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

To: Steve Newcomb <srn@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 27 Apr 2007 02:07:10 -0500
Message-id: <p06230904c2573a44cf3b@[]>
>Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx> writes:
>   [ 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'.
>How vacuous, and how wrong, given what meaning of "culture"?    (01)

Briefly: If 'culture' means something like 'whatever humans do' or 
something similar, then the claim is vacuous. If on the other hand 
'culture' is used in a more normal sense in which, for example, 
people who grew up in English-speaking western countries are in a 
different culture than those from Japan, say, or Siberia, and your 
point is that everything we think is influenced by, or depends on, a 
particular culture in this sense; then it is false. For example, 
there seem to be psychological phenomena which are completely 
independent of linguistic or social culture.    (02)

>  > >  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.
>Sorry, I didn't mean to burble or to be vague.
>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! (;^))    (03)

No. I am saying that if you really understood FOL (or logic more 
generally) then your opinions on these matters might be worth 
listening to. You are of course entitled to your opinions, just as I 
am entitled to ignore them. But they (your opinions) would carry a 
lot more weight if they were informed by a knowledge of the topics 
which they claim to be about, such as FOL.    (04)

>  > >
>>  >[ 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.
>I think you're correct.
>I'm simply wondering what we're missing.    (05)

But why are you wondering that, in this forum? That is, why is this 
kind of open-ended all-inclusive wondering useful? What purpose does 
it serve? At some point one has to simply get on and try to build 
something. If it turns out to be limited in some important way, no 
doubt this will be discovered in due course. The W3C ontology 
standards (RDF and OWL, and one can include XML) are intended to be 
used on a planet-wide basis, as HTML is currently. They are all based 
on the same logic, and while there are some points of friction 
concerning highly nonlinear writing systems, I have not heard any 
suggestion that the logic itself is culturally biassed. 
(Interestingly, the *ways in which it was explained* were culturally 
sensitive, and we had to re-write some of them for this reason. Some 
forms of English expression, such as the use of the generic 
first-person plural in things like 'we will see below that...'  are 
impossible to translate into Japanese.)    (06)

>   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.    (07)

I really don't know what you are referring to by a "non-FOL culture". 
If you can give me an example, I'd be very interested. But this term 
sounds suspiciously like a way of claiming authority for ignorance, 
if all it means is "people who don't know enough about logic to know 
what the science is about". (Is there a "non-math culture" of 
physicists, whose views should carefully not be excluded when quantum 
theory is discussed?)    (08)

>  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)

Its really not a question of revering a cow. There are plenty of 
people in philosophy and logic and AI and IT more generally who are 
quite anti-FOL; arguments have been made defending for example type 
theory (actually theories), higher-order logic, modal logics, HiLog, 
logic programming, mu-logic and many other alternatives to FOL. And 
of course nobody is saying that these folk are subhuman. There are 
arguments, which I find convincing, that FOL is in some sense a 
'basic' logic, in that it makes the fewest assumptions about the way 
the world must be. But even I wouldn't claim that people who don't 
buy these arguments are subhuman.    (010)

>If we spend our energies trying to persuade others that *our* truth is
>*mandatory*, we will miss some pretty important boats.    (011)

Can you suggest any? Not that I am claiming that anything is 
mandatory, but Im also very suspicious of what one might call 
knee-jerk multiculturalism. And I am still wondering what a non-FOL 
culture might be.    (012)

>  Exclusiveness
>is a two-edged sword; when we exclude others from our games, we
>exclude ourselves from the games of others, too.
>Which is more important:
>   (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?    (013)

What do you mean by absolute sanctity? In order to get any 
ontological engineering done, we have to agree on a notation to write 
it all down in. There are very good reasons, both pragmatic, 
methodological and theoretical, why this notation should have a 
formally defined semantics. That pretty much makes it a logic, by 
definition. Now, the reason for suggesting FOL (actually the Common 
Logic version of FOL) is exactly that it imposes *minimal* 
restrictions on what can be said in it and what must be accepted as a 
given presupposition in order to use it. It is the most ontologically 
accommodating logic we know: it positively encourages 
multiculturalism. What more do you want?    (014)

>       or
>   (2) To figure out how the game can be played without excluding
>       anybody who doesn't buy into what the dominant cultures believe?    (015)

I don't think this even makes sense. What 'game' are you talking 
about? What are the 'dominant cultures'? In what sense are they 
dominant? If what you mean here is that people who do not actually 
know the subject should be able to join in the fun without actually 
learning the subject, then I would say, No, sorry.    (016)

>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.    (017)

Well, you go ahead and celebrate diversity of whichnesses. I won't 
even disturb you long enough to try to understand what the hell you 
are talking about, as I strongly suspect that there isn't anything 
there to be understood. In the meantime, the rest of us have some 
engineering to do. When we get something working, perhaps you can try 
playing some of your games with it.    (018)

>>  >  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.
>>  Believe it or not, people have thought about questions
>>  like this rather carefully, in many cultures.
>Quite right.
>>  >, we must fall back on
>>  >other things.  I think habits are what we fall back on, most of the
>  > >time.
>>  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.
>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.    (019)

