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Re: [ontolog-forum] Role of definitions (Remember the poor human)

To: "Smith, Barry" <phismith@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 13 Feb 2007 14:07:02 -0600
Message-id: <p06230901c1f7c8d3b5b8@[]>
>  >
>>I would prefer that we don't say that names are "defined". Very few
>>ontology languages provide for actual definitions of names, and
>>several that once did (notably KIF) no longer do. Explicit
>>definitions are semantically troublesome, practically of no actual
>>use, create paradoxes, and generally have negative utility. The
>>entire SWeb apparatus has no definitions in it anywhere, nor is it
>>likely to in the future. It is very hard to even see what it would
>>mean to define a globally useable name. Let us just say that names
>>occur in ontologies, and ontologies constrain the meaning of names.
>  From my experience working with biologists and medical researchers
>on ontologies, definitions (ideally both natural language definitions
>and equivalent formal definitions) play a very useful role when it
>comes to ensuring that ontologies are populated in consistent ways
>across disciplines and subsequently used correctly (or indeed at all)
>in practical applications. Most of those involved in such use will
>not have logical or computer science expertise. Where else should
>they turn to find out what a term means?
>BS    (01)

I think we might be putting different burdens on this word 
"definition". I was using in above a logically strict sense in which 
a definition is something like (mileages may vary) an equation 
between a term and its defining expressions or ontology which is 
claimed to be *necessarily* true, or true by *fiat*. These 
definitions are for use in machine reasoning more than for human 
consumption; and it is that claim of necessity (or similar) to which 
I was objecting, basically on logical/engineering grounds (which I 
can expand on if anyone is interested).    (02)

I think what you are talking about is something like an exposition in 
NL of the intended meaning of a term, one that represents to a 
competent human reader (the ubiquitous Subject Matter Expert) a kind 
of intended target for the formalism to aspire to. If this is more or 
less right, I entirely agree that such expositions are important and 
may be essential to actual deployment, but that isn't what I was 
intending to talk about. So we may be in agreement, but I may not 
have communicated my intentions very clearly.    (03)

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