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

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Adam Pease <adampease@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sun, 06 May 2007 10:51:15 +0530
Message-id: <463D65CB.6040203@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
   How do you map between two ontologies that are formally inconsistent? 
  If they're both formal logical theories whether you "merge" them or 
"translate" them it would seem you'd have the probably of contradiction, 
and therefore a meaningless result.    (01)

Adam    (02)

Pat Hayes wrote:
>> There is a big difference between having a vocabulary that allows us to
>> describe precisely different theories and their effects, and actually
>> believing that the models behind those theories are a full description
>> of the real world.  There is no need to make such a confusion.  Adam
>> Pease has pointed out that a lot of comments about how "one can't have
>> one consistent ontology" actually resolve into differences over
>> representations of the real world that can and must be resolved
>> experimentally,
> Wait. The differences that are most urgent and cause the most 
> problems for ontology are not differences between rival scientific 
> theories. The fact that nobody has a consistent theory encompassing 
> quantum electrodynamics and general relativity is a serious matter 
> for scientists, but not (yet) for ontologists. The real problem that 
> we face is this. One can take two people who agree completely about 
> the facts, and agree to use the very same logic to represent those 
> facts in, and yet they will produce different ontologies. (The 
> well-known example of how best to represent time and change is the 
> one I know in the most detail.) Moreover, those ontologies can be 
> formally inconsistent with one another. One cannot simply merge 
> together sentences from two such ontologies and expect to get a 
> sensible result. There are no *experiments* to resolve such 
> ontological differences, since the two authors agree about the 
> empirical facts; but one (for example) insists that there are two 
> distinct ways of existing in time, while the other treats these 
> simply as two (amongst many) ways to carve up a spatiotemporal 
> universe. The two authors here might be Barry Smith and me, 
> respectively. The differences are not empirical, but (sorry) 
> philosophical: in fact, they are *ontological*, in the original, 
> pre-AI, pre-Web, sense of that word. They reflect divergent, 
> incompatible, ways of thinking about some aspect of the world. 
> Differences like this cannot be resolved experimentally; and all the 
> evidence so far available suggests that to even attempt to 'resolve' 
> them, in the sense of deciding on a winner, is only going to alienate 
> a sizeable fraction of the user base.
> Now, what should we do about this? All the proposals I have ever 
> heard boil down to one of three alternatives: (1) ignore it and hope 
> it will go away (2) for each such conceptual debate, decide on one of 
> the alternatives and make it the single standard (somehow: perhaps by 
> compulsion, as some military funders seem to assume; perhaps by 
> commercial pressure, as PatC seems to suggest) or (3) find ways to 
> translate between them as they arise. I strongly believe that the 
> only long-term feasible method is (3), and we have made considerable 
> progress along these lines, enough to suggest that the translations 
> are always possible and often fairly easy, once one approaches the 
> problem in a pragmatic frame of mind. If all ontologies were written 
> in IKL, we could definitely do the translations for almost all of the 
> problems I aware of. In particular, option (2) simply isn't going to 
> work. People will simply not agree on what is the single right way to 
> write ontologies. Nor should they have to: there is absolutely no 
> reason why they should. Any attempt to enforce (or otherwise 
> persuade) the entire planet will only produce the kind of 
> interminable semi-philosophical debates that we are already having.
> Now, it may well be that the protagonists of a single Correct Upper 
> Ontology (an idea which I cannot help but find amusing, sorry) are in 
> fact doing the same thing in a different terminology. The work 
> involved in translating between rival conceptual frameworks is 
> probably essentially the same as that involved in fitting them into a 
> single coherent overarching framework. In both cases one needs to 
> worry about consistency, mappings between different ways to express 
> things, and so on. So it may well be that at a technical level we do 
> not really disagree. But the great advantages of taking the third 
> position are less technical than social. It allows people to use the 
> conceptual framework they are most comfortable using (for whatever 
> reason). It distributes the effort, in that ontologies which agree 
> can work together while waiting for translators to other ontologies, 
> probably written by different people. It takes advantage of the Web. 
> It can support an 'ontology open source' model, with all its 
> advantages of flexibility and immediate 'swarming' of effort on 
> urgent problems. And finally, it requires no organization or massive 
> Manhatten-project scale funding or management effort. The world will 
> just do it, as needed, and the global network of ontologies will in 
> fact get created. It is already starting to happen.
> Pat
>     (03)

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