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Re: [ontolog-forum] Ontology similarity and accurate communication

To: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 7 Mar 2008 17:54:37 -0600
Message-id: <p06230906c3f77dbe1357@[]>
At 6:06 PM -0500 3/7/08, Patrick Cassidy wrote:
  I do not say that the ontology ³defines² terms, I said it has a ³logical specification of the meaning² of the terms.  I also already described what I meant by that.

 To answer the one question that raised a new point:
[PH] >> There is no such thing as THE necessary conditions. I presume you mean "some necessary conditions". But this is a very weak constraint indeed. Will ANY facts do?
      The necessary conditions that it is my goal to include in any specification of a type are those that are sufficient to distinguish that type from all others in the ontology, and that are consistent with the intended meaning, requiring that they apply to all entities that are intended to be instances of that type.  For many types, one could add additional necessary conditions, and ideally all would be included.  But the ideal may well be too time-consuming to achieve.  So I set a minimum criterion of being able to distinguish one type from all the others.  As time permits, additional restrictions can narrow the meaning.

I'm still completely unable to see how this is a useful notion. It is too vague to support any theory, and too ill-defined to mean anything in practice (are you referring to properties of the type, or of the instances of the type? What do you mean by 'ALL necessary conditions' (my emphasis)?)

[[[2]]] ontological disagreement:
[PH] >> disagreeing heatedly about whether or not a framed picture on a wall was in the office or part of the office
    Would anyone misunderstand if one said that the picture is *in* the office?

Probably not. But that is part of my point: people are tolerant of (what may appear to them to be) mis-use of words by others, provided that they are able to extract enough meaning to enable their current goal to be achieved, whatever that happens to be. But this gives us a very loose fit between words and meanings, and this looseness is why we cannot presume, for an agreement expressed in words, that there is any exactness in the match of the underlying concepts. We certainly cannot conclude that the mental ontologies are anything like identical. All the evidence suggests otherwise.

 The use of the word ³part² is extremely broad, and there would be no difficulty defining a general sense in which the picture is ³part² of the room in the broad sense, and also contained in the room.

Perhaps you had to be there to appreciate the intensity of the analysis of meanings that took place. We got to issues like this: bring a can of paint into a room; both agree that the paint in the can is in the room. Dip a brush into the can, lift it out: is the paint on the brush in the room? (Yes.) Now apply paint to the wall. Is this paint on the wall now in the room? (Disagreement.) Allow the paint to dry: is it now in the room? (Also disagreement, but between different people.) When the door (which opens internally) is open, is it - the door - in the room? (Disagreement). Is the glass in the window in the room? (Agreement: no) Is the inner surface of the window glass in the room? Disagreement. And so on. These are not disagreements about words or phrasings, but about meanings and concepts.

 It seems that no one in that discussion considered the possibility that both views could be represented consistently

That was not the point. The point was to simply list the things in the room, as a preliminary to another part of the process, and this disagreement surfaced to everyone's surprise, and was then examined in detail. Everyone, including the protagonists, was astonished to discover how extraordinary and 'obviously' false other people's intuitions seemed to them to be. And that is my point: people's intuitive ontologies of everyday terms, when examined in depth, do NOT agree. People do not share a common 'mental model' of the everyday world they - we - all inhabit. If they did, how could this mismatch of intuitions have arisen?

 (e.g. by distinguishing ?structuralPart¹ as a subrelation to distinguish it from the more generic ?part¹ relation, accommodating both views).  The notion of disjoint relations (a part cannot be contained in)  is not one that typically occupies someone learning the basic language.  Meanings of the general terms do overlap, but are still interpreted correctly when used in specific contexts.  I would not classify the picture as a ³structuralPart² of the room (the more specific relation), but would have no doubt as to the intended meaning if someone said ³pictures, furniture, and all other parts of the room² ­ though it would sound odd.

No doubt, but then the same applies if you heard "Pictures, furniture and all other shrbldbldsdajhf the room." We humans are very good at extrapolating intended meanings from partial and faulty evidence.

[[[3]]] [PH]  >> HOW? How is it possible for two children in kindergarten to align their mental ontologies? The idea doesn't even make sense: it would require them to be telepathic.
    No, no telepathy needed.  They need only both  hear a word used in reference to the same objects or events.

There is no evidence, psychological or computational, that such mere associating of word sounds with objects is enough to learn language from. How would one get from this the meaning of a word like 'embarrassing'?  You are just not talking about anything remotely real here.

