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Re: [ontolog-forum] Axiomatic ontology

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 04 Feb 2008 02:09:18 -0500
Message-id: <47A6BA1E.6090708@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Azamat,    (01)

Physics is the best developed, the most mathematical, and the
"hardest" of all the "hard" sciences.  But there is no such
thing as a single methodology even for physics.  Therefore,
I'll start with examples from physics.    (02)

 > whether you believe in one methodology applicable to all fields of
 > knowledge or in many different methods for different disciplines;    (03)

At a gross level, you could say that all branches of physics use
mathematics.  But the kinds of math, the methods of gathering data,
the methods used to solve problems, and the levels of approximation
differ widely from one kind of application to another.    (04)

For example, classical thermodynamics, which uses observable data
such as pressure, volume, and temperature is very different in
methodology than statistical thermodynamics.  I have the highest
regard for Ludwig Boltzmann, who developed the statistical methods
that could show how one was related to another.    (05)

Ernst Mach was another highly regarded physicist, whose expertise
was primarily in experimental methods (and he has been honored
by the name of Mach numbers for supersonic fluid flow).  Yet Mach
fought a decades-long battle against Boltzmann's method because
Boltzmann dared to make assumptions about unobservable entities
such as atoms.    (06)

In fact, Boltzmann committed suicide in 1905, after a vacation
in Italy, rather than return to Vienna, where he would have to
face Mach's partisans.  Of course, Boltzmann had suffered from
depression for a long time, but the struggles against Mach were
enough to push him over the edge.    (07)

Even when you don't have personality clashes, you still get
very different phenomena that require extremely different
methodologies.  The methods used to study the weather are
totally different from the methods for superconductivity at
very low temperatures and those are totally different from
the methods for studying gamma rays from extragalactic sources
and totally different from studying the byproducts of high-
energy collisions of subatomic particles.    (08)

Those are examples in physics, but the complications become
even more diverse when you look at engineering applications
of physics to different kinds of problems.  And when you
look at sciences just a few steps removed from physics, the
multiple methodologies escalate without bounds.    (09)

Just imagine a biologist who studies beaver dams, a biologist
who studies DNA, and a biologist who is looking for life on Mars.
That is all called biology, but you wouldn't find much similarity
in what they do.    (010)

 > whether you believe in one logic common to all the sciences or
 > in many different logics, one for maths, one for physics, one
 > for politics, one for ethics, etc.    (011)

I would say that first-order logic is common to all of those
fields.  And the use of various subsets below FOL or supersets
above FOL depend more on the kind of problem than on the subject
matter.    (012)

 > whether you advance one ontology common to all domains of
 > inquiry or many different ontologies, an ontology for maths,
 > another for physics, another for social sciences, etc.    (013)

Again, the issues are problem dependent.  Exactly the same
object, say a diamond, studied in exactly the same subject,
say physics, would be studied in different ways for the
purpose of studying its structure at the atomic level,
the way it refracts light at the visible level, etc.    (014)

In short, there is no one-size-fits-all methodology for
physics, and when you get to fields farther removed, such
as chemistry, biology, psychology, sociology, etc., the
amount of difference between different applications becomes
extremely wide.    (015)

I think it would be nice if we could have a single solution
for all possible problems.  But that is not going to happen.    (016)

John    (017)

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