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Re: [ontolog-forum] electric sheep

To: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Barker, Sean (UK)" <Sean.Barker@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 3 Sep 2007 10:12:21 +0100
Message-id: <E18F7C3C090D5D40A854F1D080A84CA44CD36E@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>

Apologies, reading up over the weekend, I find I do mean semantics more
than pragmatics when I say the meaning of a term (the concept that the
term presents) is founded on behaviour. If one says,     (01)

        X is a conceptualisation of Y    (02)

I think I should be able to ask, "what is Y". It cannot be another
conceptualisation (unless I am building hierarchies of concepts). It
must be based on something that is not a conceptualization. I cannot
believe it is purely sense-experience, which I merely need to attach the
right conceptual labels to (as per St Augustine), because the things we
talk about are not the raw phenomena of sense experience, but the things
which are important to us as humans though our systems of behaviour.    (03)

In this context
        X is a conceptualization of (behavioural system) Y
is equivalent to
        Y is the behavioural system conceptualised by X.    (04)

The reason for talking about "the meaning of a term is founded on
behaviour" is because behaviour is observable and objectively
verifiable, whereas I cannot look inside your head to check on what your
concepts look like. This is the point I am making with the "three green
apples" example - with or without robots.    (05)

The consequences of this are that I can objectively determine the truth
of the claim "Dinner is on the table" without claiming that the terms
"dinner" and "table" are other than concepts which used within a
particular linguistic community.    (06)

For example, we could objectively agree the truth of each of "dinner is
on the table", "dinner is on the bench" and "dinner is on the bus
shelter", however, the difference between a bench, a table and a bus
shelter is not one of form (four legs and a flat top) but one of human
anatomy and its consequent behaviour - I sit on a bench, eat from a
table and stand under a bus shelter.    (07)

If I was discussing this with a talking lion, the first problem I would
expect is that lions do not have terms for "table" or "dinner", although
I might get as far as agreeing that "the food is on the platform" (as
long as its not nut roast).    (08)

In engineering terms, this is equivalent to saying that if we are to
build a common enterprise, we must do due diligence to ensure what we
are talking about the same thing. This is not simply a matter of
checking we have the same labels for the same concepts, but actually
check that we have the same systematisation of the conceptual landscape.    (09)

The reasons for insisting on this are various, and I will just note two.
Firstly, I have come across projects that have run through a year of
argument before the partners discovered that they were using the same
terms to mean quite different things. Secondly, I have read at least one
academic paper which has proposed automatic ontology matching on the
basis of matching terms and attributes - that is it assumes that match
the presentation of concepts is equivalent to matching concepts
(heuristic yes, mechanical procedure no).    (010)

I suspect part of this discussion arises from the way that humans
naturally talk in terms of concepts, but are unaware of the process by
which we recognise that something is an instance of a concept. I was
taught Wittgenstein's "Philosophical Investigations" as a set of
therapies against the notion that the concepts we use are "natural" (in
the sense of being unmediated by culture), although I took me another
three years to reach the duck-rabbit moment when this approach made
sense.    (011)

Do androids dream of electric sheep? I think this is a problem for
another forum.    (012)

Sean Barker
Bristol, UK    (013)

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represent an official company view.    (014)

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