Dear John, (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.
> 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.
> 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. (02)
MW: I have no problem with what you say here.
> Some comments on the notes by Ronald and Matthew:
> RS> ... there is no knowable reality without an agent;
> MW> So that isn't that there is no reality without agents,
> 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. (03)
MW: Yes. I was just clarifying the point.
> 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.
> 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. (04)
MW: Yes I agree, you can't really separate them. But you do move between
them. So for example, it is one thing to say that a person has a skin
colour, and it is another thing to know the skin colour of a particular
person, or to require in your database that you must know the skin
colour of any person about whom you hold any information. This for me
at least is what I mean when I talk about moving from ontology to
epistemology. It sounds to me that Ronald is assuming that things he
doesn't know about don't exist. So perhaps it is more that he is
making a sort of closed world assumption.
> 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. (05)
MW: I don't think he is talking so much about theories, as brute facts.
Ronald seems to be assuming that what is not known to exist does not
exist (again brute facts).
> 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.
> 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. (06)
MW: I quite agree. As it happens I have just been working on a
provenance data model for reference data for ISO 8000.
> RS> the agent must discover its own reality in the flux of events
> > and actions.
> 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)?
> 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". (07)
MW: Yes. But is that what Ronald means?
> MW> I notice you are talking about what agents know, not about
> > what exists.
> 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. (08)
MW: Again, I am more concerned with the assumption that nothing
exists that I do not know about.
> I'll pass over the discussion by Ronald and Matthew about terms
> like 'actualism', 'conceptualism', 'data models', and Searle.
> 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.
> MW> This sounds like something based on our collective knowledge
> > again, tied perhaps to beliefs.
> Yes, but that is the best test for what anyone can claim to know. (09)
MW: I didn't say it wasn't. (010)
> 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. (011)
MW: Again, I more interested in the assumption I think I'm seeing
that e.g. only the people I know exist.
> MW> But only as far as the agent is concerned, not necessarily
> > in reality, right?
> 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. (012)
MW: Yes, but if this is what Ronald was trying to say, I don't
think it was very clear. (013)
> RS> Your schema can represent only what exists here and now, as
> > defined by the Agent and its activities.
> MW> I prefer realism and 4-dimensionalism, so I think I'll pass
> > on this.
> 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. (014)
MW: That is not what Ronald was saying. He was saying that it is
not possible to represent what does not exist here and now. (015)
> MW> So when does the number two start and finish, or the colour green?
> 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...."
> 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. (016)
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