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Re: [ontolog-forum] What do ontologies have to do with meaning?

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Mike Brenner <mikeb@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 09 Jun 2004 14:24:34 -0400
Message-id: <40C755E2.AF6A5486@xxxxxxxxx>
Hi Adam,    (01)

Excellent example, but the introductory remark "used in communication"
is the real distinction. I am not using semantics for 
communication. I am using semantics to help agents understand
their own universe. There is no one to communicate with.    (02)

Therefore, it is interesting that this started with asking whether
I was guilty of using linguistic meanings for the fundamental terms.
I would guess, no, I am using non-linguisitic, and non-communication
meanings. Instead, I would have called it that I am using 
operational definitions.    (03)

For example, as EVENTS occur in a universe, they become
available as a HISTORY. While the history may be the
same to every agent, each of those agents may build up
a different ontology of relationships among the facts in
that same history.     (04)

No agent communicates their understanding of (ontology for)
history to any other agent; they just use their understandings
to guide their paths.    (05)

Wittgenstein is most useful for discussing "levels of language"
and "levels of quotation", which is missing from most current
semantics work.    (06)

Mike Brenner    (07)

Adam Pease wrote:
> Hi Mike,
>    My readings of Wittgenstein have been limited.  I need to do more.  If
> we need to go into this deeply, I may need to call on my colleague, Ian
> Niles, who did most of the day-to-day work on SUMO, and whose PhD work was
> on Wittgenstein.  But anyway, I'll make a go at this.
>    My understanding is that one of Wittgenstein's critiques of metaphysics
> was that philosophers confuse language and logic and use formal terms in
> place of linguistic ones, thereby using a term out of context, and causing
> a fundamental error.  If I've understood this, I agree with his position
> completely.  One benefit of modern metaphysics that wasn't available until
> very recently was large formal theories like SUMO that provide formal
> definitions for formal terms.  Up until recently, philosophers used
> linguistic tokens to signify formal terms, but those formal terms were not
> defined axiomatically (in logic).  Readers fell easily in the past into the
> trap of imbuing those (undefined) formal terms with their normal linguistic
> context.
>    I'm confused by your terminology.  Did Wittgenstein use those particular
> phrases, "literal meaning" and "true meaning"?  If I've understood you
> correctly, I would elaborate on "true meaning" to say that the phrase
> signifies the actual meaning of the linguistic element in the context of
> communication.  In that sense, the "true meaning" of a word may be
> expressed by a term in a sufficiently detailed formal ontology.  But then
> I'm not sure what you mean by "literal meaning".
>    Maybe an example would help make this a bit more concrete.
> "The man bought the shirt."
> Can be rendered formally in KIF and SUMO as
> (exists (?M ?B ?S)
>    (and
>      (instance ?M MaleHuman)
>      (instance ?B Buying)
>      (instance ?S Clothing)
>      (agent ?B ?M)
>      (patient ?B ?S)))
> Note that in the formal equivalent, what appear to be words are actually
> just convenient symbols for terms that are defined axiomatically in
> SUMO.  So, the true meaning of "bought" in the context of this sentence is
> Buying in SUMO <http://virtual.cvut.cz/kifb/en/concepts/_buying.html>, and
> not Death, as in the colloquialism "He bought the farm." or Communication
> as in "He bought the argument."
> Does this help?
> Adam
> At 03:35 PM 6/5/2004 -0400, Mike Brenner wrote:
> >Hi Adam,
> >
> >I am willing to accept that my question addresses linguistics,
> >and I hope you will help me out by telling me what word
> >the ontology community would use instead of my word
> >"literal meaning".
> >
> >By "literal meaning" I mean formal, precise, unambiguous, complete
> >definitions of the meaning of phrases/words. This is in contrast to
> >their "true meaning" which involves mapping those literal meaning
> >to multiple, partial contexts where the defintions are so
> >imprecise as to be only approximately correct, somewhat ambiguous,
> >and definitely incomplete.
> >
> >I suspect that I don't know the difference between the semantic
> >meaning of phrases in linguistics and the semantic meaning
> >of phrases in ontology.
> >
> >(My semantics mostly comes from Wittgenstein.)
> >
> >Since I want to clearly make this distinction in a way that
> >is most understandable to the people working on Ontology
> >tools, I would appreciate any help in correcting my vocabulary
> >to normalize it to the ontology used by the ontology community.
> >
> >Thanks,
> >
> >Mike
> >
> >
> >
> >Adam Pease wrote:
> > >    I think you may be addressing linguistics, rather than ontology.  The
> > > notions of "literal" meaning only has significance in the interpretation 
> > > linguistic objects.  Ontology is concerned with formal definition of
> > > precise and unambiguous terms.  One way to address this issue is to map a
> > > large lexicon to a formal ontology.  Words with the same meaning are
> > > clustered together.  Polysemous words can appear in more than one
> > > cluster.  That's what we've done in mapping the WordNet lexicon to the 
> > > ontology.  <http://www.ontologyportal.org>
> >
> >
> >mike brenner wrote:
> >
> > > >I would like to become familiar with ontology tools
> > > >capable of expressing more than simple "literal" meaning.
> > > >
> > > >I would like a "true meaning", by which I mean
> > > >a clustering of information showing how the literal meaning
> > > >maps to the multiple contexts. That mapping
> > > >includes constraints, dependencies, and effects
> > > >from partially defined and partially related chains of symbols.
> > > >
> > > >Thus, I don't see meaning as related to conceptual forms in
> > > >the mind of the reader, but rather to physical forms which
> > > >are the context in which the communication takes place.
> > > >
> > > >Mike Brenner
> >
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