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

To: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Steve Newcomb <srn@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: 28 Apr 2007 11:06:11 -0400
Message-id: <87odl8lesc.fsf@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx> writes:    (01)

> I think you are reading more into that word [objective] than 
> I do. Objective does not mean final, absolute, or 
> permanent. It means concerned with facts rather 
> than opinions.    (02)

Please give an example of a statement of a fact that cannot be
regarded as a statement of an opinion.    (03)

>  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.    (04)

Pat, we've been talking right past each other.  I used logic as an
example of something that's a sacred cow for many (including both you
and me), in order to illustrate the problem that one person's *truth*,
no matter how well-reasoned or admirable or proven or descended from
Sinai or consistent or WHATEVER it is, may be regarded by another
person as *opinion*.  The fact that the general applicability of logic
is not a matter of opinion, at least in in *our* minds, does not
change the fact that, for others, this may be just our opinion.  Such
people do not share our values, or they do not share our experience,
or whatever.    (05)

My concern is to be able to allow *their* opinions to share the
mainstream with whatever our "opinions" are.  I do not want to exclude
things just because they are illogical, or naive, or wrong-headed, or
WHATEVER.  As far as I can see, what's needed is a mainstream that's
value-neutral, opinion-neutral, culture-neutral, logic-neutral, etc.
Neutral.  I deeply agree with John's reminder of Pierce's injunction
to avoid blocking inquiry.  I would only add Hamlet's remark:    (06)

   There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, 
   Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.    (07)

If we want to be able to allow the things of which we have not yet
dreamt (but of which others may have) in the mainstream of information
processing, then we'll have to make room for them.  We cannot exclude
them for *any* reason, other than perhaps that they are destructively
viral, or something like that.  (And even then, who gets to decide
what's "destructive"?  Better to find an approach that shrugs off
attacks.)    (08)

If we assume that the information that a given ontology will govern
will never appear in any mainstream other than the mainstream defined
by itself (and/or the ontologies from which it is co-derived), then we
assume that there can be no value-neutral mainstream that delegates to
to the marketplace of ideas all decisions regarding what's valuable,
what the nature of "value" is, what's relevant to what, and what
bridges between perspectives are possible or useful.    (09)

>  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.    (010)

I meant no disparagement.  And I certainly did *not* mean to abandon
*my* values, or for anyone else to abandon theirs.    (011)

(And as for your "articulate and analytical" requirement, touché.  I
have not found a good way to talk about this.  A good way would be
compelling *without* being off-putting.  If you think of one, please
call me collect!)    (012)

> That is a fundamental 
> intellectual mistake, and ultimately an 
> anti-intellectual and anti-scientific stance to 
> adopt.     (013)

Do you really believe the mainstream should exclude:    (014)

  * mistakes?    (015)

  * anti-intellectualism?  (Is the mainstream of human communications
    and knowledge the exclusive province of intellectuals?)    (016)

  * anti-scientism?    (017)

  * religion?  (Or even its ugly stepchild, religious fundamentalism?)    (018)

My own feeling is that suppressing these things makes them more
destructive, not less.  To suppress them mechanically, by exclusion of
one or more parts of their own foundations, or by requiring them to
stand on a foundation that does not suit them, is to challenge them to
survive *apart* from the public square.  This may make the public
square cleaner, more attractive, and easier to navigate, but the
ultimate cost can be very high.  It's better to let them appear in the
mainstream.  Let them stand in the full light of day.  Let them remain
in their withering/evergreen state permanently, as public monuments to
their wrongheadedness and as meeting-places for people who are still
learning their lessons.    (019)

> 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*.    (020)

I think we're arguing about the definitions of our terms, here.  My
use of the term "Truth" causes cognitive dissonance for you.  It is
not helping us communicate.  I've been talking about the kind of truth
that is revealed only when we can see something from multiple
perspectives.  You've been talking about an objective theory of truth.
Not the same thing.    (021)

Reality doesn't exist in the absence of perspective.  Reality is
subjective, not objective.  When people speak, they speak the truth if
they say what is real for them.  The *real* worlds are the worlds that
are real *for persons*.  Science, our Truth-seeking process, has long
recognized this.  For example, the differences between different
persons' realities are the the reasons why experiments that yield
significant results need to be independently replicated.    (022)

If we can participate in *multiple* realities, even including
"realities" that we deprecate for one reason or another, sometimes we
understand things better.  It is not True, and not Scientific, to
believe that Science moves forward entirely on the basis of what
is already thought to be known about Truth.    (023)

> 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.    (024)

No.  My point is merely that we should make room for the something
else, lest it be suffocated at birth, and we be deprived of its
value.    (025)

> ...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.    (026)

Yes.  And how can the mainstream best provide for such mutual
education?    (027)

(a) By demanding that whatever is expressed be expressed in
    terms of some particular ontology?    (028)

(b) By supporting an ontology-neutral mainstream for interchanging and
    integrating diverse, and diversely expressed, knowledge that
    emanates from diverse perspectives (realities)?    (029)

In my work, I see a lot of sentiment in favor of (a), and very little
in favor of (b).  Experience tells me that (a) can work well within a
small community, and even in a large community with very smart
leadership and very compliant members, but *not* otherwise.  I'm
interested in (b) because I think it might make things better.    (030)

-- Steve    (031)

Steven R. Newcomb, Consultant
Coolheads Consulting    (032)

Co-editor, Topic Maps International Standard (ISO/IEC 13250)
Co-editor, draft Topic Maps -- Reference Model (ISO/IEC 13250-5)    (033)

http://www.coolheads.com    (034)

direct: +1 540 951 9773
main:   +1 540 951 9774
fax:    +1 540 951 9775    (035)

208 Highview Drive
Blacksburg, Virginia 24060 USA    (036)

(Confidential to all US government personnel to whom this private
letter is not addressed and who are reading it in the absence of a
specific search warrant: In keeping with the publicly-confessed
criminal conduct of the Bush administration, and with the
irresponsible actions of the pusillanimous and corrupt 109th Congress,
you are co-conspiring to subvert the Constitution that you are sworn
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expect to suffer criminal sanctions in the future, when the Executive
Branch of the government of the United States of America once again
demonstrates respect for the rule of law.  I do not envy you for
having to make this difficult choice, but I urge you to make it
wisely.)    (037)

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