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Re: [ontolog-forum] what is a proposition?

To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: KCliffer@xxxxxxx
Date: Fri, 25 May 2007 08:18:16 EDT
Message-id: <d4a.765dd37.33882e08@xxxxxxx>
I think I am in agreement with you on most of your points, insofar as I understand them, except for the one about why bring in epistemology. I don't know enough formally about philosophical ontology to think it is tied to any particular belief. I simply saw something that raised questions for me. The questions are about how a view of what a proposition is could relate to the application of the ontological endeavor. Such application, or informing such application, if I understand correctly (do I?), is one goal associated with this forum.
If I interpret you correctly, your answer is something along these lines: a) you agree that the meanings of propositions cannot always be easily ascertained, but b) we can still do ontology to a degree to which we can agree on their meanings and move knowledge forward, which is "quite a bit" despite the issues of uncertainty in some realms about what we're talking about.
I agree. My concern was that in an effort to make an ontology for some type of indexing of knowledge (applied ontology, as opposed to philosophical ontology??), we should be aware of a vast universe of propositions and knowledge for which this will be difficult or impossible, given the difficulty even ascertaining what the propositions are.
One question was about the degree to which this concern is relevant to the endeavor. If it's relevant at all, another question might be about how to maintain perspective on the endeavor - build it somehow into the structure and use of an ontology - in light of the concern. For example, the frontier of definition and agreement on propositions shifts, perhaps even on previously asserted propositions - how can this be handled, if it should?
One more caveat - I'm new to the formal ontological endeavor, and particularly to the realm of its application, so please excuse the degree to which my questions reflect a naivete about it (unless that contributes to useful ideas, coming from another perspective). Also, I entered this forum not long ago, so may have missed much about what it's about.
ingvar.johansson@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx writes:
Often, ontological, epistemological, and semantic problems overlap, but
now and then they can be kept distinct. In my mails I have only tried to
defend the *philosophical-ontological view* that natural languages
contain propositions, and that propositions are the primary truth-value
bearers. This is quite consistent with both your *epistemological view*
that in empirical matters one can never know with "absolute" certainty
that a specific proposition is true, and your *semantic view* that in
actual communication one can never be sure that speaker and hearer have
apprehended "exactly" the same proposition. Furthermore, I share these
views with you. But in practice we seem nonetheless to able to improve
on knowledge and communicate quite a bit. The only reason I can find why
you bring in epistemology, is that you think that philosophical ontology
is necessarily tied to a belief in infallible knowledge (as it was among
the rationalists and the idealists of earlier centuries), but this is
wrong. Philosophical ontology is quite compatible with fallibillism in
epistemology. One can give up "the quest for certainty" but nonetheless
do philosophical ontology.

My thesis about propositions implies that there are "abstract objects"
in speech acts and reading acts in natural languages. My view is in
conflict with Quine's philosophical ontology, according to which there
is one and only one kind of abstract objects: sets.

best communicative wishes,
Kenneth Cliffer, Ph.D.
cell: 703-919-0104
e-mail: KCliffer@xxxxxxx

See what's free at AOL.com.

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