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Re: [ontolog-forum] Two ontologies that are inconsistent but both needed

To: Bill Andersen <andersen@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, Pierre Grenon <pierre.grenon@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx>
Date: Sun, 10 Jun 2007 21:41:45 -0500
Message-id: <p06230901c2925aefafcd@[]>
>Hi Pat...
>Wow..  That was a lot of writing.  Forgive me if 
>I fail to generate so long a discussion -- it is 
>simply outside my ability.  A couple of 
>comments, though.  And a pre-apology for 
>top-posting, but it's simpler to say what I want 
>as systemic comments on your post rather than a 
>point-for-point response.    (01)

Sure. I'll try to give crisp answers.    (02)

>1) You called on Barry to consider adopting Quine's doctrine for existence.    (03)

Did I? I thought that what I was arguing at the 
beginning there was exactly the denial of Quine's 
doctrine. My point was that logical existence, 
being the value of a bound variable - Quinean 
existence - has to be construed more broadly than 
any philosophical view of what 'really' exists. 
If one logic or ontology is going to be usable by 
a variety of people, then that logic needs to be 
able to quantify over everything that ANY of them 
believe exist (and maybe some other things as 
well.) I called this being 'panoptic' in the IKL 
guide. It has to include everything in one view, 
even if nobody believes in all of these things.    (04)

>  To borrow your example from below:
>       (ist Morning (that (inside Fritz Bratwurst)))
>By this, you are asking the user of your 
>ontology to accept propositions, as they do fall 
>under the quantifiers in IKL.  While I don't 
>have a problem with that (and in fact really 
>like that feature of IKL), this is hardly a 
>benign, pedestrian, work-a-day kind of entity to 
>introduce into the kinds of engineering 
>ontologies that people actually build    (05)

Oh, I quite agree. We introduced them only to be 
able to handle the context logicians. My point in 
the email to Barry doesn't depend on IKL: all the 
temporal stuff can be done in pure CL.    (06)

But in fact I do think that IKL illustrates my 
general point. You may not believe that 
propositions are real things which do exist in 
the actual world. I tend to doubt it myself. 
Nevertheless, they are extremely useful things to 
have in one's ontological universe of discourse; 
which is of course just another way of saying 
that it is very useful to be able to talk about 
them. We do of course talk about fictional or 
hypothetical entities all the time. So, should an 
existential doubt about the reality of 
propositions be considered a good reason for 
rejecting IKL? I suggest not. There may be (there 
are) good reasons to reject IKL, but a kind of 
ontological distaste for admitting the existence 
of the entities it quantifies over should not be 
counted as one of them.    (07)

>, cf:
>>Ive never seen any convincing pragmatic or
>>engineering argument for insisting on this as a
>>rigid distinction
>But while you find the continuant/occurrent 
>distinction distasteful, you don't seem to mind 
>propositions, the existence of which by the 
>Quine doctrine you are definitely committing to.    (08)

Propositions are useful. The continuant/occurrent 
distinction (actually, the notion of a continuant 
as something which has a temporal life but no 
temporal extent and no temporal parts) is not.    (09)

>2) If the continuant/occurrent distinction 
>doesn't make any difference insofar as our use 
>of terms to refer to temporal phenomena is 
>concerned, then we run into another problem.  So 
>you don't like that distinction.  How about 
>presentism?  Your philosophy is very close to 
>empiricist and verificationist    (010)

It is? Where do you get that idea?    (011)

>, so I'm guessing (and I admit I could be wrong) 
>you will lean toward presentism.    (012)

You couldn't be more wrong. Not only do I not 
lean towards it, I believe it to be ultimately 
incoherent. But philosophy aside, my point was 
that having two distinct and incompatible ways of 
referring to temporal structure seems 
unnecessary, and is certainly formally very 
awkward.    (013)

>  If you want to construe say, me, as a 
>4-dimensional object, then presumably you don't 
>believe in the existence of any of my future or 
>past time slices.  Would that be fair to say?    (014)

No. About as wrong as you could get :-)    (015)

>3) As far as "convincing pragmatic or 
>engineering argument" goes, would not such 
>arguments be empirical and/or anecdotal by 
>nature?  If so, then accept the work our 
>ontologists at OW have done as such evidence. 
>We use every day a bi-categorial upper level of 
>the kind exemplified by BFO, Cyc, and DOLCE    (016)

