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Re: [ontolog-forum] objective truth and reality

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: paola.dimaio@xxxxxxxxx
Date: Tue, 1 May 2007 15:21:47 +0700
Message-id: <c09b00eb0705010121w7e8a0290scd214e65c3c2dbac@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Charles and all

I think my reply belongs both here, and to the other related thread (truth and reality), but I believe this is where the other thread originated,
A valuable point you make below (shall we attach a truth value to our ontological assertions, to gauge their validity to the purpose of the ontology? I, of course, believe yes)

Both reality and truth are of great personal interest to me

How can reality be measured? objective parameters, metrics, asking around what people see.
Think of a simple investigation work when something happens, you gather the evidence, analyse it, ask people what they see. But reality is not any single piece of evidence alone, only when we put the pieces together we get a glimpse of the picture. Reality is like a puzzle, except that while with a puzzle you can generally see if there is a piece missing,
with reality sometimes you assume you got all the pieces, so what you see is the final picture, but there is
no guarantee that some piece is not missing, because you have no clue as to what reality really look like, you only know what all the pieces that you have look like.

So the great presumption, and where some 'scientific thinkers' sometimes are mislead, is to think that they are looking at the complete picture, while they are only looking at the  the evidence in their possession.

think of this in terms of truthness and completeness, which is I believe accepted

There are a lot of other variables:
1.sensorial perception - we know the world through our physical senses and intellect, which are subjective
2. limitations of measurement - we measure the world through arbitrary parameters. maths itself is 'arbitrary' in the sense that we follow certain number systems for convenience, but for the little I know we could simply change the values and intervals between numbers and maths would look different (not that I would be able to tell)
3. context. You mention context below, which is important. For example, a fact is that someone has had an accident and died, but all the personal drama, the last moments of his life, what would have happened if he had taken another road, the motives around the incident dynamic, lots of other stuff concerning that event can be perceived subjectively, or based on your interest in the case. The insurance company surely only wants to know certain facts about an accident, maybe a newspaper reporter has entirley a different dimension he is working with, maybe a family member has another perceiption of reality. What is reality in this case?

My theory  (I need to learn how to put together a theorem) is that reality does not exist
objectively (following the first argument above),  but can be measured according to objective parameters, as well as subjective ones, and that only the objective parameters can be shared socially, the others belong to  a personal sphere

So reality is like a layered cake, of which some people chose to eat only the layer that they like and some layers are only apprecited by them, while the others see some big holes between layers, perhaps.

I standby my assertion that reality is the sum of everything that is true, and I am puzzled as to how should I demonstrate that? (giggle)
Somehow I feel there is more urgent work to be done

This is why we need to establish
 the relationship, I believe, reality and truth
For example, assume something is true (x murdered y), but x hides the evidence, and makes z look like he's done it

If we base our investigation on the evidence, which has been tampered with but we dont know it, then z looks guilty, and x innocent.  So reality is that x is guilty, but looks innocent, and viceversa for z, but the evidence says the contrary.
Realism might say, you must consider the evidence alone for your judgement, but you must acknowledge it might be wrong.

Being 'realistic' in this sense, we may make the mistake that reality that we are taking into account is both
true and complete, while we have no assurance from anywhere in the universe that what we are looking anywhere in the rworld  at is completely true and complete, other than in certain very defined observations (hence defining the contextual dimension is important, and being aware of the 'objective limitations' of reality is important)

Let me rephrase that
Reality can be defined only within the parameters that is being observed.

(maybe this is more acceptable)

Just a couple more things

1. people jumping from the building, are very likely to splat, but this is not always true
There are known events when people survived, even a parachuter from 10000 feet in freefall


How does realism explain that? More likely simply choses to ignore these facts.
Realism explain some things, but not everything.

2. A couple of years ago I bugged NIST about making the terms in controlled vocabularies be set to true/false values. I have lost my record of those exchanges, but the person who politely followed my argument (cant rememebr her name, it was a she) said that my point had been noted and would be taken up but the controlled vocabulary committee.
Is anyone on this list in that committee, I think its time I follow up on that issue.


Paola Di Maio


The issue with reality
On 4/30/07, Charles D Turnitsa <CTurnits@xxxxxxx> wrote:
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)

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