  See also [[[7]]] below.
[[[4]]] [PH] You are however assuming that these 'implied ontologies' are themselves logic-based. (If you deny this, please explain what you mean by an 'inference' when talking of brains.)
     Inferences I refer to here are of the sort: when someone says ³I took a train to work² this implies that (among other things) (1) s/he went from home to the train (means unspecified); (2) boarded the train; (3) paid a fare (probably, possibly prepaid); (4) debarked from the train; (4) went from the train station (existence implied) to work.  And others that are also understood in hearing that phrase.  I do not know the exact neural pathways over which the signals flow, nor in what combination they conjure up images implied by assertions.  I do consider these implied facts to be the equivalent (in thinking) to the inferences that are drawn by our logic programs.  The ?implied ontologies¹ include a subsumption lattice and relations, but encoded in the neurons.  They are logic based in the broad sense that people can use if-condition then-condition rules, unconsciously, and do ³inferences²  by coming to the same conclusions from the same information, as would be arrived at by a formal inferencing procedure.

Well, that is a popular AI conception of the brain, but there is absolutely no evidence that it is even remotely correct.

  [PH] We have, in fact, no real idea how the brain does inferences, or even if it really does them at all in any meaningful sense.
     OK, you don¹t think that the kinds of brain inferences I describe above should be called ³inferences².

No, I don't think there is any evidence that the brain does this at all.

  Fine.  Let us disagree as to that term, and then you can forget the comparison of the inferencing speed of a brain and a computer ­ which is very peripheral to the topic of the discussion.

I agree this is not a very promising line of discussion. I mentioned it only because you began with it as the first line of your argument.

[[[5]]]  [PC] >> It¹s (the word ?dimension¹) not part of the linguistic defining vocabulary of words we all agree on.
 >>   It¹s needed for math, and in that context, describing visualizable two or three-dimensional spaces,
>>   is probably uncontroversial.  When used by analogy to refer to other concepts, I am not surprised that
>>  terminology disputes can arise.
[PH] > We are talking past each other. Im not interested in terminological disputes. Im talking about disagreements about the logical/conceptual structure of rival ontologies.
    Well, the way you described the dispute it sure sounded like a terminological issue.  One group wants to define ³dimension² in a way that excludes time, another group wants to define it so as to include time.

No, the debate is normally not even conducted in terms of dimensions. I assumed you were familiar with this well-known distinction, but perhaps you are not. It has been done to death in various 'upper ontology' forums.

   No, I am asserting that a common *basic* ontology (the conceptual defining vocabulary) is possible.

I know you are, but you havn't given us any evidence for that claim, and there is a great deal of evidence to the contrary. I doubt if anyone who has tried to actually construct a large-scale upper ontology would find it even remotely plausible.

 The point above is made as one part of the explanation of why people who try to build ontologies together often disagree.  Those theories are not part of the basic ontology, they would be part of an extension that is specified in terms of the basic ontology.

But this debate is about how to formulate temporal descriptions of change, processes and objects. Surely this must be part of any basic ontology?

[[[7]]] [PC] >. If a child learned language by itself, why don¹t the feral children speak the native language of their area fluently?
     [PH] > I meant, without adult intervention. If you think this is nonsense, learn something about
   > sociolinguistics and the distinction between pidgin and creole languages.
  >  A new 'native' language can evolve in a single generation: the kids really do invent it
  >  themselves from talking to one another. None of their parents speak it.
    I am aware of the spontaneous creation of language among children under those circumstances, and of sign languages as well.  But now you seem to be contradicting yourself.

Not at all.

If the kids manage to create a language among themselves, how is that possible except by attaching words to common objects and events that they observe

I have no idea how they do it. If I did, I would be famous in psycholinguistics. But I do know a fairly long history of failure of simplistic ideas about how it is done, of which the one you describe is one of the first, and all of which have been shown to be wrong or inadequate. The most trenchant observation about yours is that neither kids nor adults actually speak in the object/word way that would be necessary for this to work.

­ an idea that you dismissed sarcastically?

I dismissed it because it is old, tired and has been amply refuted.

[[[8]]] [PH] > Your anti-intellectualism is almost palpable
    No, I have great respect for intellectuals, even when they are at their most irritating.  I *have* noticed that some of them like to argue ­ more than seems necessary.

Do you mean, when they disagree with you?


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