Well now, you will have to explain that, because 
Cyc handles this whole issue completely 
differently from DOLCE, for example. Cyc does 
*not* make a sharp absolute taxonomic distinction 
between continuants and occurrents. It provides 
both modes of expression, and allows you to use 
the one you like best, and it can convert from 
one to the other. Which is exactly what I was 
suggesting. On this issue I have in fact been 
partly inspired by Cyc, a point I should have 
acknowledged.    (017)

>, and have found it quite useful, both in 
>teaching and in practice.  If you'd like to see 
>some of these ontologies, we'd be glad to show 
>them to you.    (018)

Sure, by all means. You might have to explain to 
me the rules of the formalism they are written in.    (019)

>4) Again, following Quine's doctrine, what are 
>these things for which the continuant/occurrent 
>distinction is incoherent?    (020)

I didn't say it is incoherent. I said it isn't 
necessary, and that it many cases - I think most 
- it is more trouble than it is useful.    (021)

>  Presumably, you'd want to be quantifying over 
>some class of objects for which you'd like to 
>state some axioms governing, e.g., property 
>change over time, however that comes out in your 
>favorite formalism.  Then, by Quine's doctrine 
>you're committing to the existence of those 
>things.  Let's call them Continuoccurrents.    (022)

Actually lets just call them occurrents. The 
suggestion amounts to making every spatiotemporal 
thing into an occurrent, which is then a category 
which can be dropped as it has no explanatory 
value. Occurrents are reasonable temporal 
entities: they extend in time and have temporal 
parts. It seems to me that anything that extends 
in time can be said to have temporal parts. I 
cannot imagine what it would mean to assert the 
former and deny the latter. It seems to me to be 
obvious that I, for example, have temporal parts. 
Right now I can even remember some of them. 
Continuants are the weirdos. They last for a 
time, but they have no temporal extent? They 
cannot have temporal parts? When present, they 
are wholly present; and yet, they have a past and 
a future?    (023)

It seems clear that what these peculiar things 
are, in fact, are entities from a presentist 
philosophical view that have, by a kind of 
ontological teleporting, been injected into a 
non-presentist ontological framework; a kind of 
alien from another world-view, that does not fit 
properly. Since they all have an exactly 
corresponding occurrent (their 'lifespan') which 
is obviously the more appropriate version of the 
same entity in a temporal framework, I suggest 
using that instead. And I'll even allow you call 
it a 'continuant' if that makes you happier: as I 
said, the distinction is not an ontological one, 
but a difference in axiomatic style of 
description (and in that mode, it is quite 
useful, I agree, particularly for expository 
purposes and for connecting to natural language. 
I used the terminology myself in the IKL guide, 
in fact. But I was using it 'casually', not in 
the Peter Simons strict sense.)    (024)

>  Now you have to elaborate your theory of 
>Continuoccurrents and distinguish them from 
>temperatures, numbers, properties, propositions 
>and all the kinds of other things you have in 
>your ontology.    (025)

Well, of course. I wasn't claiming to have a 
magic bullet, only that this distinction, which 
some folk (notably Barry) have insisted on with 
such persistence, is not necessary and more 
trouble than it is worth. Its pretty easy to take 
any continuant/occurrent ontology, throw out the 
overarching philosophical necessary distinction, 
and provide linking axioms/rules which make the 
translations between the two axiomatic styles. I 
have already volunteered to do it for any 
moderate-sized ontology.    (026)

>  Doesn't sound to me like that project is any 
>less problematic than the defense of either 
>bicategorialism, 4D, or any other metaphysical 
>framework.  By this I mean on a practical, 
>engineering level.    (027)

Im not defending any metaphysical framework. 
Metaphysicians are still arguing about questions 
that Plato asked, and they havn't reached 
agreement yet. All metaphysics does is to take 
some perfectly ordinary statement and require 
that it be re-stated in almost incomprehensible 
jargon that nobody but a philosopher can follow, 
and not all of them. I am sick of having people 
tell me that I must distinguish continuants from 
occurrents, or properties from tropes, or pay 
attention to Heideggerian moments, or not do this 
or that in my ontology because Kant or Quine or 
Hegel said it was naughty.    (028)

To hell with metaphysics. The criteria we should 
be adopting to make these choices should be 
pragmatic. We are supposed to be engineers, not 
metaphysicians.    (029)

Pat    (030)

