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Re: [ontolog-forum] A "common basis"

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 04 May 2007 08:16:36 -0400
Message-id: <463B2424.6090008@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Pat and Patrick,    (01)

I agree that the hypothesis is either trivial or false.    (02)

PC> What specifically isn't feasible?  Specifically, what
 > cannot be done?    (03)

PH> Locate a set of basic concepts sufficient that all
 > others can be derived from the base set by writing
 > definitions.    (04)

To test the hypothesis, I checked the _Longman Dictionary of
Contemporary English_, which uses a small defining vocabulary.
And I looked for the term 'quantum mechanics'.    (05)

That term was not in the dictionary, but it did have two
related terms:    (06)

   quantum.  _tech_ (esp. in PHYSICS) a fixed amount.    (07)

   quantum theory.  the idea that ENERGY (3) travels in
      fixed amounts (QUANTA).    (08)

Some points to note:    (09)

  1. The word 'tech' in italics is a metalevel term that
     indicates the word 'quantum' is technical.    (010)

  2. The capitalized words PHYSICS, ENERGY, AND QUANTA
     are not in the defining list.    (011)

  3. The parenthesized 3 indicates that the third
     definition of 'energy' is being used.    (012)

Following is definition 3 of 'energy':    (013)

    the power which does work and drives machines:
    _atomic / electrical energy / the energy of the sun_    (014)

These definitions may be useful for human beings who
have no knowledge of the subject (say, quantum mechanics)
and want to get a vague notion of what the term means.    (015)

They might also be useful for an analogy engine that
searches for patterns of associations among a family
of terms.  See, for example,    (016)

    Analogical Reasoning    (017)

But if you (or a computer program) need to do any kind
of serious reasoning about these terms, you have to study
physics.  Any associations that a human or a computer
picks up from such a dictionary are going to be *wrong*.
They will have to be corrected by a method that is far
more complex than writing one-line definitions in terms
of a small vocabulary.    (018)

In physics, for example, the words 'power' and 'energy'
have clearly distinct definitions, and it is false to
say that energy is power.    (019)

I consider these examples to be sufficient *proof* that
the idea of using a small defining vocabulary is useless
for defining anything beyond vague associations.  Anybody
who needs further convincing should check other technical
terms in Longman's.    (020)

John    (021)

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