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Re: [ontolog-forum] Is there a universal ontology?

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 23 Jul 2007 09:45:17 -0400
Message-id: <46A4B0ED.60004@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Jenny,    (01)

I agree with the points you make.  I'd just like to add
a few more comments:    (02)

 > perhaps you have to take account of the fact that in
 > collectively taking  and acting on a particular view of
 > the domain it is
 >   (a) purpose specific
 >   (b) constructed and enacted rather than discovered -
 > there is a sense in which we construct the reality we live in    (03)

Although I agree, I avoid the verb 'construct' when applied to
external reality.  At the end of this note is a copy of a note
I sent on May 20, in which I cited the terms 'Umwelt', 'Lebenswelt',
and 'Innenwelt' for making finer distinctions about the kinds of
"worlds" we live in and create internally.    (04)

 > To give the concrete example - after some group discussion on how to
 > express the difference between river and lake in a geographical
 > ontology for ordnance survey mapping - we realised
 > (a) the definition for an environmentalist, a fisherman, a geographer,
 > a sailor etc was purpose specific and based on purpose specific
 > criteria, rather than on features of the domain itself
 > (b) the existence of an ordnance survey application that was widely
 > adopted would create de facto standard for pragmatic reasons rather
 > than ontological ones    (05)

That's a good example, and similar examples can be found whenever
different people analyze the same subject matter for different
reasons from different points of view.  To use the terminology below,
those people may inhabit the same Umwelt, but their Lebenswelt and
Innenwelt are different.    (06)

John Sowa
__________________________________________________________________________    (07)

Paola,    (08)

My primary reason for introducing the terms Umwelt, Lebenswelt,
and Innenwelt was to avoid using the word 'reality' in too many
different senses.    (09)

 > I am interested in exploring your proposed distinction between
 > umwelt (UW), its rough equivalent lebenswelt (LW) and InnerWelt (IW),
 > as possible categorization of reality based on the subjective or
 > objective stance.    (010)

As I mentioned in my previous note, I like John Deely's distinction
between UW and LW because it distinguishes what is biologically
perceptible (UW) from a language-influenced classification (LW).    (011)

Following is the URL of Deely's analysis:    (012)

http://web.archive.org/web/20060221134707/http://www.ut.ee/SOSE/deely.htm    (013)

Brief summary:    (014)

   Reality -- What exists independent of any observer or any system
       of perception and interpretation.  Reality is same for all
       beings, independent of their sensory apparatus or mental
       capacity.  Reality would be the same for an alien from
       outer space or even a robot designed by the aliens.  But
       there may be aspects of reality that are inaccessible
       without some kind of sensory enhancers (such as telescopes,
       microscopes, microphones, or gamma-ray detectors).    (015)

   Umwelt (UW) -- "a vehicle for expressing especially the role of
       biological heritage in the use and function of signs, rather
       than for expressing what is species-specifically human in
       the use and function of signs."  (Deely's definition)    (016)

   Lebenswelt (LW) -- "I have proposed that the term Lebenswelt
       should be adopted to express an Umwelt which is species-
       specifically human, retaining Umwelt to express the
       generic idea of an objective world which is in every
       case species-specific consequent upon biological
       constitution."  (Deely)    (017)

   Innenwelt (IW) -- The inner world of human experience, thought,
       mental models, feelings, wishes, hopes, fears, etc.    (018)

 > ... although reality can be expressed with truth values.    (019)

No.  Reality is not "expressed" in truth values.  It just is.
What is expressed are statements in some language, whose truth
or falsity is evaluated in terms of their correspondence with
what is.    (020)

 > what truths pertain to the UW and what to the IW?
 > Surely there are overlaps, dichotomies and dependencies between
 > the two stances.    (021)

Yes, there are definite overlaps.  Everything that is true about
reality in the IW must have been perceived through the biological
mechanisms that determine the UW and the linguisitic interpretation
in the LW.    (022)

It is also important to recognize that statements that have
been written, spoken, or thought are also part of reality.
Therefore, there can be metalevel truths:    (023)

  - The following sentence has four words: "The sky is blue."    (024)

  - In ordinary arithmetic, "2+2=4" is a theorem.    (025)

  - Most people believe that the earth is spherical.    (026)

But in all cases, truth is determined by testing the statements
by some method for examining the evidence (UW) of what is.
Note that both object-level and metalevel statements can be
objective, in the sense that their truth or falsity can be
tested by someone other than the speaker.    (027)

I would classify some of your categories as object-level
or and metalevel:    (028)

Object level truths, determined by UW mechanisms, possibly
enhanced by sensory extenders such as microscopes:    (029)

 >  ontological (when truth resides in things);
 >  factual or empirical (physical, chemical, biological, and social);    (030)

Metalevel truths, determined by UW mechanisms and LW interpretation
of statements:    (031)

 >  logical (truth resides in ideas, tautologies);
 >  mathematical (truth is validity or coherency, axioms);
 >  semantic (truth is meaning);    (032)

I don't know what you mean by "verbal (truth of words or speech);".
If you mean statements in linguistics, those would be metalevel.
But if you mean the truth of something stated in language, that
would be object level or metalevel or one of the following:    (033)

The remaining three categories raise more complex issues.    (034)

For "poetic or fictitious truths;" those could be metalevel
statements about what some author wrote, or they could be
object-level statements that use analogies and metaphors to
make observations about society and human feelings for which
there is no established non-metaphorical terminology.    (035)

For "moral norms and imperatives;" this gets into serious
philosophical issues about the grounds for ethics. Some would
say that there are object-level, metalevel, or metaphorical
grounds.  But the amount of writing on this topic is too
voluminous even to summarize.    (036)

For "religious truths (divine verities)" the issue is similar
to the basis for moral norms.    (037)

John Sowa    (038)

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