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Re: language vs. ontology was Re: [ontolog-forum] April 20 session on

To: patrick@xxxxxxxxxxx
Cc: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Adam Pease <apease@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sun, 09 Apr 2006 10:39:04 -0700
Message-id: <>
Patrick,    (01)

>Sigh, but you just conceded above that that meaning of the symbols 
>is *not* defined by mathematics.    (02)

No, I don't think I said that.  As Pat Cassidy pointed out, there is 
a philosophical issue that is known in AI as the "symbol grounding" 
problem, but the meaning of the terms in a formal ontology is defined 
solely by the mathematics.    (03)

>True, after defining the symbols by humans it is possible to define 
>mathematical relationships between the symbols. But mathematics has 
>done none of the defining. It is a formal expression of the 
>definitions provided by humans for the symbols and the relationships 
>between them.
>And yes, doing that permits automated computation.
>My question, which I don't think you have answered, is why the world 
>bank can't define its own symbols and relationships between them?    (04)

Indeed it can and should.  The main question is what that 
"definition" should consist of.  If one creates only natural language 
definitions, as in a dictionary, or simple links as one might find in 
a thesaurus, then one has simply a dictionary or thesaurus, suitable 
for interpretation by humans.  I advocate definitions of the terms in 
mathematical logic, in as expressive a logic as possible.  I believe 
the World Bank, and any other large IT organization for that matter, 
should create formal ontologies, reusing one of the existing large 
formal ontologies as much as possible.    (05)

>>   The fact that an approach under some broad moniker has failed in 
>> the past doesn't have much bearing on our present case I think.
>And why not? How is the present case different from prior attempts?    (06)

I'm not sure what you mean by "universal language".  I certainly 
haven't used that phrase to describe any of the extant formal upper 
ontologies.  That's a very broad and underspecified phrase.  You 
might mean something like Esperanto, which is certainly different 
from what we're discussing.  You might also be referring to Bishop 
Wilkin's 17th century treatise, or it's description in Umberto Eco's 
book on "The search for the perfect language", which, as much as I 
admire the work, has little to do with a formal ontology, and in fact 
is more closely related to taxonomy building and a good example of 
why that's problematic.  Did you mean something different?    (07)

As a more general point, even the failure of a particular idea 
doesn't mean it can't be very successful in a more modern world, with 
different supporting technologies.  Statistical-based natural 
language is not necessarily a new idea, but associated facilities 
like large corpora, large disk storage and fast processors make it a 
practical reality.  There's been some discussion of MRI technology in 
the news along these lines in the past few months.  However, we're 
very far afield of the point once we're discussing philosophy of 
science, so I'll try to refrain from further discussion on this subtopic.    (08)

Adam    (09)

