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Re: [ontolog-forum] {Disarmed} Re: OWL and lack of identifiers

To: Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx>
Cc: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Steve Newcomb <srn@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: 24 Apr 2007 18:35:25 -0400
Message-id: <874pn5pfiq.fsf@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx> writes:    (01)

  [ Steve Newcomb]
> > ...it's deeply correct to recognize, always and
> > everywhere, that everything we think and do is rooted in culture.
> This is either vacuous or wrong, depending on how one construes the
> meaning of 'culture'.    (02)

How vacuous, and how wrong, given what meaning of "culture"?    (03)

> >  In
> >our own culture, FOL is a fixture, no doubt about it.  (And I'm not
> >interested in replacing it.  I just don't want to close off
> >alternatives about which I currently know nothing.)
> Nor do I, I assure you. But the way to advance things is to understand
> them thoroughly first, rather than burbling on in a vague way about
> how there might be other things.    (04)

Sorry, I didn't mean to burble or to be vague.    (05)

You seem to be saying that if I really understood FOL, then my mind
would be closed to the possibility of alternatives that don't employ
it.  (If so, I don't agree with you, but we are entitled to our
opinions! (;^))    (06)

> >
> >[ John Sowa:]
> >>  >> Logic is the discipline that has been searching for those
> >>  >> underlying invariants.  But those invariants are often
> >>  >> obscured by variations in the notations and terminologies.
> >
> >
> >[ Steve Newcomb:]
> >>  > I agree that the search is vitally important, now more than ever, and
> >>  > I admire your contributions to that search.  The only thing I object
> >>  > to about your position is its apparent implication that there is some
> >>  > higher Truth or Absoluteness (note capital letters indicating numinous
> >>  > significance) in any logic or logical system -- even if it's Logic.
> >
> >I would add to my above remark that, while it's true that "variations
> >in the notations and terminologies" could obscure the hoped-for
> >invariants, these same cultural variations could just as easily
> >obscure the fact that there are *no* invariants.
> It seems however to be the case that the logic of conjunction and
> negation *is* pretty much invariant across almost all literate human
> cultures.    (07)

I think you're correct.    (08)

I'm simply wondering what we're missing.  I'm also proposing that it
is not necessary, and quite possibly highly undesirable, to exclude
contributions of knowledge (or, if you prefer, contributions of
illogical assertions) that might emanate from a non-FOL culture.  I'm
using FOL as an illustrative example of a cow that's quite sacred in
our own culture, and that, if we're not alert, might make us feel that
those who don't revere that particular cow are somehow subhuman.  Or
at least that their knowledge has no value.    (09)

If we spend our energies trying to persuade others that *our* truth is
*mandatory*, we will miss some pretty important boats.  Exclusiveness
is a two-edged sword; when we exclude others from our games, we
exclude ourselves from the games of others, too.    (010)

Which is more important:    (011)

  (1) To get everybody to agree on any sort of upper ontology, or on
      any parts thereof, or even on the absolute sanctity of FOL?    (012)

      or    (013)

  (2) To figure out how the game can be played without excluding
      anybody who doesn't buy into what the dominant cultures believe?    (014)

For me, it's no contest.  I have the soul of a librarian.  If we can
solve (2), then (1) becomes a huge (but reasonably level and
inclusive) arena for creativity, as well as competition.  We stop
fighting about the whichness of what, and start celebrating diverse
whichnesses.    (015)

> >  When it comes to a
> >question that cannot have an objective answer
> But it can, both as a question in cultural sociology and as a question
> in semiotics.    (016)

> Believe it or not, people have thought about questions
> like this rather carefully, in many cultures.    (017)

Quite right.    (018)

> >, we must fall back on
> >other things.  I think habits are what we fall back on, most of the
> >time.    (019)

> Imagination really isn't the issue here. We do not decide that (say)
> the rule of and-introduction is correct because we cannot imagine a
> world in which it is false. It is not a failure of imagination at work
> here. Rather, it is the opposite: we *can* imagine what it is to be a
> world, in a very abstract sense of 'world', and we then *discover*
> that this rule is satisfied in all of them.    (020)

If you really understand what a world is, and you can predict the
features that all worlds will always have in common, then your
intellect is infinitely more powerful than mine, and I stand
corrected.    (021)

> And in fact we can imagine
> several different notions of what it is to be a world, and we find
> that this rule is satisfied in all of them. And then we can see
> exactly what it is about a world that makes it be the case that this
> rule comes out true in all of them; a theory of
> world-satisfaction. And this theory gives us insight into *why* this
> logical rule is always satisfied; basically, it is because of the very
> meaning of 'and'.    (022)

You seem to be claiming that the meaning of 'and' is beyond culture?    (023)

> What I just sketched above is logical semantics (followed by a brief
> observation about English semantics.) It - this theory - is a mature
> mathematical theory applied to semiotics and language analysis, a
> general account of how language relates to the world(s) it
> describes. It is not a failure of imagination. I don't even think it
> is culturally relative (unless you would claim that mathematics is
> culturally relative?)    (024)

