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Re: [ontolog-forum] Visual Complexity

To: Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx>
Cc: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Patrick Durusau <patrick@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 06 Feb 2007 20:58:26 -0500
Message-id: <45C93242.7020703@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Pat,    (01)

Apologies for the delay. I have been in meetings all day on Mountain time.    (02)

Pat Hayes wrote:
<snip>    (03)

>> and perhaps the "my ontology first and last" crowd has a
>> point. If we don't simply all use the same one, then integration is
>> simply not possible. Reasoning that if we can't go beyond the formal
>> language, there is no basis for comparison.
> The basis for comparison is the semantics: formally, the model 
> theories. That (or some equivalent mechanism) is how precise 
> comparisons between ontology languages must be made. Just rendering 
> the intended meaning in rather loose English is not a sufficient basis 
> for writing translators.
Err, how did "loose English" become an issue? I don't recall arguing for 
the use of "loose English" or at least that was not my intent.    (04)

My intent was to say that formal languages or model theories *all* have 
some unstated basis upon which they are operating. (cf. my comment on 
infinite regress below)    (05)

<snip>    (06)

>> You may have a point that ontologists skip over what they assume is
>> universal knowledge or assumptions and therein lies part of the
>> difficulty in integrating ontologies, particularly since they can't see
>> beyond their formal languages, cf. your earlier point.
> No, you misunderstand me. Ontologists don't skip over this stuff. They 
> are obliged in fact to wrestle with it. Cyc consists of little else, 
> millions of such 'facts'. My point is that looking at the words people 
> use is of little help in getting this common-sense stuff formalized, 
> since people rarely use NL words to talk about it (and when they do, 
> the words usually hide, rather than reveal, the true ontological 
> structure. As an example, look at the multiple uses of spatial 
> prepositions like "on" in English. Cyc is obliged to distinguish 
> around ten different senses of the meaning of "cover".)
> Your phrasing "see beyond their formal languages" is revealing. If you 
> think that the use of a formal language restricts ones imaginative 
> scope in describing the world, I suggest to take a look at 
> http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&tid=5493
Sigh, looks like an interesting book (for those who did not follow the 
link: Holes and Other Superficialities by Roberto Casati, Achille C. 
Varzi. Unfortunately out of print and available used for $62.).    (07)

My point was that any language or model is by its very nature based upon 
assumptions that are not stated in the language.    (08)

<snip>    (09)

>> because it is "meaningless" to try to look beyond those formal
>> languages.
> No, I do not claim that. However, I do think that formalizing ones 
> intuitions is a very good way to sharpen their meaning; and I know 
> that one often finds hidden weaknesses or gaps in the intuitions when 
> one does this as an exercise.
+1! Yes, I quite agree.    (010)

My point may have been to minor to be noticed. It was not my intent to 
attach formal languages or models or to suggest that they are not quite 
useful. So you are defending against attacks that it was not my 
intention to make.    (011)

>> From a topic maps perspective, if you say they are "same as"
>> then there was some basis on which you made that assessment. Why not
>> simply make that explicit?
> Well, I would like to hear more about what counts as a 'basis' here. 
> If every claim must have a basis, we seem to be in an infinite regress.
I am *not* arguing for infinite regress but I am arguing that one should 
acknowledge that every formal language or model makes claims which it 
does not justify because that would lead to the very infinite regress 
that you point out.    (012)

What I resist is the suggestion that any formal language or model (cf. 
John's response) can be constructed that states the basis for every 
claim it makes. John can very validly argue that common logic is very 
fit for its intended purpose and I have no basis on which to dispute 
those claims. That does not mean that common logic has somehow sprung 
forth free of claims for which no basis has been stated.    (013)

That is no way is a criticism of the usefulness of formal languages or 
models. Nor does it justify the use of "loose English" when it comes to 
the construction of formal ontologies. But, it does mean that formal 
languages or models should not be considered as having been constructed 
on the basis of goals and assumptions that are not stated.    (014)

As I said above, the point may have been too minor to be noticed. My 
point was that no matter how formal or labored over a formal language or 
model may be, it remains *a* view and has no greater claim to being free 
from unstated assumptions than any other. And yes, there will always be 
claims for which no basis has been stated.    (015)

That in no way, at least to me, denigrates formal languages or models or 
makes them less useful.    (016)

Does that help?    (017)

Hope you are having a great day!    (018)

Patrick    (019)

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    (020)

Topic Maps: Human, not artificial, intelligence at work!     (021)

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