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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: Patrick Durusau <patrick@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sun, 29 Apr 2007 08:45:34 -0400
Message-id: <4634936E.2020406@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Pat,    (01)

Pat Hayes wrote:    (02)

>> John,
>> John F. Sowa wrote:
>>> Steve,
>>> 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
>> exchange:
>> 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)
> 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*.
I suspect we have started from different assumptions concerning "logic."    (03)

I would agree that it is possible to state "facts" about logic, such as 
FOL, since it starts from a given set of fundamental propositions and 
statements based on those propositions can be said to be consistent with 
those beginning propositions. If you want to call those "facts" I 
suppose you can use that term if you like but it runs the danger of 
being confused with the more common use of the terms "facts."    (04)

That is to say that logical proofs are a means of demonstrating that 
some conclusion is consistent with the fundamental propositions of 
logic, for which no proof is offered. And I would agree that given the 
fundamental propositions, proofs are not subject to the claim that they 
are in some way culturally biased or even dependent upon culture.    (05)

However, there is an intellectual sleight of hand in your first 
paragraph that you repeat in your reply to Newcomb today that may have 
been missed by some readers so I will try to tease it out from your prose.    (06)

Recall that we start from the premise that statements can be made using 
a logic, such as FOL, that can be "proved" to be consistent with its 
given premises. I don't think anyone seriously disagrees with that 
statement. But note that all FOL can offer is that some given statement 
is consistent with the premises of FOL and whatever other premises you 
supply.    (07)

But, then you make the curious statement: *It means concerned with facts 
rather than opinions.*    (08)

Then of course you go into the usual rant about "anti-intellectual and 
anti-scientific, etc." which is meant to tar anyone who disagrees with 
you with a variety of perjorative labels.    (09)

But the critical move is the assumption that simply because given a set 
of fundamental premises, anyone with training in formal logic will agree 
that some statement or proof is consistent with the requirements of FOL 
that extends beyond the confines of FOL to include your *facts rather 
than opinions.*    (010)

That is quite a jump and one often unseen by those who want logical 
"proof" of whatever the contemporary bigotry is the coin of the realm.    (011)

Let me be clear: I carry no brief against formal logic and think that it 
has been, is and will be incredibly useful both within and without work 
on ontologies. But, that does not mean that formal logic in any shape, 
form or fashion offers an *objective theory of truth*. (note the lower 
case "t" in truth)    (012)

>> 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.
> 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 was that gradiose claims of being *the answer,* whether 
from formal logic or any other methodology should be ignored.    (013)

Marvin Minsky, who is still considered by many as one of the leading 
supporters of the strong AI position, certainly doesn't view logic as 
the only methodology to be used in a successful AI system. You may find 
the podcasts, "It's 2001, Where is Hal?" amusing:    (014)

http://ddj.com/dept/ai/197700447    (015)

And no, I haven't ever said that we should ignore all of science and 
philosophy.    (016)

But then cherry picking science and philosophy to support some highly 
suspect notion of "facts" isnt' what I consider to be following science 
and philosophy. I seem to remember most of the 20th century being 
concerned with debates in philosophy that you want to settle with your 
"facts vs. opinions" position.    (017)

>> 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.
> 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.
So you think berately people on this list for being "anti-intellectual 
and anti-scientific" is a form of useful debate? Hmmmm, I suppose we 
must disagree about "useful debate" as much as we do about your claims 
of being "objective."    (018)

I don't think recognizing logic as being concerned with formal 
consistency with a fundamental set of propositions in any way diminishes 
the importance of logic in the many realms where it is used.    (019)

Or to put it another way, logic is *not* concerned with "objective" 
truths, facts, etc. With the appropriate starting premises, any 
statement that is not itself inconsistent with the fundamental premises 
of FOL can be "proven." That doesn't make it "objective" or even true.    (020)

Hope you are having a great weekend!    (021)

Patrick    (022)

Patrick Durusau
Chair, V1 - Text Processing: Office and Publishing Systems Interface
Co-Editor, ISO 13250, Topic Maps -- Reference Model
Member, Text Encoding Initiative Board of Directors, 2003-2005    (023)

Topic Maps: Human, not artificial, intelligence at work!     (024)

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