I do make this claim.  Mathematics is a human endeavor, no more and no
less.  In the absence of human beings, and even if you have human
beings but there is no mathematics in their culture, mathematics
simply don't exist.  "Ah," you may say, "but 1 and 1 are still 2!"
No.  There is no class of all single things, and no class of all
pairs, in a world without a person to imagine the classes and to
recognize their instances.    (025)

> >BTW, as happens with increasing frequency these days, my mind was just
> >blown (in a happy way) by the news in the April 12 issue of _Nature_
> >that there is now experimental evidence in support of an explanation
> >as to how photosynthesis is 90% efficient in its capture of energy
> >from photons, when the best man-made technology currently tops out at
> >30%.  Evidently, a long (over 600-femtosecond) interval of quantum
> >state superposition exists in a photosynthetic system during the
> >capture of a photon.  During that time, the system "tries many paths
> >at once", ultimately directing the photon to precisely the right place
> >to exploit its energy most efficiently.  The photon doesn't stumble
> >around; the system *guides* it.  Wow.
> >
> >I have a lot of trouble imagining quantum mechanical stuff, but I'm
> >surely glad that some people can.
> Are you referring to English QM, Japanese QM, or Indian QM? They are
> presumably rooted in different cultures.    (026)

Huh?      (027)

> >  I frequently benefit from what
> >others *can* imagine, that I *can't* imagine.  (The invention of the
> >transistor springs to mind.)  The very last thing I want to do is to
> >shackle anybody's imagination, or to fail to guide imagination-energy
> >toward wherever its usefulness can best be exploited.
> >
> >Humanity can best serve its own interests by supporting multiple
> >cultures simultaneously, so that imagination-photons can "try many
> >paths at once."  Fear of what presently-unknowable things might happen
> >then must be overcome by Faith.  We need to achieve consensus that,
> >whatever those presently-unknowable things might turn out to be, it
> >will be much better to know them than to remain ignorant of them.  Am
> >I talking about Faith in, uh, Truth?  Yes, if you like.  I think so.
> >We cannot master Truth.
> Im not sure what the capital letter is supposed to imply, but we
> certainly can master ordinary truth. Semantics is a (now fairly
> mature) theory of truth, in fact.    (028)

Maybe we don't agree about what "truth" is.  For me, human expressions
are one thing, and Truth is another.  We cannot prove anything about
the connection, if any, between human expressions and Reality.  It's
true that, within certain systems of human expressions, the truth of
certain human expressions can be absolutely demonstrated.  However,
human expressions can't express the Truth about anything other than
human expressions.  Truth is something quite unspeakable, and it
cannot be mastered.  Human expressions can only speak of Reality
incompletely, and, in a very real sense, only by lying about it.    (029)

> >Peter Yim, I'm sure you're horrified that I'm saying these things in
> >this forum.  Sorry.  They're 100% relevant to what we face in our
> >arena.
> I completely fail to see how. In fact, they don't seem to be relevant
> to anything.    (030)

I repeat: Here are two goals:    (031)

  (1) To get everybody to agree on any sort of upper ontology, or on
      any parts thereof, or even on the absolute sanctity of FOL.    (032)

  (2) To figure out how the game can be played without excluding
      anybody who doesn't buy into what the dominant cultures believe.    (033)

I have sensed a lot more emphasis on (1) than on (2).  Personally, I
think the goals implicit in (1) would thrive better in an environment
that heavily emphasizes (2).    (034)

Consideration of these goals is relevant to technical questions of
ontological design, to political questions having to do with the
reasons why people might want to work with us, and to commercial
questions like, "Why hasn't [insert technology here] taken over the
world?"    (035)

> >Our work cannot be ungrounded
> Can you elicidate what this is supposed to mean? What constitutes
> 'grounding' in this sense?    (036)

Sorry, I realize now that I was using "grounded" in a specialized
sense.  Oops!    (037)

I recently saw an interview with the dean of a major business school.
He was decrying the fact that too many executives don't understand the
context in which they work.  He said that the reason we have so many
business leaders that kill the very businesses that they lead is that
"They're not grounded!"  They understand "success" in narrow terms,
but they don't know who they are, except within that narrow scope, and
they can't explain their motivations and behaviors in terms of the
larger context.  They don't even see how it might be important.    (038)

-- Steve    (039)

Steven R. Newcomb, Consultant
Coolheads Consulting    (040)

Co-editor, Topic Maps International Standard (ISO/IEC 13250)
Co-editor, draft Topic Maps -- Reference Model (ISO/IEC 13250-5)    (041)

http://www.coolheads.com    (042)

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fax:    +1 540 951 9775    (043)

208 Highview Drive
Blacksburg, Virginia 24060 USA    (044)

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irresponsible actions of the pusillanimous and corrupt 109th Congress,
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wisely.)    (045)

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