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Re: [ontolog-forum] "Constructivism"

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Christopher Menzel <cmenzel@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 19 Jan 2007 01:40:22 -0600
Message-id: <B522A0A6-AD47-4CC2-B8C4-9E1B676FA17E@xxxxxxxx>
Greetings Paola,    (01)

> I am not going to fuel this argument however I realise I need to  
> defend my statement, at least briefly.    (02)

I wasn't arguing, I just had no idea what you were talking about and  
asked for clarification.    (03)

> First, a definition. Please read constructive in a broader sense of  
> the word, and not solely as indicating the relevant philosophical,  
> mathematical, art schools of thought    (04)

Understood.    (05)

> As to your evaluation, he key, as you well know, is context, as  
> well as your own personal perspective
> The term 'lethal' applied in medical context has different meaning  
> than in social science context.    (06)

Welcome to the central problem of ontological engineering. :-)    (07)

> A lethal dose or lethal substance is a statement of a medical fact,
> Naming a tool, enviroment or methodology 'lethal'  in my world is  
> making implicit statement
> about its destructive nature.    (08)

True enough.  Can't off the top of my head see what that's any reason  
to avoid the term if one wishes to emphasize the destructive nature  
of a tool, environment or methodology.  But this is not really to the  
point.    (09)

> (which in turn I distinguish from disruptive, but I am not going to  
> bore you with that)
> But of course if you do not abstract the term from the context that  
> is most familiar to you,
> you will not see the negative implication in using the word  
> 'lethal' - and that would simply reflect
> constructivist in this sense, perhaps
>   (philosophical perspective derived from the work of Immanuel Kant  
> which views reality as existing mainly in the mind, constructed or  
> interpreted in terms of one's own perceptions. Note: In this  
> perspective, an individual's prior experiences, mental structures,  
> and beliefs bear upon how experiences are interpreted)    (010)

Ok.  For the record, I think that, generally, the more that  
philosophy gets injected into ontological engineering, especially  
(but not only) by non-philosophers, the more muddled the enterprise  
becomes.  And of all philosophical perspectives, an idealist focus  
that has reality "existing mainly in the mind" seems to me to be  
downright toxic for ontological engineering, as it renders it utterly  
pointless.  The basic philosophical standpoint of ontological  
engineering -- insofar as it has such a standpoint at all -- is a  
sort of commonsense realism: that there is an objective external  
world in which we live and move and have our being and make our  
automobiles and fight our wars and transact our business and treat  
our illnesses, and that we can *fix* the meanings of the languages we  
use to describe the various salient pieces of that world in a  
rigorous, objective, shareable, computationally representable way.   
But if reality is mostly in our heads, the whole exercise of  
ontological engineering is, by my admittedly dim lights, by  
definition impossible (hence, obviously, pointless), as the idea of  
*shared* meaning implies something outside of our heads about which  
we can both agree.  If we each have only our own (inherently private)  
realities, then the jig is up; there is no *common* world that our  
ontologies are *about*.    (011)

In fact, of course, we *do* think our ontologies are about an  
objective world outside of our heads, and it is this very assumption  
that makes them useful for sharing and managing information.    (012)

> Regarding the 'tests', I am afraid that validity of configuration,  
> effectiveness, ability of  natural language expressions to  
> communicate methaphors and concepts, and their influence on  
> behaviour is still left to heuristic evaluation and intuition,  
> although I am working on a method
> watch this space
> The notion is rooted in 'conflict theory'
> To get the idea of where I am coming from
> http://www.sagepub.com/booksProdDesc.nav? 
> currTree=Subjects&level1=700&level2=720&level3=724&prodId=Book9369
> (in particular, see the semantics of anger)
> And Jake Lunch work 'peace journalism' item below
> http://www.mediachannel.org/originals/warandpeace2.shtml    (013)

Well.  Hm.  Thought provoking as it may be, I'm afraid that I do not  
see the relevance of this work to ontological engineering.  I think  
it would be a really good idea to try to figure out what everyone  
thinks they are doing here, because we're sure not all on the same page.    (014)

I'm not trying to be strident and argumentative here.  I'm just  
concerned that there seem to be several *really really different  
things* going on in this forum that can't possibly all be part of  
some sort of common effort.  If so, the various threads badly need to  
be untangled.    (015)

Regards,    (016)

Chris Menzel    (017)

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