No doubt you are intending to be sarcastic. I wouldn't have the 
hubris to claim that I thought of this stuff, but Tarski did. If you 
were to read up some basic texts in the area, you would find out how 
one can in fact understand enough about what a world is to enable 
questions of truth to be made explicit and objective. The key point 
is that almost all of an actual world is irrelevant to truth, which 
is what makes this whole subject possible.    (020)

>>  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'.
>You seem to be claiming that the meaning of 'and' is beyond culture?    (021)

Yes. I do. Not of the English word, but the concept of conjunction. 
It is beyond culture (actually prior to culture) because human 
thought - probably even animal thought - would be impossible without 
it.    (022)

>>  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?)
>I do make this claim.  Mathematics is a human endeavor, no more and no
>less.    (023)

True, let us agree. So is physics, for example.    (024)

>  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.    (025)

As a subject of thought it may not, but that does not mean that 
mathematical truths would not be true. Similarly, if no minds had 
existed then there would have been no theories of physics; 
nevertheless, the physical universe itself -  the *subject* of all 
those theories - would still have existed.    (026)

>  "Ah," you may say, "but 1 and 1 are still 2!"
>No.    (027)

So, if there are, say, two planets circling a distant star, and all 
human life is ended by the sun going nova, then there are no longer 
two planets circling that star? And before brains that could count 
evolved, there were no numbers of stars in a galaxy?    (028)

>  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.    (029)

This is a VERY hard view to defend. See previous comment. This isn't 
the forum to get into a debate about philosophy of mathematics, but 
let me just observe that your views are, to put it mildly, in the 
minority; and that they have, if taken seriously, a host of very 
difficult and highly unintuitive consequences.    (030)

>>  >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.
>Huh?    (031)

It was intended as a joke, but one with a bite. You were insisting 
that all our thoughts were rooted in culture. Yet you merrily talk of 
QM as though it were a single coherent body of thought. How is this 
possible, if physicists from different cultures must have their 
thoughts each rooted in their own human culture? How can SLAC or CERN 
have people from all over the world working together on a single 
experiment lasting several years, involving measurements of physical 
properties to 14 places of decimal precision, and yet their thoughts 
be all rooted in different cultures?    (032)

>>  >  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.
>Maybe we don't agree about what "truth" is.  For me, human expressions
>are one thing, and Truth is another.    (033)

Humans routinely make assertions (claims to truth) and these are 
often wrong (not true). These facts alone require that human 
expressions and truth (or Truth) are not entirely separate or 
completely disconnected from one another.    (034)

>We cannot prove anything about
>the connection, if any, between human expressions and Reality.    (035)

I'm sorry, but we can. Indeed, we do it all the time; human culture 
and life generally would be impossible without this ability to check 
assertions for their truth. People are condemned to death on the 
basis of such determinations. And in mathematics, we can actually 
*prove* that expressions are true.    (036)

>  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.    (037)

Nonsense. We use expressions to refer to things in the world, many - 
most - of which are not themselves expressions. I use your name to 
refer to you, and you are not an expression.    (038)

Really, this is not just a matter of our trading opinions with one 
another. Although you might not want to acknowledge it, what you are 
saying here amounts to staking out a (quite extreme) philosophical 
position. If you want to do this seriously, you really ought to get 
more informed about the arguments that have been used against your 
position, and be prepared to defend it against them. You certainly 
should do this if you expect others to find your views convincing.    (039)

>  Truth is something quite unspeakable, and it
>cannot be mastered.    (040)

Mastered? Im not sure what that means. It is however possible to 
utter truths, and in this mundane sense truth is not at all 
unspeakable. For example, I am typing this on my Mac laptop. The 
previous sentence is true. (There is a lot more that could be said 
about my circumstances, no doubt; but that does not affect the truth 
of that sentence.)    (041)

>  Human expressions can only speak of Reality
>incompletely    (042)

Probably correct, at least of physical reality.    (043)

>, and, in a very real sense, only by lying about it.    (044)

Nonsense. One can be incomplete but accurate and truthful.    (045)

>>  >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.
>I repeat: Here are two goals:
>   (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.
>   (2) To figure out how the game can be played without excluding
>       anybody who doesn't buy into what the dominant cultures believe.
>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).    (046)

I strongly disagree. (2) does not even seem to be a meaningful 
engineering goal.    (047)

>Consideration of these goals is relevant to technical questions of
>ontological design    (048)

I challenge you to justify this claim. I will make the counter-claim 
that is is utterly irrelevant. Now, prove me wrong :-).    (049)

>, 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?"    (050)

Well, I hate to beat the W3C drum, but HTML *has* pretty much taken 
over the world. It might be useful to ask why.    (051)

>  > >Our work cannot be ungrounded
>>  Can you elicidate what this is supposed to mean? What constitutes
>>  'grounding' in this sense?
>Sorry, I realize now that I was using "grounded" in a specialized
>sense.  Oops!
>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.    (052)

How what might be important? (Knowing oneself? Understanding the 
context? (In what sense of 'context'?) Being able to explain 
motivation and behavior? (Explain to whom? Why?) Understanding 
"success" in wider terms? (Wider in what sense? Applicable to a wider 
class of businesses? Taking in human life more broadly?) )    (053)

Never mind. But I still don't know what 'grounded' means.    (054)

Pat Hayes
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phayesAT-SIGNihmc.us       http://www.ihmc.us/users/phayes    (055)

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