>       .bill
>On Jun 8, 2007, at 17:39 , Pat Hayes wrote:
>>>An example is described here:
>>Hey, nice survey. Utterly wrong in its
>>conclusions, but nice :-). I'm happy to welcome
>>you to this debate which many of us have been
>>involved in for quite a long time. (see for
>>But you come to the wrong conclusion. These two
>>'irreconcilable' ontologies ARE reconcilable, if
>>one does things right. The basic error is to
>>assume that what a philosopher means by 'exists'
>>has to be rendered into the logical existential
>>quantifier. That is good form, perhaps good
>>doctrine, when the game is to use formal logic to
>>sharpen philosophical debate; but that is not (or
>>at any rate should not be) what we are trying to
>>do here. The only sensible engineering attitude
>>to take towards the logical existential
>>quantifier is that it means "is an entity which
>>can be referred to", i.e. an entity which is the
>>denotation of a logical term; which as long as we
>>are using a reasonably classical logic is
>>essentially vacuous, of course. In a pluralistic
>>ontological framework, this cannot usually be
>>interpreted as any philosopher's notion of
>>existence. Those notions have to be treated as
>>classes or properties. Yes, existence IS a
>>predicate, when there are many notions of
>>existence to be considered. It has to be in any
>>logic which is intended to support
>>interoperability. (See the regrettably brief
>>discussion at
>>. Sorry, I know that to say this to a philosopher
>>is like farting in church.)
>>After thinking and arguing about endurance and
>>perdurance for longer than I care to remember, I
>>have come a rather mundane conclusion which can
>>be summed up as follows: the continuant/occurrent
>>distinction is basically a distinction between
>>*how we use names* when talking about
>>spatiotemporal entities. It should not be seen as
>>a fundamental ontological distinction: it is
>>merely a linguistic distinction between modes of
>>expression. Things we call continuants are things
>>for which we tend to use the same name at
>>different times, so it is natural to encode
>>changes to their properties by attaching the
>>temporal parameter to their properties and
>>relations rather than to them: we write things
>>(inside Fritz Bratwurst Morning)
>>but we don't tend to talk of Fritz having
>>temporal parts. Special terminologies are used to
>>distinguish these temporally-sensitive relations
>>and properties: "fluents", "roles".
>>Occurrents, on the other hand, are things that we
>>do tend to speak of as having temporal parts or
>>'episodes', so it is natural to formalize
>>temporally-relative talk of those entities by
>>attaching the temporal qualifier to the name
>>itself. If Fritz and the Bratwurst were
>>occurrents, we might write
>>(inside (episode Morning Fritz)(episode Morning Bratwurst))
>>If one puts all philosophical discussion aside
>>for a moment and asks for a purely formal,
>>syntactic, way of distinguishing these ways of
>>describing things, what it seems to amount to is
>>where to attach a temporal parameter to a
>>time-free assertion. One might pose it as a
>>challenge: given that
>>(inside Fritz Bratwurst)
>>is true during a time-interval
>>invent a systematic way of encoding that fact by
>>incorporating the temporal parameter into the
>>logical expression. There are basically three
>>places it can go: attached to the entire
>>expression (the 'ist' version:
>>(ist Morning (that (inside Fritz Bratwurst)))
>>using the paraphernalia of context logic), or
>>attached to the relation symbol (the first
>>option) or attached to one or more of the
>>argument terms (the second option). These
>>correspond respectively to the
>>hybrid/context-logical, continuant and occurrent
>>ways of treating time.
>>So, can these co-exist? Yes, of course. One can
>>use both (in fact, all three) modes of expression
>>in a single ontology, and in a reasonably
>>expressive logic (like IKL) can even write axioms
>>which relate them systematically. One does need
>>to use some discipline, to keep things straight.
>>One has to use even more discipline to use them
>>both (or all) in ways that respect the
>>philosophical prejudices of all users. For
>>example, if someone insists, as you do, that it
>>is incoherent or irrational to talk of temporal
>>parts of a continuant, then one will probably
>>need some kind of mechanical check to ensure that
>>no entity is ever spoken of in both temporal
>>styles. Such code could be written, but I
>>personally see no practical use for it, and large
>>amounts of harm caused by insisting upon the
>>distinction it would be there to check.
>>The continuant/occurrent distinction seems to be
>>of no actual value in real ontology
>>engineering[1]: on the contrary, in fact, recent
>>discussions on this very list and on
>>seem to illustrate
>>what I have always found to be the case, that as
>>soon as one gets away from nice homely examples
>>like Fritz' bratwurst, the distinction becomes
>>more and more tenuous, intuitions regarding it
