Ontology is the branch of philosophy that studies concepts such as existence, being, becoming, and reality. It includes the questions of how entities are grouped into basic categories and which of these entities exist on the most fundamental level. Ontology is sometimes referred to as the science of being and belongs to the major branch of philosophy known as metaphysics.
Ontologists often try to determine what the categories or highest kinds are and how they form a system of categories that provides an encompassing classification of all entities. Commonly proposed categories include substances, properties, relations, states of affairs and events. These categories are characterized by fundamental ontological concepts, like particularity and universality, abstractness and concreteness, or possibility and necessity. Of special interest is the concept of ontological dependence, which determines whether the entities of a category exist on the most fundamental level. Disagreements within ontology are often about whether entities belonging to a certain category exist and, if so, how they are related to other entities.
When used as a countable noun, the terms "ontology" and "ontologies" refer not to the science of being but to theories within the science of being. Ontological theories can be divided into various types according to their theoretical commitments. Monocategorical ontologies hold that there is only one basic category, which is rejected by polycategorical ontologies. Hierarchical ontologies assert that some entities exist on a more fundamental level and that other entities depend on them. Flat ontologies, on the other hand, deny such a privileged status to any entity.