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

To: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "David C. Hay" <dch@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sat, 02 Jun 2007 10:39:33 -0500
Message-id: <>

To the ontology community,

I actually studied philosophy as an undergraduate, but that was many years ago.  When I arrived in New York City as a youth, I had to come terms with the fact that I had no job, no experience, no money, and a degree in philosophy.  So, though a too convoluted set of occurrences than I can go into here, I wound up working in the information technology industry.  Imagine my surprise twenty years later when I found myself working in what I can only characterize as ?applied philosophy?­the modeling of business using entity/relationship diagrams. 

From the beginning I realized that this was fundamentally a semantic exercise, even though most of my colleagues viewed it simply as a way to do database design.  The latter, unfortunately, have given the approach a bad name, and for a while I was afraid I might have to go out and get a real job.  (Which would be unfortunate, since I don?t actually know how to do anything.)

But suddenly semantics is a hot topic in business and my approach is becoming cool again!  It turns out that the business community has discovered that it is useful to help them come to grips with the way they use language.

What I find interesting is that the data modeling/data management/data base design community is so completely cut off from you folks in the academic world who, I believe, have  some significant things to contribute.  I am very sensitive to my lack of academic credential, but I have made some interesting inroads in trying to bridge the gap.

My latest book, for example, is I believe the only IT book on the market that features Aristotle on the cover.  It is Data Model Patterns: A Metadata Map.  It is my attempt to try to draw a complete metamodel of the IT industry.  I organized the model around my version of John Zachman?s ?Framework for Enterprise Architecture, both in terms of perspectives and in terms of the ?who what where...? dimensions. 

In the ?Business Owners? / ?Data? cell, I made use of recent work being submitted to the Object Management Group on the ?Semantics of Business Vocabulary and Business Rules?.  From that work among other things I built the meta-data model of PROPOSITION. 

(Today I am having trouble linking to anything, so I cannot give you the exact URL, but go to OMG.org and look up that title.  Theirs is much more rigorous and complete than mine, which also makes it also somewhat impenetrable to us mere mortals. I would like to think that my book is a bit more readable.  The relevant section in my book is on pages 48-54.)

The OMG definition is simply that a PROPOSITION is the linking of two or more CONCEPTS.  As you people have pointed out, a PROPOSITION is fundamentally an abstraction, which may be described by one or more STATEMENTS, each of which must be via exactly one PHRASE.  Each PHRASE, in turn, must be in exactly one LANGUAGE.

Note that there is no assumption of the truth or falsity of a PROPOSITION.  Rather, one kind of PROPOSITION is a FACT, which is asserted to be true.  (Ok, determining who?s doing the assertion is left as an exercise for the reader.)

I don?t have the symbolic logic rigor of your academic world, and alas, I have not absorbed all of the authors you cited, but the effort required to produce this model was significant, and the language of e/r modeling allowed me to be very precise in my assertions. I would like to think y?all will find it to be of value.

Dave Hay
Essential Strategies, Inc.
Houston, Texas

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