>>dissolve, and the insistence on its being a basic
>>distinction rapidly becomes more trouble than it
>>is worth, causing long and pointless debates and
>>tending, if anything, to produce new, artificial
>>barriers to interoperability rather than help
>>with our practical goal. The real world is full
>>of entities which are both 'continuant' and
>>'occurrent', both thing and process: ocean waves,
>>storms, weather fronts, the Olympic flame, a
>>cumulus cloud, the interior of a Bessemer
>>furnace, the Krebs cycle, a tomato ripening on a
>>sunny windowsill, a cell expanding because the
>>sodium pumps in its membrane are insufficient to
>>oppose the osmotic pressure. The list goes on and
>>on: and the Brentano/Chisholm doctrine of mutual
>>incompatibility forces one to make all these
>>pointless and harmful ontological distinctions
>>between things and their lifespans, distinctions
>>which arise solely from the artificiality of this
>>doctrine of ontological apartheid.
>>Ive never seen any convincing pragmatic or
>>engineering argument for insisting on this as a
>>rigid distinction. There are plenty of purely
>>philosophical arguments, but then there are also
>>plenty of purely philosophical arguments in the
>>other direction. As you know, there are almost no
>>uncontroversial, universally accepted positions
>>in philosophy. Academic philosophy has no "normal
>>science", does not come to widely accepted
>>conclusions, and does not progress by a kind of
>>accumulation of evidence, where the task of each
>>new theory or argument is to account for
>>everything that earlier theories have done, but
>>to do so better. Philosophy is an ongoing
>>argument, where professional competence is
>>demonstrated by the ability to find a new flaw in
>>someone else's argument (which itself might be
>>the finding of a flaw in someone else's argument,
>>and so on for many layers). This means that while
>>almost any nontrivial philosophical position can
>>be bolstered by a long list of impressive
>>references, it can also can be attacked by an
>>equally long list of authorities who have argued
>>the opposite. This is why I have often said that
>>while philosophy can be of use to ontological
>>engineering, the appropriate attitude to take
>>towards a philosopher should be rather like one
>>adopts to a pet dog: they need to be housebroken,
>>properly trained and fed well, but it is most
>>important not to let them feel that they have the
>>upper hand. (I personally find the
>>'intuition-pump' (in Dennett's phrase) that your
>>paper obliquely uses, which I tend to attribute
>>to Simon's definition of "continuant" as
>>something which, when present, is wholly present,
>>quite unpersuasive because it is circular. If I
>>have temporal parts, then I am NOT wholly present
>>now. So am I wholly present now? In a sense yes,
>>in another sense no. I can run my intuition
>>either way.)
>>One pragmatic argument I have heard is that the
>>distinction provides a kind of conceptual
>>scaffolding, an ontological discipline which
>>helps users render their intuitions more clearly
>>by requiring them to think more clearly,
>>basically. While this general idea certainly has
>>some merit (as for example in the successful
>>"Ontoclean" notions) it seems to have no real
>>purchase when applied to the continuant/occurrent
>>distinction, since the only purpose of making
>>this distinction is to maintain the distinction
>>itself. If one simply denies it then nothing is
>>thereby lost: the only result is that
>>distinctions, equally artificial, which have been
>>produced by this splitting (such as the required
>>distinction between Fritz and Fritz's lifespan)
>>are themselves no longer needed. The resulting
>>wave of simplification and unification rolls
>>through the ontology like a kind of global
>>relaxation into a simpler, and yet ironically
>>more expressive, ontological framework. So the
>>'discipline' which this framework requires serves
>>only to maintain the framework itself: it is like
>>a parade-ground exercise of marching in step.
>>I don't mean to argue that the intuitive
>>categories of 'enduring thing' and 'event' are
>>vacuous or useless. To the extent that they fit
>>with ontological intuitions, and with linguistic
>>usage, they are useful and important. But one can
>>admit all that, and even include them as
>>categories in a formal framework, without
>>requiring that they constitute a rigid taxonomy,
>>so that every physical thing MUST be in exactly
>>one of the two categories and as a matter of
>>logical necessity CANNOT be in both. Things can
>>be in both, and there is no need to be concerned
>>about this or try to forbid it. One can be
>>noncommittal about the category. Sometimes it is
>>useful to speak of temporal parts of
>>continuant-like entities. I had red hair as a
>>child. Why should one not be able to render that
>>by speaking of the child-temporal-part of me, and
>>attributing the color 'red' to its hair? If that
>>treats me as a process, I am perfectly happy to
