psi phenomena"; while mysticism currently is in both 141.33 "Philosophical mysticism", and 165.613, under 165.6 "conditions, sources, kinds of knowledge".

View of these as religious topics, as remarked by both Aida Slavic and Alan Pritchard (the latter author of a bibliography on occultism organized by UDC), agrees with Encyclopedia Britannica's definition of Occultism and esoteric practises, that refers them to clearly religious concepts:

"various theories and practices involving a belief in and knowledge or use of supernatural forces or beings. Such beliefs and practices--principally magical or divinatory--have occurred in all human societies throughout recorded history, with considerable variations both in their nature and in the attitude of societies toward them. Occult practices centre on the presumed ability of the practitioner to manipulate natural laws for his own or his client's benefit; such practices tend to be regarded as evil only when they also involve the breaking of moral laws. Some anthropologists have argued that it is not possible to make a clear-cut distinction between magic--a principal component of occultism--and religion, and this may well be true of the religious systems of some nonliterate societies. The argument does not hold, however, for any of the major religions, which regard both natural and moral law as immutable."
Wikipedia's entry for Occult also refers to "the study of a deeper spiritual reality". Britannica's definition of Mysticism similarly refers to religious concepts:
"spiritual quest for hidden truth or wisdom, the goal of which is union with the divine or sacred (the transcendent realm). Forms of mysticism are found in all major world religions, by analogy in the shamanic and other ecstatic practices of nonliterate cultures, and in secular experience".

This would imply that the revision of philosophy have also an impact on class 2 religion. Now, the restructuration of 2 into a faceted class is done already; however, further revisions of it are planned: therefore there is room to propose movings of concepts from philosophy to religion. Vanda Broughton, who has been responsible for restructuring class 2, has agreed on this and noticed that some concepts related to occultism have been included already in the revision of religion.

Possible places for occultism and mysticism are available in 19, 201 (as no class usually should end with 0), or 29, noted UDC editor-in-chief Aida Slavic. The first two options would have the advantage of being between philosophical subjects and religious subjects, a place that seems quite natural.

Mysticism should be a facet of religion, Philippe Cousson found, "for it may concern every religious system and also be studied through the religions": maybe within 2-5 worship practices, which seems quite correct in terms of facet analysis. Actually, 2-587 already is "Mysticism. Altered states of consciousness. Mystic experiences" and could now host all mysticism. Darija Rozman believes that 2-587 is fine, also to be combined with each religion (mysticism in Christianity, mysticism in Islam etc.), while 29 is not suitable as not a facet.

Rozman also believes that mysticism can be needed in both philosophy and religion. However, current UDC policy is to have concepts defined uniquely at one place, and be combined with others to obtain more specific meanings. So mysticism in philosophy could be expressed as 1:2-587.

In conclusion, it is decided that the revision proposal will include a move of 133 "The paranormal. The occult. Psi phenomena" with all its subclasses, of 141.33 "Philosophical mysticism", and of 165.613 "Mysticism" somewhere into 2. The exact new places will have to be identified by those working on the update of class 2, although it seems reasonable that they be represented as facets of religion rather than be listed as one particular kind of religion. Class 13 thus remains devoted only to philosophy of mind in a modern philosophical sense. (Psychology will also be moved out of 1 as previously decided.)

Another suggestion concerned class 141.4 of philosophical viewpoints "according to attitude to problem of the Deity", including theism, pantheism, atheism, etc. This also is connected to both philosophy and religion. In the current view of UDC development, it should be expressed by a colon combination of philosophical viewpoints (expected to be moved to facet 1-84) with 2-14 "God".

Facets of philosophy

Concerning the facets of philosophy drafted in Report 1, they generally look reasonable. McIlwaine suggested to consider a merging of 1-3 Agents with 1-9 Systems: after all, a document about Plato is also about Platonism. It is indeed recommendable that the facet of Agents, although kept, be used not to list individual philosophies again, but only to list roles, like founder, leader, scholar, popularizer. Hence 1-943 alone will mean "Platonism. Academia", while 1-943-31 will mean specifically "Platonism, founder", that is Plato. 1-31 alone will mean "founders of philosophical systems" in general. This builds on experience from the FATKS project and the revision of religion in UDC.

