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Re: [ontolog-forum] "Constructivism"

To: Christopher Menzel <cmenzel@xxxxxxxx>
Cc: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 19 Jan 2007 11:25:10 -0600
Message-id: <p06230902c1d6adcb8c29@[]>
>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*.
>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.    (01)

Amen to all the above. And especially to the 
first point. If there is one lesson to take home 
from the experience of having been a professional 
philosopher, it is that the well-known maxim "do 
not try this at home" applies to philosophy with 
as much force as it does to, say, building 
explosives.    (02)

Pat Hayes    (03)

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