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Re: [ontolog-forum] Two

To: "Chris Partridge" <mail@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 21 Jun 2007 15:51:40 -0500
Message-id: <p06230927c2a08779caba@[]>
>Hi Pat,    (01)

Hi Chris.    (02)

>The difference now is
>>that logic *has* become a field in which technical progress
>>(mathematical rather than scientific, but progress for all that) has
>>been made, and in which firm, uncontrovertible results, and a related
>>technology (ies, actually) based on them, are available; so that I
>>won't say that alternatives are impossible, but the effort (and
>>hubris) involved in setting out to construct one's own alternative is
>>now *very* high.
>Where to start: So your criterion has moved from empirical (including
>science both hard and soft) to a discipline at a Kuhnian paradigm stage,
>where there is a community that accepts the 'normal' paradigm.    (03)

That was really always my point. I know modern logic isn't really empirical.    (04)

>  This, of
>course, now excludes the soft sciences such as economics and sociology,
>which are pre-paradigm. But maybe you are happy about this. (Are you about
>to construct your own?) I would suggest a criterion of pragmatics, if it
>works, is more appropriate. Also, philosophy is often regarded as dealing
>with pre-paradigm, pre-empirical matters - when they become more tractablem,
>they become science - as natural philosophy became natural science.    (05)

OK, then logic is now 'science', and philosophy still isn't. Which 
really was my only point.    (06)

>None of this applies to the more descriptive parts
>>of philosophy. There are no universally accepted results, no 'normal
>>science', no theorems, in metaphysics or even philosophical ontology
>>(a different field from ours, but related). There are only rival
>>opinions, arguments and points of view: some of them most persuasive
>>and the result of very deep thinking, but opinions nevertheless. By
>>all means know them and even be persuaded by them: but do not cite
>>them as authoritative *because* they are philosophy.
>I think this is not quite right. Academic philosophy spends at least part of
>its effort in categorising the options.    (07)

Very little of it. Just look through the paper titles in your average 
philosophy journal. And that categorising is not a skill that is 
taught in graduate school, whereas picking holes in arguments is. The 
highest aspiration of an academic philosopher is to be the inventor 
of a new kind of argument, one that engages the attention of many 
others. Like Putnam with twin-earth, or Searle with the Chinese room, 
or Plantinga's refutation of the refutations of some classical 
theological arguments, or Goodman's grue/bleen paradox, etc..    (08)

>This helps to map the conceptual
>landscape - and also mark out combinations that work together and ones that
>do not. These are reasonably widely accepted.    (09)

They are? For example?    (010)

>What differs is which position
>the philosopher finds congenial.
>So if you are arguing that we should not regard the philosophers'
>preferences as definitive - I think both they and I would agree with you.
>Firstly, because there is no agreement, but also because we are not talking
>about using philosophy within its traditional range of application.
>However, if you are saying that the analysis of the 'conceptual landscape'
>(or the interesting bits of it) is not useful - I take issue. It seems to me
>that, for example, your defence of 4D owes something to your reading in
>philosophy on the subject.    (011)

Not in the slightest. In fact, I don't think I know of any 
philosophical writing on that subject. I used the 4-d framework in 
the naive physics papers because it seemed intuitively obvious, as it 
still does. (Maybe I got my mind warped at an early age by reading 
'flatland' when I was a kid.) Ive defended it because it makes a lot 
of axioms very easy to write that can't be written any other way, it 
solves the stupid 'frame problem' at a stroke, and it allows a whole 
lot of intuitively natural reasoning about barriers and causal 
influences; but chiefly because the world just seems to be that way, 
and the alternatives seem weird and close to incoherent (I think very 
few people realize just how very *odd* continuants are.) For example, 
I don't think I am now exactly the same person I was yesterday, and I 
never have done. If I am, then its time to take up golf.    (012)

(I know, by the way, that this is Heraclitus' (300 BC) view, or at 
least as quoted by Plato. But how does knowing that help me write 
better ontologies? It doesn't, seems to me. And (1) I am pretty sure 
I had this intuition long before I ever heard of Heraclitus, and (2) 
apparently, nobody is quite sure whether what Plato said about 
Heraclitus is really correct or not.)    (013)

>  I would also suggest a good way of getting to
>grips with the debate is to read the philosophy textbooks.    (014)

I think one does a lot better by reading textbooks in biology when 
writing a biology ontology, chemistry when writing a chemistry 
ontology, etc.. At least then one is reading something written by 
people who actually know something about the subject matter.    (015)

>The best result
>one can hope for is that the ontology engineers do not unthinkingly then
>build a heterogeneous 3D/4D ontology (rather a homogeneous 3D, 4D or
>bicategorical one).
>If I may offer a personal example. I find Loux's introductory textbook on
>metaphysics extremely useful. However I disagree with almost all of his
>positions. But, I do find his description of the conceptual landscape
>convincing and useful. I take the landscape and leave the opinions. I
>believe this is a common response even among philosophers.    (016)

Well, I confess to not knowing that particular book, but I havn't 
found any textbook on metaphysics the slightest use for anything 
other than teaching metaphysics, myself.    (017)

<snip>    (018)

>  >
>>>Philosophy is not the relevant background. But then
>>>scientists do not usually claim to tell engineers what to do.
>>If only it were true. In this field that is exactly what is actually
>>happening.    (019)

(I misread the above. I was referring to *philosophers* telling 
engineers what to do.)    (020)

>Can you give an example.    (021)

Several of the currently accepted 'standard upper' ontologies (DOLCE, 
BFO) were designed by philosophers on essentially philosophical 
grounds. And if you subscribe to for example 
public-semweb-lifesci@xxxxxx (or look in the recent archives) you 
will see hard-nosed, busy, practical men who are trying to build 
systems of direct social and scientific importance, having 
interminable debates about whether or not a computational process has 
to be distinguished from a physical process because one is a 
continuant but the other is an occurrent. All of which is a tragic 
waste of time and energy.    (022)

<snip>    (023)

>  >
>>Which situation?
>Trying to do ontological engineering. You seem to be encouraging people to
>building their own metaphysics, with no recourse to the resources built up
>over the millennia.    (024)

Yes, that is exactly what I am encouraging them to do. Because those 
resources built up over the millennia are essentially worthless for 
ontology engineering, IMO.    (025)

Pat    (026)

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