As an example, tentative combinations will look like this:

	1-949	   	Epicureanism
	1-949-31	Epicurus
	17-949   	Ethics, in Epicureanism
	17-949-56	Ethics, in Epicureanism, dialectics

The need for a facet of special philosophies, that had been recommended by Italian experts in philosophy, has been discussed at the Round Table. Is it really necessary to be able to distinguish between philosophy of science and philosophy in relation to science? Some (Cordeiro, Slavic) see it as an additional opportunity for indexers, that could be used or not according to local needs. It may be noted, however, that this would introduce an element of unpredictability in notation, as the local choice would not be expressed explicitly (while explicit local extensions in UDC are preceded by *): one could not guess whether 1:5 is meant exactly as a general relationship, or as a simpler way to express philosophy of science. Others (Hajdu Barát, Benito) see this distinction as an unnecessary complication, which would not give real advantages in retrieval: indeed, searching for 1 and 5 will yield the combined concept anyway. Gerhard Riesthuis remembered that an analogous question was already discussed about 40 years ago for other classes and eventually abandoned.

The question is made more complicate by the notational problems remarked in Report 1. In UDC : has a more general meaning than -, hence has syntactical priority over it. This implies that "philosophy of science" could not be notated 1-7:5, but would need some special sign like 1-7[:5] or 1-7[5]. Parallel divisions within facets (extra-defined foci), while common in ILC which has a notation designed for them since its origin, are not provided for in current UDC notation, so that introducing them may result to be too costly. An alternative way to express this could use ::, Hajdu Barát observed.

Slavic also noticed that some principal subclasses of philosophy, like philosophy of mind and aesthetics, already imply the relation between philosophy and some object (mind, art); then special philosophies (philosophy of science, of law, of language) could also be treated as subclasses of philosophy rather than a facet. Broughton observed that this situation is quite peculiar of philosophy. Indeed, while there can be a philosophy of any object (and, it may be added, a semantics of any object, or special libraries devoted to any object), there is no medicine of any object or sociology of any object. It will then be studied whether it is possible to avoid the introduction of the facet of special philosophies, with its extra-defined foci, without limiting the possibilities of expression too much.

Main subdivisions

The above discussion would suggest a tentative structure like this:

	11/19	Branches. Fields. Special philosophies [Things]
	11	General metaphisics
	12	Special metaphisics. Particulars
	13	Philosophy of mind
	14	[Viewpoints, moved to 1-8]
	15	[possibly] Philosophy of language
	16	Epistemology. hilosophy of science. Logic
	17	Moral philosophy. Ethics
	18	Aesthetics. Philosophy of beauty	
	19	[possibly] Political philosophy, philosophy of law

	1-9	Systems. Schools. Traditions. Periods. History [Kinds]
	1-8	Viewpoints. Standpoints. Doctrines. Approaches. Isms [Properties]
	1-5	Practice. Method. Argumentation [Operations]
	1-4	Applications. Applied philosophy [Patients. Purposes]
	1-3	Philosophers. Promoters. Person and vocation of the philosopher [Agents]
	1-2	Sources. Materials [Tools. Materials]

The "Genesis problem"

Discussion on combination issues led to mention another syntactical problem, identified by Broughton during the revision of religion. This concerns cases where a concept is the subdivision of a faceted class. For example, holy scriptures for each religion are expressed as a combination of holy scriptures 2-23 with notation for each religion, so that

	27-23	Christian Bible
	28-23	Koran

But then, how to express a part of the Bible, like "Genesis" or "Book of Jeremiah"? A notation like 27-231 would not be a valid option, as 2-231 alone does not mean "Genesis", unless it is explicitly defined as a differential facet of Cristianity -- a solution also used elsewhere in UDC. Otherwise, an additional symbol would be needed to separate -23 from 1; Cousson suggested a comma, as not yet used in UDC. The question is discussed by Broughton [2010, p. 274-275] for UDC and by Gnoli et al. [2011] for ILC.

Development of the proposal

The revision proposal is currently being developed in the form of a MS Excel spreadsheet, with a view to future compatibility with database structures. The next planned steps are:

This will produce a final proposal, that is expected to be submitted within one or two years.


Broughton V, Concepts and terms in the faceted classification: the case of UDC, Knowledge organization, 37: 2010, 4, p. 270-279.

Gnoli C - Pullman T - Cousson P - Merli G - Szostak R, Representing the structural elements of a freely faceted classification, in Slavic A - Civallero E eds, Classification and ontology: proceedings of the UDC Seminar 2011, Ergon, Würzburg, 2011.

Riesthuis GJA, Decomposition of complex UDC notations, Extensions and corrections to the UDC, 19: 1997, p 13-18.

Slavic A - Cordeiro MI - Riesthuis G, Maintenance of the Universal Decimal Classification: overwiew of the past and preparations for the future, International cataloguing and bibliographic control, 37: 2008, 2.


UDC Philosophy Revision Report 2 / Claudio Gnoli = (UDC Consortium. Gruppo di lavoro Italia) – <http://italia.udcc.org/report2.html> : 2011.08.26 - 2011.08.31 -