Failure criteria have a significant role in the design of composite structural systems. Often the questions of “which criterion is more physical” and “which criterion is the best” create uncertainty in the design decision making process. To underline the ill-posed nature of both of these questions in the present paper we are describing the initial steps of an effort to address two ontological characteristics of failure criteria as they are applicable to composite materials applications. The first characteristic is the non-objective nature of failure criteria and an informal description is provided. The second characteristic is an ontologically based cross-reducibility between criteria. To underline more formally this characteristic we utilize an ontology-based framework to clarify “how a criterion relates with another” in terms of its main semantic attributes. The non-physical nature of a theory is exposed when it is evaluated from the semantic view of a systemic perspective. The human role on the formation of any failure criterion is shown to have a foundationally subjective character, thus rendering the corresponding criterion as non-objective. In the context of the second effort, the creation of classification ontology in terms of the semantic projections of failure criteria in their structural heritage and usage is created. The common attributes of failure criteria are utilized to identify the bases of the attribute space that they can be ontologically classified. Web ontology software is utilized to aid the ontological construction process and the visual interpretation of the ontological context. The derived cross-reducibility suggests that failure theories are special reductions of one another.

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