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Re: [ontolog-forum] objects and processes

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Ed Barkmeyer <edbark@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 11 Jun 2007 14:12:54 -0400
Message-id: <466D90A6.7030503@xxxxxxxx>
Charles D Turnitsa wrote:    (01)

> The distinction I came up with (that seems to work pretty well,
> heuristically) is the distinction between an object and a process. 
> ... the difference is this
> - an object is something that exists that has a continuing identity.
> A process is something that occurs that provides change to objects.    (02)

In my philosophy:
   An Event occurs, but is usually considered to be evanescent, although its 
effects may well not be.  But a Process is almost always temporally continuant 
over some period of time, and in particular over the time of a query over the 
relevant knowledge base.  Further, a static Relationship may be as continuant 
as the participating object.  And the identification of a process or 
relationship is typically at least of the same duration as its active life.    (03)

I can agree that the identification of a relationship is often simply the 
identification of the tuple of participants in named roles.  And a changing 
process is often identified by the participant in a particular role, so much 
so that the thing and the process are conflated in the heads of the persons 
who deal with both.  (But that may just be a Western European view of the 
world -- we are legendarily thing-oriented.)    (04)

So whatever Chuck means by 'continuing identity' or 'process' must be lost on 
me, because I don't see 'continuing identity' as distinguishing 'objects' from 
'processes'.    (05)

> Someone mentioned recently (I think it may have been John Sowa, but not
> sure) the three ways that Quine suggested of considering parts of a world -
> (1) considering a things attributes, (2) was considering a things
> relations, and (3) considering the thing as a relation enabler.  That is a
> poor, off the cuff, paraphrase, but in those terms I use type (1) to
> describe "objects", and type (2) to describe "process".    (06)

Quine's characterization is, of course, the foundation for the concepts in EAR 
modeling.  But if "process" means "relation", then lack of continuing identity 
is not the delimiting characteristic.    (07)

But for most of us in the "business modeling" community (applications of all 
types), 'activity' and 'relationship' are different subcategories of 'verb 
concept', respectively dynamic and static.  And "process" is an activity seen 
as a pattern of subordinate activities.  And all activities are occurrent, but 
they have 'duration'.  (In fact, the BPMN language distinguishes 'event' from 
'activity' with the assertion that an 'event' is an occurrent treated as 
having a duration of zero time, while all activities are occurrents understood 
to have non-zero duration times.)  And 'duration' is continuity over some time 
of interest.    (08)

[Like other communication problems, our first problem here is to determine 
what Chuck meant by 'process' vs. what I thought he might have meant. ;-)]    (09)

> The problem that I see with this (my own) claim, as well as all of the
> other apologetics for the separation of continuant from occurrent is when
> does a continuant stop being what it is?  How much change can a continuant
> undergo, in its own make up (whatever that may be), before its identity has
> changed?    (010)

I don't want to do the "ship of Theseus" thing here.  It is a philosophical 
conundrum that is surprisingly irrelevant to using ontologies to model one's 
problem world.  In practice, we either have a rule of thumb that tells us when 
the identity changes, or we don't agree on one, and assorted identification 
failures may occur.    (011)

-Ed    (012)

Edward J. Barkmeyer                        Email: edbark@xxxxxxxx
National Institute of Standards & Technology
Manufacturing Systems Integration Division
100 Bureau Drive, Stop 8263                Tel: +1 301-975-3528
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8263                FAX: +1 301-975-4694    (013)

"The opinions expressed above do not reflect consensus of NIST,
  and have not been reviewed by any Government authority."    (014)

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