>From: Pat Hayes [mailto:phayes@xxxxxxx]
>Sent: 21 June 2007 21:52
>To: Chris Partridge
>Subject: RE: [ontolog-forum] Two
>>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.
>That was really always my point. I know modern logic isn't really
>> 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
>>they become science - as natural philosophy became natural science.
>OK, then logic is now 'science', and philosophy still isn't. Which
>really was my only point.
>>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all means know them and even be persuaded by them: but do not cite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
>>its effort in categorising the options.
>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. (02)
I do not think this is right. My impression is that the style for philosophy
(PhD) students now is to do this mapping. Maybe journal papers are not the
right example, as you only have space to map a very small bit of the
But anyway, in most of the philosophy books I read now, there is an
exposition which tries to map out the territory. For example, I am skimming
Michael Rea's 'World Without Design: The Ontological Consequences of
Naturalism' - he spends quite a bit of time checking out the conceptual
landscape - and the reviews on the back all seem to regard this mapping as
the best thing about the book. If you really want I can compile quite a
>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.. (05)
So just as an engineer is not going to regard the cutting edge of scientific
research as usually relevant to his/her task - similarly, there is no reason
to think that the cutting edge of philosophy (even metaphysics) has a
particular relevance to ontological engineering. Not to exclude the
possibility that it might. Hence, like most engineers, one starts with the
main corpus of the relevant science. A good place to start finding this is
in the standard textbooks. (06)
>>This helps to map the conceptual
>>landscape - and also mark out combinations that work together and ones
>>do not. These are reasonably widely accepted.
>They are? For example? (07)
I refer you again to my paper.
www.boroprogram.org/bp_pipex/ladsebreports/ladseb_t_r_06-02.pdf . If you
look at Loux's introduction to metaphysics he will cover much the same
territory. Ditto Lowe's introduction. My impression is that the general
territory is quite well marked out - though some of the detail is less
>>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
>>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
>>that, for example, your defence of 4D owes something to your reading in
>>philosophy on the subject.
>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.
>(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.)
OK, but do you appreciate that 4D is really a metaphysical choice about the
treatment of change. If one does, I think this helps one to understand the
choice on has made. And isn't understanding choices a good thing. Do you
appreciate that 4D makes extensionalism easier? Do you appreciate that it
also makes a mono-categorism about space-time and matter easier? And so on.
And it seems to me obvious that being clear about ones choices wrt these
makes ones ontological framework (ones top ontology) cleaner and easier to
I suppose it is early days in ontological engineering. How many business
application system have been ontologically engineered? So maybe we need more
evidence before we can be sure that having a clean top framework is useful.
My experience is that it is almost essential. (011)
>> I would also suggest a good way of getting to
>>grips with the debate is to read the philosophy textbooks.
>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.
>>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
>>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.
>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.
>>>>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
>(I misread the above. I was referring to *philosophers* telling
>engineers what to do.) (012)
I am not sure you misread - I am claiming that *philosophers* should NOT
tell engineers what to do. So maybe we agree.
However, I do think they can (and should) tell them when they are making
elementary metaphysical mistakes. There is a distinction between choices and
mistakes. Your example of use/mention illustrates that. (013)
>>Can you give an example.
>Several of the currently accepted 'standard upper' ontologies (DOLCE,
>BFO) were designed by philosophers on essentially philosophical
I don't think either of these really qualify. Aren't these offering
ontologies on the basis of the engineers' decisions. Rather than
philosophers coming in and telling these engineers how to do things. In BFOs
case, Barry has a philosophical background. In DOLCE's case, Nicola has an
engineering background. But the role they are playing is as engineers. You
might claim that their judgement is too uncritical of the engineering
usefulness of the philosophy they are using - but that is a different point,
upon which we have agreed. (015)
I would say a good example of deliberate lack of analysis is the Wand/Weger
ontology that explicitly takes Mario Bunge's philosophy onboard
uncritically, as being critical involves one in useless argument and
To return to the main point, my general impression of the philosophical
community is polite disinterest in these practical matters - with particular
exceptions. Rather than an attempt to influence. (017)
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. (018)
I take your word for this. If this is happening as you describe then it is
mistaken. It is only worth worrying about the distinctions if it leads to a
better engineered product. But this does not prove that all uses of
philosophy are bad. (019)
However, I think have clearly agreed with you that taking the philosophy
onboard uncritically (and without considering its relevance to the task at
hand) is a BAD idea. So this is not where we disagee. (020)
>>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.
>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. (021)
Have to agree to differ. I think time will tell whether either of us is
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