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Re: [ontolog-forum] Another approach

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sat, 23 Feb 2008 14:12:52 -0500
Message-id: <47C07034.4050500@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Dear Ronald and Matthew,    (01)

In my previous reply to Azamat, I emphasized that all mathematical
theories have exceptions, which are sometimes more important than
the cases that the theory was intended to cover.    (02)

One reason why I like semiotics is that it brings many more cases
under the same umbrella.  Everything we are dealing with in both
natural and artificial languages are signs of various kinds, and
the boundaries between the two kinds of signs are usually vague.    (03)

We may claim that the axioms are the ultimate criterion of what
any term means, but we are using NLs to talk about those criteria
and to explain the limitations.  And as we have seen, we cannot
agree among ourselves.  Even a logician who understands our
formalism won't know the intended applications and exceptions
of any axioms we state in that formalism.    (04)

Some comments on the notes by Ronald and Matthew:    (05)

RS> ... there is no knowable reality without an agent;    (06)

MW> So that isn't that there is no reality without agents,    (07)

Please note that Ronald said "no knowable reality".  I agree
with his point, even though I also believe that reality doesn't
depend on agents for its existence.  But there is vastly more
to reality than anybody can ever know.    (08)

MW> that what is known must be known by an agent, presumably
 > because only agents can know things. Sounds to be like you might
 > be more interested in epistemology than ontology.    (09)

The words 'epistemology' and 'ontology' create an enormous amount
of confusion.  The people who are the most confused are the ones
who think it is possible or even desirable to separate them.    (010)

Perhaps God with his infinite mind might have a "true" ontology,
but anything that we call an ontology is limited by what we know
or think we know.    (011)

Semiotics forces us to be clear about the sources of signs and
the agents who are interpreting those signs in terms of other
signs.  That provides a more solid foundation than any attempt
to define an ontology that claims to be independent of sources
and agents.    (012)

When you read a story in a newspaper, anonymous sources are
always *less* credible than named sources.  The same is true
of a scientific report or an ontology.    (013)

RS> the agent must discover its own reality in the flux of events
 > and actions.    (014)

MW> Are you saying here that there are actually multiple realities,
 > which are what agents discover, or that there is one reality, that
 > different agents have different views on based on what different
 > agents discover (know again)?    (015)

That's a good question.  I suggest that we avoid talking about
different realities.  It is better to say that each agent has
"its own view of reality".    (016)

MW> I notice you are talking about what agents know, not about
 > what exists.    (017)

Nobody -- human, alien, or robotic -- can ever talk about what
exists apart from what it knows or believes about what exists.
As I said, omitting the sources can never improve credibility.    (018)

I'll pass over the discussion by Ronald and Matthew about terms
like 'actualism', 'conceptualism', 'data models', and Searle.    (019)

RS> Based the cognitive norms shared across Society and using the
 > reports of responsible observers, checked by critical discourse
 > with others, we can justify believing that the tree still stands
 > in the quad.    (020)

MW> This sounds like something based on our collective knowledge
 > again, tied perhaps to beliefs.    (021)

Yes, but that is the best test for what anyone can claim to know.
Since ontologies are limited to what people know, we can't have
a better criterion for an ontology than an extended period of
critical discourse and testing by disinterested experts.    (022)

MW> But only as far as the agent is concerned, not necessarily
 > in reality, right?    (023)

An ontology is a structured collection of signs intended by some
agent to represent some aspect of reality.  When you read a story
in a newspaper, a report by anonymous sources is always *less*
credible than one that states the sources.  The same is true
of an ontology.    (024)

RS> Your schema can represent only what exists here and now, as
 > defined by the Agent and its activities.    (025)

MW> I prefer realism and 4-dimensionalism, so I think I'll pass
 > on this.    (026)

It doesn't matter what philosophical position you hold or what
kind of representation you prefer.  Any statement you make about
ontology will be limited by your sources of evidence and the
experiments you or people you trust have performed to test that
evidence.  A good methodology leads to a better correspondence
to reality than a bad one.  But you can't make claims about what
exists that are independent of your methodology.    (027)

MW> So when does the number two start and finish, or the colour green?    (028)

That's a fair question.  I think that Ronald went too far in saying
"every node on the schema schema should be accompanied by a list
of attributes...."    (029)

It would be better to say that every sign type should have a traceable
link to its definition.  Then the definition of 'two' would say that
it represents an abstract entity that satisfies Peano's axioms and
as an abstraction, it is outside of space and time.  Similarly, the
definition of 'green' would specify that green as a type is outside
of space and time, but any instance of green occupies a particular
space-time region.    (030)

John    (031)

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