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Re: [ontolog-forum] "Constructivism"

To: paola.dimaio@xxxxxxxxx
Cc: Chris Menzel <chris.menzel@xxxxxxxxx>, "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 19 Jan 2007 11:49:48 -0600
Message-id: <p06230903c1d6b1024d1b@[]>
>Hi Chris
>There's nothing wrong with an argument, especially if it's about relevance
>(welcome to yet another central problem of ontology engineering)
>This conversation started because K goodier 
>proposed we all jump in to do something 'lethal' 
>together (hr...), and I  reflected on the choice 
>of words and felt discomfort. Do I really want 
>to do something lethal with K? dont think so. ( 
>I dont even know him in fact)    (01)

Fair enough, and I share your frisson at that 
choice of terminology. But what actually started 
this thread was your response, which 
characterized this usage by Goodier as 
'nonconstructive', and where you referred to 
yourself as a "constructivist":    (02)

"for example, I have a problem with the word 
'lethal' as it has non constructive implications, 
I am a constructivist by nature - I dont use non 
constructive words, especially in writing (we all 
have our idiosyncrasies  I guess) - can we live 
with that?"    (03)

And Chris asked you what you mean (and I think 
assumed, not unreasonably, that you were 
referring to a philosophical position, hence was 
- as I am - puzzled by your application of it to 
a lexical decision). I also am puzzled by what 
you meant. As far as I can tell, you still have 
not said what it is that you did mean here. Can I 
ask to explicate it, perhaps only slightly? I 
really am not intending to start a debate or 
argument, just to understand what you were 
saying. Can you characterize the sense of 
'constructive' you are using here? What is it 
that makes the word "lethal" non-constructive, 
for example? If I wanted to follow your lead and 
only use constructive words, how would I 
distinguish them from non-constructive words? 
Please don't just tell me you mean to use the 
word very broadly.    (04)

>Re. philosophy, dont worry about that. I can 
>understand that it requires a different angle 
>than your view may offer, ( philosophy exists 
>nonetheless, and uderpins science, business, 
>education etc, you may decide to include it or 
>exclude it in your model of reality). You do 
>seem to produce your own bit of philosophy 
>however.    (05)

I have to remark that is hardly surprising, as 
Chris is a professor of philosophy. His point was 
not that philosophy does not exist or is not 
important, but that the taking of a philosophical 
position is largely irrelevant to ontological 
engineering and can be harmful; and I agree with 
him wholeheartedly. I also think it is a topic, 
like those found in most groves of academe, best 
left to professionals.    (06)

>Relevance to this thread is: does the choice of 
>words have implications and consequences
>on representation and inference and behaviour? I think it does    (07)

I agree. But words are one thing, philosophy quite another.    (08)

>and in a collaborative work today, as discussed 
>earlier, technology is relatively trivial in 
>comparison to other conflics arising from 
>different conceptual and semantic views and 
>The real challenge in collaborative decision 
>making projects to me is largely overcoming 
>verbal, opinions and views conflicts. T
>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*.
>No. In my understanding (limited viewpoint) 
>'exists in the mind', means that personal 
>understanding and perspective on reality is 
>relative    (09)

No. That kind of relativity is a truism, which we 
all accept as a fact of life, though we may argue 
about its importance or extent. The philosophical 
position is that there is no objective reality to 
have an individual perspective on. If someone 
really believes this, I agree with Chris that 
they probably shouldn't be doing ontology 
engineering at all.    (010)

Pat Hayes    (011)

>, and depends on what books you have been 
>reading,  the things you believe, and where are 
>coming from, the dim light that you are under, 
>and lots and lots of other conditions.
>That includes our respective opinions on what  ontology engineering is about.
>(I can see the challenge of collaborative decision making more more clearly)
>We've gotta to live with that I am afraid...
>?Ɉɦ ?ɬɈɫ ɬɈ?ɫ
>On 1/19/07, Christopher Menzel 
><<mailto:cmenzel@xxxxxxxx> cmenzel@xxxxxxxx> 
>Greetings Paola,
>>  I am not going to fuel this argument however I realise I need to
>>  defend my statement, at least briefly.
>I wasn't arguing, I just had no idea what you were talking about and
>asked for clarification.
>>  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
>>  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.
>Welcome to the central problem of ontological engineering. :-)
>>  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.
>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
>>  (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)
>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 f
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