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Re: [ontolog-forum] Two

To: "Chris Partridge" <mail@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 22 Jun 2007 15:01:13 -0500
Message-id: <p06230902c2a1d57e0135@[]>
>Perhaps I can explain my motivation.
>My work in ontological engineering focuses on ontologies for largish
>business operational systems. In these, it is extremely useful to have a
>semantically consistent framework across large and varied data sets. I have
>found that for this it is useful/essential to have a good(ish) top ontology.
>I have found that much of what exists in this top ontology is formal and
>metaphysical - and that a rudimentary understanding of metaphysics is
>useful/essential in devising and (at the beginning) using the top ontology.
>Pat's original (I think, mischievous) comment about adopting a DIY approach
>seems to me a recipe for disaster for this kind of work - hence my response.    (01)

It was worded in a barbed way, but I did (and do) mean it sincerely. 
But perhaps it can be misunderstood. Applied to Chris' application 
area, I did not mean to imply that every user in a large organization 
should invent their own metaphysics. I entirely agree that semantic 
consistency across large and varied datasets is valuable, perhaps 
essential. Someone has to provide a means to maintain this 
consistency, probably, in the current state of the art, by designing 
and publishing a common ontological framework and teaching people how 
to use it. My point was directed at the person to whom falls this 
responsibility, of designing and maintaining the central ontology. 
Should they feel that they need to study (or consult someone who has 
studied) metaphysics or philosophy before starting on this 
enterprise, or should they rather focus on making the ontology 
reflect the needs of their organization or community, and make up the 
'metaphysics' as they go along, as much as seems necessary? I meant 
to suggest the latter.    (02)

Although it is of course up to the person themselves to say what is 
helpful to them, I meant only to try to counteract what I often 
perceive as a kind of ritual genefluxion to academic philosophy among 
ontological engineers. If you find textbooks of metaphysics helpful, 
I will not try to gainsay you. But if you don't, don't feel guilty 
about it. I have been an academic philosopher, and I didn't find any 
of it to have the slightest relevance to ontology design. And it 
seems to me that, on balance, it has caused more harm than good in 
our field.    (03)

>I was attempting to point out what I saw as some inconsistencies in his
>rationalisation of his position and clarifying it - so that, hopefully, a
>useful/essential approach was not dismissed out of hand.
>So my concern was more about blocking a retreat rather than making an
>advance. I am guessing that Pat's dog metaphor shows that we (Pat and I)
>have reached some kind of conclusion. I am not sure whether this advances
>anything much.
>If I may, I'd like to restate Pat's dog story is more boring but less
>uncomplimentary terms to make the conclusion clearer.
>It is normal practice for engineers to build their artefacts and theories
>selectively taking material from relevant sciences. Given the different
>goals and objectives of the engineering and scientific communities, it is
>unsurprising that the scientists from whom engineers borrow this material
>are often not the best judges of how to use it for engineering ends. Though
>they might be good at spotting how their material is being grossly misused
>or misunderstood.    (04)

Im less concerned with science than with philosophy. I don't see 
philosophy as being even remotely like a science, either in its 
goals, practices or results.    (05)

>I think I detected in Pat's dog story a grudging acceptance that, for
>example, re-using some pertinent bits of metaphysics might by useful in a
>top ontology - so long as one realised that the opinions of the
>metaphysicians developed internally in philosophical communities should not
>be expected to have any special relevance to the application of their work
>in ontological engineering.
>Pat, am I at all right here?    (06)

Well, yes, if you like. Though I havn't seen any evidence that 
re-using a pertinent bit of metaphysics IS in fact any use. Can you 
cite an example? And I prefer my way of putting it, since (as I say) 
it seems to me that a counterblast is needed against a widespread and 
common mis-perception of the importance of philosophy in ontology.    (07)

Pat    (08)

>On second thoughts, if Pat does agree then I think this would a small
>advance. And Pat's dog story or my re-rendering could be regarded as a
>relevant conclusion.
>>-----Original Message-----
>>From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ontolog-forum-
>>bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Peter F Brown
>>Sent: 21 June 2007 22:54
>>To: [ontolog-forum] ; Pat Hayes
>>Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Two
>>Could someone sum up where this thread is going? Or is it just a
>>philosophical stroll in the park (or Platonic cave, I'm not sure
>>what...)? Frankly, apart from a partially illuminating Philosophy 101,
>>has anything actually been said that advances the cause of ontological
>>research and practice? If so, someone care to draw some conclusions?
>>-----Original Message-----
>>From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
>>[mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Alan
>>Sent: 21 June 2007 23:22
>>To: [ontolog-forum] ; Pat Hayes
>>Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Two
>>On Jun 21, 2007, at 4:51 PM, Pat Hayes wrote:
>>>  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.
>>a) I think this subject came up at the beginning of the month or so,
>>at worst, a portion of discussion during a period of 3 weeks has been
>>tragically wasted. Also, as you point out on occasion, these
>>discussions are finite, and so the debates are certainly not
>>interminable :)
>>b) Being one of those people, I don't happen to think that the
>>discussion is a waste of time. There is a lot of (well meaning but)
>>sloppy thinking that happens on that list, and the discussions on
>>computation processes are, at a minimum, educational. They seem, to
>>my experience, the normal sort of discussion a group of people have
>>as they move towards a common understanding.
>>Hard nosed, busily, practically, yours,
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