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[ontolog-forum] Three

To: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "David C. Hay" <dch@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 25 Jun 2007 08:38:10 -0500
Message-id: <>
I confess that being on this mailing list has been very 
troubling.  First of all, your collective intelligence and 
forthrightness is a refreshing change from most of the lists I'm 
on.  The problem is that each day I get way more notes than I can even read.    (01)

So, today I had some free time and took on "Two", mostly because it 
sounded like an interesting topic.  It turns out that it was, but for 
different reasons than I expected.    (02)

First I should explain that I do actually have an undergraduate 
degree in philosophy from Claremont Men's College in California, but 
that was way more years ago than I would like to admit.  When my son 
majored in it more recently at Columbia it was brought home to me how 
little I actually recall.    (03)

But I do recall that the curriculum was interesting not because I 
remembered who said what as much as because it challenged me to 
develop my own philosophy of life by picking and choosing from the 
stuff that I read. In that sense, it (and a most interesting life 
since) has served me very well. In response to Pat, then, I guess you 
could say I invented my philosophy from scratch.    (04)

In recent years, as I discovered that my career in data modeling was 
in fact connected to philosophy (my assignment as a data modeler is, 
in fact, to figure out what is really going on here and to then 
describe it graphically), I have begun to refresh my knowledge about 
what I was supposed to have learned many years ago.  But I do confess 
that knowing the intricacies of who said what is still a little boring.    (05)

(And it turns out that my 1995 book on "Data Model Patterns", that I 
wrote simply from my experiences, may actually be connected to this 
hot new ancient buzzword "ontologies"!)    (06)

Having said that, in my field of information technology methodology 
(I know that's not an official "field".  I made that up as well...), 
I have become very impatient with these youngsters who come up with 
incredibly "new" and "revolutionary" approaches to systems 
development--that sure look a lot like what we were doing twenty 
years ago.  It is very clear that their education specifically did 
not include any history of how we got to where we are.  In my area, I 
think that is unfortunate because it wastes a lot of people's time 
and muddies up the genuinely new and interesting ideas that are 
coming along every day.    (07)

(It is also clear that most of these youngsters suffer from not 
having obtained a liberal arts degree.  They came out knowing the 
current state of technology (sort of), but not how to think abstractly.)    (08)

So, I do believe that exposure to philosophy (and more generally, the 
liberal arts) is extremely valuable to anyone trying to be 
imaginative and creative in the modern world, if only because it 
gives that person experience in thinking clearly and rigorously.  But 
I also don't think it is that important to be able to quote the 
metaphysicians of history.    (09)

Having said that, if you are in an engineering field, trying to build 
practical things, it would save you a great deal of time if you knew 
what had been tried before.  It also is a big help if you can think abstractly.    (010)

Dave Hay    (011)

At 02:23 PM 6/22/2007, you wrote:
>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.
>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.
>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?
>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?
> >
> >Respectfully,
> >
> >Peter
> >
> >-----Original Message-----
> >From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
> >[mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Alan
> >Ruttenberg
> >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,
> >
> >Alan
> >
> >
> >
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