>>be regarded as a process when that is useful. For
>>some purposes, indeed, it is difficult to see me
>>any other way than as a process (as for example
>>when we learnt that I lose and gain cells at what
>>might otherwise be an alarming rate.) The logical
>>sky does not fall when a temporal parameter is
>>attached to a continuant-like name. It is
>>perfectly clear what it means, even to those who
>>feel that it ought to be meaningless. One can (in
>>CL) even state conditions which translate this
>>form of logical description to the more
>>continuant-like form:
>>(forall (r (x Continuant)(t TemporalInterval))(if (r (x t)) (r x t) ))
>>Perfectly consistent, with a clear meaning, and it works.
>>(BTW, I suspect that nothing in the case which
>>started this thread comes anywhere close to this
>>degree of complexity or intensity of
>>philosophical debate.)
>>[1] PS. I know that your framework and Dolce both
>>use it, and are both used by real people in real
>>settings. But that in itself is not evidence that
>>a similar but simpler framework which does not
>>have this distinction in it might not be even
>>more use.
>>PPS. Although I am doing all this emailing on
>>borrowed time, this issue is important enough
>>that I will make the following challenge. If
>>anyone has two actual ontologies (of a reasonable
>>size, in a reasonable formalism) which satisfy
>>Waclaw's **criterion** below for the reasons
>>outlined by Barry and Pierre, then please send
>>them to me and I will undertake to produce a
>>single ontology, written in CL or at worst IKL,
>>which is consistent but into which they can both
>>be translated so as to preserve entailments. That
>>is, my ontology may (will :-) require one or both
>>of them to be rendered into a different form, but
>>that re-rendering will not break any inferences,
>>if used uniformly. I may need a week or two.
>>>At 08:34 AM 6/8/2007, Waclaw Kusnierczyk wrote:
>>>>The discussion would certainly be made clearer if one could support the
>>>>claims with a simple example;  e.g., **two ontologies that taken together
>>>>are inconsistent, which cannot be reduced to a single consistent
>>>>ontology, and which both are necessary to cover the needs for all
>>>>involved in modeling the domain.**
>>>>As in mathematics, illustrative examples help in understanding dry
>>>>theories.  I sympathize with Bill, and would like to see a
>>>>counterexample to what he says.
>>>>Bill Andersen wrote:
>>>>>Hi John...
>>>>>On Jun 8, 2007, at 01:42 , John F. Sowa wrote:
>>>>>>Those are two important points, but they don't exhaust all the
>>>>>>options.  There are many cases where the ontologies happen to have
>>>>>>some features that create inconsistencies, but with some revisions
>>>>>>those inconsistencies could be eliminated by redefining some of
>>>>>>the terms.  There are also many cases where the same thing is
>>>>>>viewed at different levels of granularity or from different
>>>>>>perspectives.  Any inconsistencies caused by such methods
>>>>>>could also be eliminated, in principle.
>>>>>>However, the job of eliminating every one of the inconsistencies
>>>>>>that could arise could take an enormous amount of effort.  Instead
>>>>>>of striving for a global consistency of everything, it might be
>>>>>>better to adopt methods that don't require global consistency.
>>>>>What I was more trying to get at was the notion of identity (or
>>>>>perhaps unity) for "ontologies".  In Sean's original note, he said
>>>>>something like "a single ontology cannot be used".  You just gave us
>>>>>a recipe for how to make (IMO) a single ontology from Sean's
>>>>>"inconsistent" pieces, via the use of reformulation of his pieces to
>>>>>make them consistent, or via use of some kind of paraconsistency.
>>>>>That was what I was trying to get to in my original note  loose talk
>>>>>of "one single ontology for X can't ..." is usually based on equally
>>>>>loose understanding of the terms "ontology" and "can't".   Sorry I
>>>>>wasn't more explicit about this in my original note.
>>>>>       .bill
>>>>>Message Archives: 
>>>>>Shared Files: <http://ontolog.cim3.net/file/>http://ontolog.cim3.net/file/
>>>>>Community Wiki: 
>>>>>To Post: 
>>>>Wacek Kusnierczyk
>>>>Department of Information and Computer Science (IDI)
>>>>Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
>>>>Sem Saelandsv. 7-9
>>>>7027 Trondheim
>>>>tel.   0047 73591875
>>>>fax    0047 73594466
>>>>Message Archives: 
>>>>Shared Files: <http://ontolog.cim3.net/file/>http://ontolog.cim3.net/file/
>>>>Community Wiki: 
>>>>To Post: 
>>>Message Archives: 
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>>>To Post: 
>>IHMC          (850)434 8903 or (650)494 3973   home
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>Bill Andersen (<mailto:andersen@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>andersen@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx)
>Chief Scientist
>Ontology Works, Inc. (<http://www.ontologyworks.com>www.ontologyworks.com)
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