>Hope you are having a great day!
>>At 10:00 AM 4/8/2006, Patrick Durusau wrote:
>>>Adam Pease wrote:
>>>>   I think there's a misunderstanding here.  It's not just a 
>>>> question of precision in the conventional sense.  Of course we 
>>>> try to make our documents and laws precise.  But the meaning of 
>>>> those texts is determined with recourse to human 
>>>> interpretation.  In a formal ontology like SUMO, or DOLCE, one 
>>>> could replace all the term names with arbitrary unique symbols, 
>>>> and an automated deductive system, following the rules of 
>>>> mathematical logic (in our case, first order logic) could reach 
>>>> all the same conclusions as it could if those intelligible 
>>>> labels were present.  The meaning of the symbols is defined 
>>>> mathematically, and no human interpretation is required to give them 
>>>Yes, there is a misunderstanding here.
>>>defining a mathematical logic between arbitrary unique symbols != 
>>>defining the meaning of arbitrary unique symbols
>>>Yes, whatever symbols are substituted, the outcomes of defined 
>>>operations would be the same.
>>>That is not the same as defining the "meaning" of a symbol mathematically.
>>>The "meaning" of a symbol is always determined with recourse to 
>>>human interpretation. How else would you explain the use of 
>>>WordNet references in SUMO? Of what possible relevance are WordNet 
>>>entries if the meaning of symbols is being defined mathematically? 
>>>The answer is that the "meaning" of the symbols is being defined 
>>>by making references to something outside of the mathematical 
>>>definition of relationships between the symbols.
>>>>   That's relevant because it enables one to do things like prove 
>>>> the absence of contradictions in the use of these terms with an 
>>>> automated system.  In contrast, without such a property, humans 
>>>> have to determine whether usage of terminological or linguistic 
>>>> based standards are compliant.  Standards compliance is 
>>>> something I would think would be relevant to the world bank.
>>>Not to put too fine a point on it but you seem to be eliding over 
>>>the fact that the development of SUMO was based upon human 
>>>interpretation and construction of the rules that can then be 
>>>automatically applied. It wasn't simply a matter of putting 
>>>mathematical rules in a box of symbols and shaking it until the 
>>>result suddenly appeared.
>>>The compliance the world bank (or any other concern) is interested 
>>>in is compliance with their terms, which may or may not use the 
>>>same rules for complaince that can be found in SUMO. Yes, logic 
>>>can prove a lack of contradiction but then so can careful 
>>>definition of terms and what is or is not considered to be a conflict.
>>>Note that I do consider SUMO and similar efforts to be worthwhile. 
>>>But, I don't think that they divorce the meaning of symbols from 
>>>human interpretation nor are they the best solutions for all 
>>>cases. As I noted earlier today, we have been down the road of 
>>>universal languages before and none has succeeded to date.
>>>Hope you are having a great day!
>>>>At 03:08 AM 4/8/2006, Patrick Durusau wrote:
>>>>>Adam Pease wrote:
>>>>>>   For what it's worth, I think there is a common problem 
>>>>>> surfacing here, that Bill has tried to point out.  Language 
>>>>>> and ontology are different.  Human language (and any given 
>>>>>> word in a human language) is ambiguous and highly 
>>>>>> contextual.  Terms in an ontology are not ambiguous (or at 
>>>>>> least, shouldn't be if they are properly and formally defined).
>>>>>>   Typically, this has been a problem, because computational 
>>>>>> linguists have often used linguistic elements as 
>>>>>> pseudo-logical terms in semantic forms.  Ontology builders 
>>>>>> often use linguistic elements as proxies for doing a full 
>>>>>> semantic definition, leaving much of the interpretation 
>>>>>> embedded in the conventional meaning of the linguistic-based term.
>>>>>>   The approach we've taken in SUMO is to make this distinction 
>>>>>> explicit, and to address language and ontology in separate but 
>>>>>> related products.  SUMO is the formal ontology with terms 
>>>>>> defined unambiguously in first order logic.  Those terms are 
>>>>>> related through semi-formal links to the word senses in Princeton's 
>>>>>Language and ontology are different???
>>>>>Hmmm, well the foundational paper for SUMO states:
>>>>>"In order to enable continued progress in ecommerce and software 
>>>>>integration, we must give
>>>>>computers a common language with a richness that more closely 
>>>>>approaches that of human
>>>>>language." http://home.earthlink.net/~adampease/professional/FOIS.pdf
>>>>>Granted a great deal of effort has gone into making SUMO 
>>>>>precise, but the same could be done for any language. It is 
>>>>>interesting but not persuasive that its terms have been "defined 
>>>>>unambigouously in first order logic." And that is relevant for 
>>>>>what reason? Perhaps first order logic is not relevant to all 
>>>>>the problems faced by the World Bank. Recall that the current 
>>>>>fascination with first order logic is a repeat of a debate that 
>>>>>has ebbed and flowed for many years. Justice Holmes wrote in the 
>>>>>1890's that the life of the law had been experience and not 
>>>>>logic. (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2373/2373-h/2373-h.htm)
>>>>>In any event, there is no reason to disenfranchise the World 
>>>>>Bank from representing their language/ontology in favor of using 
>>>>>SUMO. There have been any number of attempts to produce 
>>>>>universal languages, LogLang is one of the more recent ones.
>>>>>There are standards that seek to empower users to define their 
>>>>>own languages/ontologies and yet remain mappable to others. See, 
>>>>>for example the Topic Maps Reference Model CD draft at: 
>>>>>Hope you are having a great day!
>>>>>Patrick Durusau
>>>>>Chair, V1 - Text Processing: Office and Publishing Systems Interface
>>>>>Co-Editor, ISO 13250, Topic Maps -- Reference Model
>>>>>Member, Text Encoding Initiative Board of Directors, 2003-2005
>>>>>Topic Maps: Human, not artificial, intelligence at work!
>>>>>Message Archives: http://ontolog.cim3.net/forum/ontolog-forum/
>>>>>Shared Files: http://ontolog.cim3.net/file/
>>>>>Community Wiki: http://ontolog.cim3.net/wiki/ To Post: 
>>>>Adam Pease
>>>>http://www.ontologyportal.org - Free ontologies and tools
>>>Patrick Durusau
>>>Chair, V1 - Text Processing: Office and Publishing Systems Interface
>>>Co-Editor, ISO 13250, Topic Maps -- Reference Model
>>>Member, Text Encoding Initiative Board of Directors, 2003-2005
>>>Topic Maps: Human, not artificial, intelligence at work!
>>Adam Pease
>>http://www.ontologyportal.org - Free ontologies and tools
>Patrick Durusau
>Chair, V1 - Text Processing: Office and Publishing Systems Interface
>Co-Editor, ISO 13250, Topic Maps -- Reference Model
>Member, Text Encoding Initiative Board of Directors, 2003-2005
>Topic Maps: Human, not artificial, intelligence at work!
>    (010)

Adam Pease
http://www.ontologyportal.org - Free ontologies and tools    (011)

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