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Re: [ontolog-forum] {Disarmed} Reality and Truth

To: "Conklin, Don" <don.conklin@xxxxxxxx>
Cc: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 17 May 2007 13:08:18 -0700
Message-id: <p06230930c2724dbaf48c@[]>
>Content-type: multipart/alternative;
>       boundary="Boundary_(ID_5bGOrBJ2H6orPv8J3MwZ4g)"
>Content-class: urn:content-classes:message
>When my two year old daughter decided to 
>dispense with her diaper, after using it to full 
>capacity, the truth was succinct, quite messy, 
>very real and long to clean up
>From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 
>On Behalf Of Bill Andersen
>Sent: Thursday, May 17, 2007 9:41 AM
>To: [ontolog-forum]
>Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] {Disarmed} Reality and Truth
>On May 17, 2007, at 08:31 , Deborah MacPherson wrote:
>Reality is messy and long, Truth is edited and coherent. 
>Bill Andersen (<mailto:andersen@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>andersen@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx)
>Chief Scientist
>Ontology Works, Inc. (<http://www.ontologyworks.com>www.ontologyworks.com)
>3600 O'Donnell Street, Suite 600
>Baltimore, MD 21224
>Office: 410-675-1201
>Cell: 443-858-6444
>    (01)

If I may intervene here (before someone starts up 
a fan) I think that everyone here in fact agrees, 
but they are using the terminology in exactly 
opposite senses. Let me try to state what I think 
is the agreement in neutral terms.    (02)

There is a world out there. It is quite amazingly 
big and complicated, however you look at it. If 
you think of it as physical then every cubic cm 
of it in the immediate vicinity has about 10|14 
atoms in it all buzzing around in a quantum 
dance, not to mention all the photons. If you 
think of it as social then it has hundreds of 
millions of people engaged in all sorts of 
activities every few seconds, all from different 
cultures and zeitgeists and so on. If 
biologically, just the lichens are enough to make 
you feel dizzy. However you think of it, its WAY 
too big to describe fully or to even think about 
without getting a headache. And anyway, in order 
to think about it, we have to use some way to 
describe it to ourselves. We have to think about 
it using some set of ideas or concepts or 
thoughts or words, or whatever these things are 
that we have in our heads and use to think with. 
And these - call them our ideas - are both 
limited and limiting. They can only describe a 
limited part of the actual world of reality: 
there is just too much of it to think about it 
all. Moreover, we can't think about reality 
"raw", as it actually IS, without using some set 
of ideas. So what we think about it - reality, 
that is - is always in some sense colored, and no 
doubt distorted, by the ideas that we have to 
think about it with. Indeed, if there are some 
aspects of reality about which we have no ideas - 
and there almost certainly are, for all of us - 
then we can't think about that part or aspect of 
reality at all. And we may not all have the same 
set of ideas, so our thoughts may be 
incommensurate with one another.    (03)

(Now, one position is that since we can only 
think with ideas, and cannot ever get hold of raw 
reality uncolored by some mental framework, that 
even to postulate the existence of a reality is 
wrong or maybe unnecessary or un-Ockhamist. All 
there are are the thoughts that we all have. 
We've had that particular argument on this list 
already: I mention it only to show how it fits 
into this picture, or at any rate into the 
picture frame.)    (04)

I think that what Debbie means by the above is 
only this: that reality is large and messy, but 
that 'truth' is always the truth of some 
idea/thought/ontology/assertion, so is always at 
the tidy conceptualized, thinking end of the 
spectrum. And Bill and Don are puzzled, because 
they are living at the tidy end and think of 
truth as a relationship to reality, so the word 
used alone seems to them to be more concerned 
with the reality than the concept or thought. But 
the only sensible way to talk about truth, 
surely, is that it is a relationship BETWEEN 
concepts/thoughts/ideas/assertions and reality. 
If you chop off either end of this relation, the 
notion of truth isn't really meaningful any more. 
If there is no reality, then truth has nothing to 
be true with respect to. And if we aren't talking 
about some conceptualization, then all there is 
is the actual world, and of course that is 
'true': but that statement is vacuous.    (05)

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