[Top] [All Lists]

[ontolog-forum] objective truth (was Re: {Disarmed} Re: OWL and lack of)

To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: Charles D Turnitsa <CTurnits@xxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 30 Apr 2007 01:09:25 -0400
Message-id: <OF11BB19EE.3498AF0B-ON852572CD.001C541D-852572CD.001C5424@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Pat, Steve,

 In the (very interesting) conversation you are having concerning the representation of "facts" within an ontology as either objective or subjective, I have a few observations that may help the conversation (or at least will kick it down the street a few meters).

 First, to be fair, let me give my vantage point on the topic at large.  I see that there are very few things that may be said which are universally objective.  Things based upon abstractions and abstract law (such as mathematics) are among these.  Moving beyond the abstract, into the nature of things, behaviors, actions, processes, and so on - I see that there are fewer and fewer things that can be stated universally objectively. 

Take, for instance, Newtonian physics.  In 1850, one is tempted to say that the whole system of Newtonian Physics is objectively true.  In 1950, one is tempted to say that it is not true.  For the majority of the world, there is no change in their interaction with the universe when compared between the world of 1850 and the world of 1950, however the truth about a description of that interaction has changed.

I do see, however, that from a particular perspective, at a particular place and time, that truths may be said to be objective (in that there is no reasonably acceptable objection to their applicability).  This is essentially stating that truths may be stated to be objective WITHIN A CONTEXT.  The context may be implicit (i.e. - from the perspective of the community espousing the truth, and given a knowledge of the world at the time that the truth was stated), but it is quite another thing altogether to state that a truth is universally objective.

Now, as far as ontological engineering is concerned, I think this is helpful when we consider the difference between low level ontologies and high level ontologies.  Low level ontologies, or those pertaining to a particular system or document (or a limited class of systems or documents) can be said to be objective, within the context of the system they are describing, if they capture all of the knowable facts concerning the definition of objects, processes and relationships that are possible within that system.  This is an example of a descriptive ontology.  On the other hand, if there is an upper level ontology, describing the nature and behavior of entities within some world view (regardless of what may be captured - correctly or incorrectly - in any one system or document that has a model of that world view), that upper level ontology will seek to be as close to universally objective as possible.  This is an example of a prescriptive ontology.  The thing not stated is that the objective nature of truth within this upper level ontology is limited to the current understanding of the world view that the developers of the ontology had, at the time that they crafted it - and from the perspective that they perceived the world view from.

To be strictly useful, and to avoid misunderstanding, I see that it would be useful for ontological engineers to somehow identify the nature of the ontology they have developed in terms of the context of its generation - this will give reasonable and manageable brackets to the objective nature of the truth captured within the ontology.


Charles Turnitsa
Project Scientist
Virginia Modeling, Analysis & Simulation Center
Old Dominion University Research Foundation
(757) 638-6315 (voice)

Message Archives: http://ontolog.cim3.net/forum/ontolog-forum/  
Subscribe/Config: http://ontolog.cim3.net/mailman/listinfo/ontolog-forum/  
Unsubscribe: mailto:ontolog-forum-leave@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Shared Files: http://ontolog.cim3.net/file/
Community Wiki: http://ontolog.cim3.net/wiki/ 
To Post: mailto:ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx    (01)

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>