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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: Sun, 29 Apr 2007 00:06:01 -0700
Message-id: <p0623092dc259e2dcab1b@[]>
>Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx> writes:
>>  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.
>Please give an example of a statement of a fact that cannot be
>regarded as a statement of an opinion.    (01)

There are so many its hard to know where to 
start. Arithmetic affords an infinity of them, 
including for example    (02)

3.(4-1)=9    (03)

and other branches of mathematics afford a much 
richer and more exotic set of examples, such as 
the Jordan Curve theorem (one of my favorites).    (04)

If you find mathematical truths a bit wonky, I 
would suggest any reasonably thoroughly verified 
scientific truth, such as the theory of 
continental drift, say. Of course, any strictly 
scientific truth is ultimately subject to 
disconformation - in which case we discover that 
it wasn't true after all - but that doesn't make 
it into a mere *opinion*. Opinions are cheap; 
truths are harder to find, and require a certain 
mental discipline, attention to detail, and a 
willingness to be careful about what one says.    (05)

>  >  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.
>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*.    (06)

Im afraid I thoroughly disagree. There really are 
objective truths, and someone who asserts that 
such a truth is merely a matter of opinion is 
just wrong. Most of logic consists of truths 
which are necessary: which could not *possibly* 
be false.    (07)

>  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.    (08)

There is of course no accounting for the vagaries 
of human belief. But I see no particular 
compulsion to be consistent with nonsense.    (09)

>  Such
>people do not share our values, or they do not share our experience,
>or whatever.    (010)

No, they are simply wrong. It has nothing to do 
with values, and its not a matter of culture. 
Truth is not culturally relative.    (011)

>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.    (012)

Then we disagree fundamentally. I do want to 
exclude them; or at least, I want their authors 
to acquire enough of an education to be able to 
understand what we are talking about.    (013)

>  As far as I can see, what's needed is a mainstream that's
>value-neutral, opinion-neutral, culture-neutral, logic-neutral,    (014)

Value, opinion and culture, I agree. But you have 
to tell me what that last term 'logic-neutral' 
means. If someone is using a different LOGIC, I 
don't think it is even possible to determine if 
they are rational enough to communicate with.    (015)

>Neutral.  I deeply agree with John's reminder of Pierce's injunction
>to avoid blocking inquiry.  I would only add Hamlet's remark:
>    There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio,
>    Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
>    (016)

More THINGS, yes. I also agree with this: in 
fact, I coined the term 'Horatio principle' to 
motivate the design of the Common Logic 'module' 
construction. But to admit this idea, that there 
are things about which we know nothing and have 
nothing to say, is not to allow a plenitude of 
*logics*.    (017)

>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.    (018)

How? We don't know what they are.    (019)

>  We cannot exclude
>them for *any* reason,    (020)

On the contrary, we cannot do anything other than 
ignore them, as Wittgenstein pointed out. (Wovon 
man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muß man 
schweigen. ) If that ignoring will cause trouble 
later when they appear and their value is 
recognized, we will have to reconsider our work 
at that point. Such is life: in any case, nothing 
we do is likely to last more than about 5 to 10 
years. But we cannot plan to include things about 
which we cannot, by definition, have any 
information whatever.    (021)

>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
>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),    (022)

Im not sure what you mean by a mainstream. The 
Semantic Web vision is one of many, many 
ontologies, all part of a world-wide web of 
information, referring to one another and in some 
cases saying more about concepts used in other 
ontologies; with new ontologies appearing every 
minute, just like web pages do at present. Could 
this be what you call a 'mainstream'? It is not 
value-free, of course; but it can be what one 
might call multi-valued, in that the various 
ontologies will presumably be written by people 
from a large variety of cultures and backgrounds, 
and having different purposes in mind. But this 
is possible only if they all agree to use the 
same basic logic to communicate with one another.    (023)

>  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.
>>   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.
>I meant no disparagement.  And I certainly did *not* mean to abandon
>*my* values, or for anyone else to abandon theirs.
>(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!)
>>  That is a fundamental
>>  intellectual mistake, and ultimately an
>>  anti-intellectual and anti-scientific stance to
>>  adopt.
>Do you really believe the mainstream should exclude:
>   * mistakes?
>   * anti-intellectualism?  (Is the mainstream of human communications
>     and knowledge the exclusive province of intellectuals?)
>   * anti-scientism?
>   * religion?  (Or even its ugly stepchild, religious fundamentalism?)
>My own feeling is that suppressing these things makes them more
>destructive, not less.    (024)

