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Re: [ontolog-forum] Current Semantic Web Layer Cake

To: Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx>, Kathryn Blackmond Laskey <klaskey@xxxxxxx>
Cc: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Kathryn Blackmond Laskey <klaskey@xxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 02 Aug 2007 13:30:58 -0400
Message-id: <p06110419c2d7bf37fd4c@[]>
>>...my Aunt Jane's positive
>>attitude is part of the reason she is a 20-year breast cancer
>>survivor. In order to make sense of that sentence, do I need to
>>believe there really *is* a set of all possible attitudes, and that
>>there is a member of this set that really *is* my Aunt Jane's actual
>... in this case it seems reasonable to take the sentence at face 
>value, at least at first.
>>That is how I would represent this sentence if I were to construct a
>>logical theory...The natural way to do this would be to define a
>>function that maps a person x to the person's attitude Attitude(x).
>>The domain of the Attitude function is the set of all persons, and
>>the range is the set of all attitudes.
>Right. (My only worry here is the possibility that one might have 
>several attitudes simultaneously, but that could be formalized 
>similarly.)    (01)

And attitudes change over time, and... I wanted to start simple.    (02)

>>I'm willing to accept ... To some degree, we can ascertain whether 
>>a person has a
>>positive attitude...
>OK. A quick remark: the 'being able to ascertain' isn't necessary, 
>in order to accept that attitudes exist.    (03)

Of course.    (04)

>>  But I'm not at all sure I agree that the
>>universe really contains a set of consisting of all the possible
>But it seems to me that you have already accepted that. Persons 
>exist, and persons have attitudes: surely it follows that attitudes 
>exist, does it not?    (05)

Only if we accept the NL assertion that persons have attitudes at 
face value, as asserting that there is a "thing" associated with each 
person that is the person's attitude.    (06)

>>... Maybe there is and maybe there
>>isn't a real set of all possible attitudes.  I don't know.  From what
>>I know of psychology and neurophysiology, I think we're a very long
>>way from a theory of attitude to which I would give cre
>Oh, sure. Attitudes are part of a folk psychology, just as entities 
>like 'pool of water' are part of folk physics. But that is a 
>different kind of distinction. Do mirages exist? In a sense yes, in 
>another sense no. But we can certainly talk about them.    (07)

Yes. We talk about attitudes and mirages.  This talk is often very 
useful.  It has survival value -- literally, in the case of my cancer 
survival example.    (08)

>>...Fortunately, I don't think it is necessary to believe there really
>>*is* a set of all possible attitudes, and that each person really
>>*does* have an attitude that is an element of this set, in order to
>>accept the above theory as a useful representation of reality for
>>some purposes.
>Quite. I think you are taking phrases like "really" too seriously here.    (09)

I don't think so.    (010)

>The point I was making was that (in your example) the fact that the 
>ontology is formalized and has a formally described semantic theory 
>is not a sufficient grounds in itself for claiming that the worlds 
>it describes aren't real.    (011)

Of course!  The set of all human beings is real.  But I am not at all 
sure that the set of all attitudes is real.  I think it may well be a 
modeling fiction that is useful for some purposes, but will be 
superceded by an appropriate scientific theory of attitude some day. 
Even after it is superceded, the parts that were historically found 
to be useful, e.g., models of how to intervene to affect cancer 
patients' attitudes and thereby help them to live longer -- will 
remain useful, even if a literal interpretation of the model's 
assertions is factually incorrect.    (012)

>If one believes that attitudes are real, then one can speak of sets 
>of them; also, in fact, if one believes they are not real.    (013)

Of course.    (014)

My point is that there may be aspects of the world that we describe 
coarsely using nouns like attitude, that may be nothing at all like 
what our theories assert them to be, yet those theories may still be 
useful.    (015)

>>...I can make perfectly good use of this theory, while thinking that
>>the idea of a set of all possible attitudes is utter nonsense.
>Yes. Ontologies can be wrong and yet still useful.    (016)

Right.    (017)

>>...I don't think one needs to believe that
>>the Universe really is a set in order to make effective use of
>>logical theories that represent the Universe as a set.
>True, but my original point was rather the inverse: one can believe 
>the universe is a set, without thereby being obliged to abandon ones 
>belief that it is populated with real things. I think we agree on 
>this as well.    (018)

We are in violent agreement on both points.    (019)

Kathy    (020)

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