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

To: Patrick Durusau <patrick@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 27 Apr 2007 02:31:12 -0500
Message-id: <p06230905c25752426e9c@[]>
>John F. Sowa wrote:
>>As Chris Menzel observed, some points in your note are questionable.
>>But I certainly believe that point #2 is very important:
>>>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).
>>I believe that ontology is very much an empirical science and that
>>scientists would never dream of *forcing* agreement on everybody.
>>Consensus in science is only achieved after long periods of dispute,
>>in which contending factions do their best to establish their own case.
>True enough but note that earlier in this thread there was the following
>Steve Newcomb:
>When it comes to a question that cannot have an objective answer
>Pat Hayes responding:
>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.
>Even "consensus" doesn't equal "objective" answer.
>I have no difficulty with anyone claiming that their favorite ontology
>or method gives a more useful answer (by some scale) than another
>ontology or method.
>But, I do object to the notion that there are "objective" answers. (full
>stop)    (01)

I think you are reading more into that word than 
I do. Objective does not mean final, absolute, or 
permanent. It means concerned with facts rather 
than opinions. What this thread began with was 
the question of whether it was possible for there 
to be objective facts about logic, or whether in 
contrast any logic was culturally embedded and 
hence merely a collection of opinions or habits 
or perhaps cultural prejudices. And my point was 
simply that this second idea about logic is plain 
flat wrong, and (I suspect) arises from ignorance 
about the actual subject itself. What technical 
logic (aka 'mathematical logic' or 'formal logic' 
or simply these days 'modern logic') has 
developed is a collection of ideas and methods of 
analysis that amount to an *objective* theory of 
truth, and hence of the superstructure of ideas 
which rest on this notion of truth: entailment, 
validity, consistency, etc.. To call this 
'objective' is not to claim that it is a final, 
absolute truth which cannot be challenged. 
(Amusingly, most of my professional life has been 
spent challenging one part of it or another.) It 
is to say that the challenge must be more 
articulate and analytical than merely disparaging 
the entire subject as a cultural opinion, just 
one more subjective view among a multitude of 
equally mythical cultural positions vying validly 
for attention, and deserving of no special claim 
on our allegiance. That is a fundamental 
intellectual mistake, and ultimately an 
anti-intellectual and anti-scientific stance to 
adopt. It seems to go along with a view that 
Truth (note the use of the mystical Capital 
Letter) is something unattainable, beyond the 
lowly human realm, something transcendent, almost 
religious; so to claim to have a science of 
mathematics of Truth is ridiculous, and a sign of 
a limited cultural imagination. But this is just 
the other side of the same misunderstanding. We 
can, and do, have an objective theory of truth 
precisely because truth is not transcendent or 
unknowable or absolute. It is limited, mundane, 
and tied to human forms of expression, and we are 
often mistaken about it; but not about what it 
*is*.    (02)

>I am reminded of a PBS special on the mind that reported the story of an
>English patient who as the result of a brain fever had a time window of
>about 30 seconds. He kept a journal in which he repeatedly wrote: "Now I
>am awake." When questioned about the entries prior to the one he had
>just written, he would vehemently deny authorship of the prior entries.
>There have been no shortages of "Now [we are] awake." moments in human
>history. I see no reason to give current claims any more credit than we
>are generally inclined to give prior claims of the same nature.    (03)

So is your point that we should ignore all of 
science and philosophy because it will eventually 
be replaced by something else? That seems like a 
recipe for always doing nothing.    (04)

>Certainly we should argue for whatever answer we think is the best one
>but my only caution is to avoid wrapping our answer (it is never someone
>else's) in the mantle of being an "objective" answer. That cuts off any
>debate and automatically disenfranchises any contrary viewpoint.    (05)

Nonsense. Most useful debate is about objective 
claims. And most useful debate is not merely the 
pitting of contrary viewpoints against one 
another, but arises when people try to understand 
the other position: which often requires a lot of 
mutual education.    (06)

Pat    (07)

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