What are we talking about here? Are we writing a 
Bill of Rights for a human society, or are we 
trying to do ontology engineering? I have 
absolutely no interest in politics, myself, so Im 
definitely not trying to do the former. So, yes, 
of course I don't advocate suppressing religion. 
But I also doubt that we need to have a 
theologist as part of an ontology design team 
(unless we are doing an ontology of theology, 
maybe.)    (025)

>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.    (026)

I have no idea what you are talking about here.    (027)

>>  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*.
>I think we're arguing about the definitions of our terms, here.  My
>use of the term "Truth" causes cognitive dissonance for you.    (028)

Well, you havn't actually defined it: but I think 
I get your drift. It doesn't cause me cognitive 
dissonance (if it did, I might be more inclined 
to agree with it): I just think its mistaken.    (029)

>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.    (030)

Hmm. Can you give me an example? Most of the 
cross-cultural cases I know in detail are cases 
where one culture got something wrong and the 
other culture got it right, or at any rate more 
right.    (031)

>  You've been talking about an objective theory of truth.
>Not the same thing.
>Reality doesn't exist in the absence of perspective.  Reality is
>subjective, not objective.    (032)

Absolute nonsense. Reality existed for billions 
of years before there was anything that could 
form a subjective view of it. If, as seems quite 
possible, this planet contains the only life 
capable of having a subjective view, and our sun 
goes nova and wipes us all out, the universe will 
carry on being objectively real without noticing 
our passing.    (033)

>  When people speak, they speak the truth if
>they say what is real for them.    (034)

No. They speak the truth when what they say is in 
fact the case, in the actual world.    (035)

>The *real* worlds are the worlds that
>are real *for persons*.    (036)

No, the real world is the one that persons 
inhabit and are part of. There is only one of it. 
It is the one where if someone throws a brick at 
you in it, you really do get objectively hurt. 
(Alternative definition, from Peter Viereck: 
Reality is that which, when you don't believe in 
it, doesn't go away.)    (037)

>   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.    (038)

You couldn't be more wrong about this point, but 
this isn't the forum to go into a debate about 
philosophy of science.    (039)

>If we can participate in *multiple* realities, even including
>"realities" that we deprecate for one reason or another, sometimes we
>understand things better.    (040)

Again, I'd like to see an example. I think this 
is (leaving aside the nonsense about multiple 
*realities*) usually false. Divergent points of 
view are usually mostly wrong: insight comes from 
locating the one that might be closest to the 
truth.    (041)

>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.    (042)

Well, actually science does kind of do this. 
Theories are replaced, for sure: but part of what 
the new theory must be able to do is to account 
for the things that the old theory also 
explained. Science requires that explanations 
always increase, and older 'truths', now 
exploded, can often be used as useful 
approximations. Newtonian physics is wrong, but 
it is a good enough approximation to enable 
navigation to Saturn.    (043)

>  > 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.
>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.    (044)

This something else is an *alternative* to all of 
science? I'm not going to hold my breath in case 
that turns out to be of any real value.    (045)

>  > ...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.
>Yes.  And how can the mainstream best provide for such mutual
>(a) By demanding that whatever is expressed be expressed in
>     terms of some particular ontology?    (046)

It might often be useful for each side to express 
its ideas in an ontology-ish form. We have found 
for example than many disagreements can be 
exposed and then resolved by having the people 
involved cooperate on the construction of a 
concept map, which can often be seen as a kind of 
informal sketch of an ontology.    (047)

>(b) By supporting an ontology-neutral mainstream for interchanging and
>     integrating diverse, and diversely expressed, knowledge that
>     emanates from diverse perspectives (realities)?
>In my work, I see a lot of sentiment in favor of (a)    (048)

Do you? I have never advocated this, and I havnt 
heard it advocated much in Ontolog discussions 
(though 'controlled vocabularies' do have this 
flavor, I will admit.)    (049)

>, and very little
>in favor of (b).    (050)

That might be because (b) is, on the face of it, 
impossible, or maybe meaningless. An ontology is 
a formalization of a conceptualization. There 
cannot be a conceptualization-free ontology: the 
idea doesn't make sense.    (051)

>  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.    (052)

Well, as I say, you go ahead. I have no idea what 
you plan to do, and I don't expect you to be able 
to make very much progress, but I'd be delighted 
to be proved wrong. In the meantime, the rest of 
us will try to get some actual ontological work 
done.    (053)

Pat    (054)

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