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

To: Charles D Turnitsa <CTurnits@xxxxxxx>
Cc: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx>
Date: Sun, 29 Apr 2007 22:32:17 -0700
Message-id: <p06230940c25b2bd75bd8@[]>
>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.    (01)

Im not sure what importance that word 
'universally' has, but I place on record that I 
did not use it.    (02)

>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.    (03)

It is not true. But its being false does not make 
it any the less objective. It is objective by 
virtue of being about the actual world, and 
capable of being tested against the world: as we 
say, empirically. In fact, it could be refuted 
only because it was, and remains, objective.    (04)

>  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.    (05)

Really? We treat as commonplace things that would 
have been widely regarded as impossible in 1850. 
Transistor radios, for example. It wouldnt have 
been possible to explain a transistor radio to a 
physicist in 1850. I sometimes play a mental game 
of imagining that I have Jane Austin with me, and 
trying to explain to her, in her terms, what she 
is seeing (a subway train arriving, a car, an 
airplane taking off, paying with a credit card 
passed through a scanner, opening a door with a 
card key, turning a radio tuning dial...) Its 
really quite hard to do, and sometimes you just 
have to say, Its something I can't explain.    (06)

>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.    (07)

The trouble with this observation is that it 
simply isn't clear what you mean by CONTEXT. If 
ever there were a word that gets used to mean 
almost anything, this is it. (The only rival is 
"System"). What *do* you mean?    (08)

>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.    (09)

All of the facts? That is almost always 
impossible, and even when possible is not usually 
a sensible goal. Why would an ontology capture 
ALL the facts about something? And what can this 
mean?    (010)

>   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.    (011)

Why 'prescriptive'?    (012)

>  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.    (013)

This applies to every communication about anything in any form. So?    (014)

>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    (015)

What does this mean? What kind of 'context' are you talking about?    (016)

Pat    (017)

>- 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)
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