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Re: [ontolog-forum] Separating Pragmatics And Semantics -- Or Not

To: edbark@xxxxxxxx, Ontolog <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Jon Awbrey <jawbrey@xxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 07 Aug 2007 12:52:26 -0400
Message-id: <46B8A34A.4F9294F8@xxxxxxx>
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EB = Ed Barkmeyer (ntbcw EB 1911)
JA = Jon Awbrey
JU = Jenny Ure
PH = Pat Hayes    (02)

Re: http://ontolog.cim3.net/forum/ontolog-forum/2007-08/msg00177.html    (03)

Ed,    (04)

Thanks for the very detailed remarks.  It looks like yours
is one of those notes that I will have to answer in pieces
over the next several days.  (New stuff unindented below.)    (05)

PH: Exchanging terms defined using an assertional language at least
    holds out the hope of allowing information to be separated from
    the processes which use it, which seems to be a prerequisite for
    useful information exchange.    (06)

EB: Being very careful, it is important to segregate the "body of
    sharable information" from the various processes that use it.
    What is true is important to many intents, some of which are
    unforeseen.  But at the same time, we must realize that the
    motivation for communicating information is the accomplishment
    of some "joint" process.  So the information contained in
    a given communication is that which is relevant to the
    purpose/process at hand.    (07)

Of course this is true to a very large extent.  One of the foremost
utilities of information or knowledge is the fact that something that
someone learns in one context can often enough be tranferred to someone
else's advantage, or to the advantage of one's own later self, in another
context of purposes.  Let's call this the "transfer property" of information
or knowledge, or if you'd prefer a Kantian flavor, the "analogy of experience".
And the fact that one can succeed in doing this at all is a symptom of being
in what some have called a "learnable environment".  Now, it has to be one
of our regulative assumptions that we reside in a learnable universe, or
else there is little hope of our surviving, much less advancing at all.    (08)

Whew ...    (09)

Jon Awbrey    (010)

EB: From a technical point of view, I want to distinguish the
    "reference ontology" (the "body of shared meaning") that is
    the basis for communal interaction from the information set
    that is actually exchanged in a given communication.  In most
    cases, the latter is highly eclectic.  It eliminates both that
    which is irrelevant to the purpose at hand, and that which is 
    presupposed to be common knowledge of the communicants.    (011)

EB: And the "purpose at hand" is a major part of the "pragmatic context"
    for interpreting an utterance.  That purpose identifies the presupposed
    common knowledge that is relevant to the utterance.  It disambiguates
    otherwise ambiguous statements and references, and it overloads terms
    with connotations that are part of the intended meaning.    (012)

JA: By "impractical semantics" I should have meant the notion that
    one can detach semantics from pragmatics so radically that it
    is possible to treat them as separate modules, in effect, to
    "hold out the hope of allowing information to be separated
    from the processes which use it".    (013)

EB: So "semantics" is about "meaning" in a context of pure knowledge?  And
    is there such a thing?  I understand "semantics" to be the meaning that
    a body of speech or text (or some other communication form) is intended
    to convey.  To the extent that we can use a formal language and define
    precisely the meaning of its terms and terminological assemblies, we
    can be just that sure that the intended semantics of the producer is
    the same as the received semantics of the consumer.  So semantics-the-
    discipline is about getting precision in the relationship between
    communication forms and intended meaning.  But it is still all about
    what the producer WANTED to convey.  Semantics is about achieving intent.
    So the question is really about the relationship between "intent" and 
"process".    (014)

JA: I think it makes sense to do this as much as possible,
    but the hope of making an absolute separation is what
    I would consider a delusive hope.    (015)

EB: And at the same time, I think it is not necessarily a hope of many.    (016)

EB: Aristotle and "academic ontologists" may capture knowledge for its own sake.
    But most governmental and industrial organizations have much more 
    motives -- they capture only the knowledge they believe is relevant to a set
    of classes of processes they believe they will/may perform.    (017)

JU: Very telling then that a distinguishing characteristics of
    social systems, communities, is shared purposes and processes.    (018)

EB: *A* common characteristic is correct.  And I would have said "shared 
    and joint/interactive processes".  The individual processes of the 
    members may be enacted to achieve individual goals as well as, or instead 
    common goals.  But subprocesses of those processes, whatever the overall
    objectives, involve interactions with other members of the community toward
    a local objective that somehow relates to the goals of the interacting
    participants.  When I buy from a shop, my purpose in the acquisition is my
    own; and when the shopkeeper sells, his purpose is to earn his livelihood.
    And yet a town is an effective community precisely because the roles of
    different individuals fill one another's needs, even though no one's
    particular objective is to make the town, or each other, succeed.    (019)

EB: (It seems to be innate in humans to form emotional bonds that cause us to
    assist one another even when we don't see a direct benefit.  But ultimately
    that makes us take actions that help the community succeed without having 
    need to rationalize it that way.)    (020)

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