It is sad that your requests for professional opinions fell under an
argumentive silence http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silence. Pity, because your
ideas are well formulated and clearly expressed even regardless their
conceptual inconsistencies. I'd like to read a more systematic account to
have better understanding. Now only some principal questions and remarks.
Actualism looks equivalent to presentism, declaring that only Now, the
present day exists. The world of today is its key subject matter. So
everything past is nonexistent, everything future is unreal.
Ontology states ''what there is exists'' or '' what exists there is''. The
modes of existence as reality, being, or the state of existing are as
diverse as: actuality, presence (ubiquity, immanency, hereness, thereness,
occurence), possibility (potential, chance), eternity or timeless existence,
spirituality, transcendence, mentality, animation, subsistence, virtuality.
Time comes from the future while History comes from the past. So, no more
physical sciences, no more historical sciences. The infinite and the eternal
are also beyond of actualism, no more fundamental mathematics and real
ontology. Don't you think that it is a poor ontological choice when
ultimately real is only the present moment of an infinitely complex world. (01)
EIS Encyclopedic Intelligent Systems Ltd
> Dear Colleagues,
> ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [That's me, Ronald Stamper, in the
> original note consisting of passages not prefixed by initials MW or
> RS. This second version, at Peter's prompting has clearer paragraph
> I've been eavesdropping ontolog for a while. Now I'd like to
> contribute new thoughts on an ontology-1 (in the philosophical sense).
> I hope they are relevant to axioms and ambiguity, among other things.
> I hope this message is not too discourteously long.
> Our research aimed to find a way of specifying the norms that govern
> organized human behavior. The practical results are very promising
> but they depend on finding a new metaphysical foundation, in
> particular an ontology-1 recognizing, to all intents and purposes,
> a) there is no knowable reality without an agent experiencing it; and
> MW: So that isn't that there is no reality without agents, only 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.
> RS: Perhaps I should not have inserted the word "knowable". We may
> imagine all kinds of things and believe in some of them but the only
> ones we can deal with in our practical affairs are those that some
> agent or other can deal with.
> RS: When one holds an apple, one experiences it as the things one can
> do with it. When the apple tastes good, this direct experience has
> nothing to do with knowledge, which enters into the picture only when
> expressed in words or other signs. We say that knowledge is erroneous
> or true, thus acknowledging that it has properties that the experience
> of the apple or its taste do not have. Distinguishing the sigh from
> the reality is essential for this approach.
> b) 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)?
> RS: We must begin by considering isolated agents. Each isolated
> agent constructs from / discovers in the flux of events and actions
> its own reality in which it must survive with as much comfort as it
> can devise.
> RS: Gibson explains how the agent achieves this.
> This builds on James Gibson's Theory of Affordances: no organism opens
> its sense 'windows' onto a ready-made reality but, from the flux of
> information generated by activity (including its own), the organism
> must discover the invariant repertoires of behavior, that the
> environment affords it. These 'affordances' are the things it
> RS: Note that, when an affordance registered by a simple isolated
> organism ceases, that feature of the world ceases to exist. Existence
> outside the here-and-now presents problems that may be solved by using
> signs: memory initially.
> We call the ontology-1 "actualism".
> MW: I think this name has already been grabbed:
> RS: Thanks very much for this citation; it did not appear when I made
> a brief search. Our actualism appears to be of an extreme kind that
> has no truck with possible worlds. Fictions, histories, plans and so
> on are actual signs.
> Bishop Berkeley's ontology is the nearest approximation I have found.
> He had to explain what happened to the tree in the quad when no one
> was around to perceive it. As expressed succinctly in the well-known
> There was a young man who said "God
> Must think it exceedingly odd
> If he finds that this tree
> Continues to be
> When there's no one about in the Quad."
> We substitute Society for God, with excellent effect. An isolated
> human organism will know little of reality without the cooperation of
> the rest of Society.
> MW: Again, I notice you are talking about what agents know, not about
> what exists.
> RS: Knowledge enters here at the stage when isolated agents begin to
> interact, using sign, to for a consolidated picture from their many
> different realities. Epistemology in this approach concerns the
> manner in which individuals can rely on signs as good quality
> vicarious experience. Ontology deals with understanding experience as
> access to what exists. The ground for any ontology for an isolated
> individual must be its own recognition of the affordances discovered
> in its own experiences. On that basis we individuals can discover
> affordances beyond the reach of our puny physiology+niche by employing
> the knowledge (signs) shared by our community. Thus we need
> epistemology as a tool for constructing the greater reality that we so
> easily take for granted, and, therefore, as partner to the rudimentary
> ontology for isolated organisms.
> I'm no philosopher, theologian or politician but an engineer looking
> for solutions that works. Some have accused me of an anti-individual
> political bias but this approach does not diminish the importance of
> the individual. Belief in God or in any other Truth, is unaffected
> within this paradigm, provided you acknowledge that these are beliefs
> for which you bear responsibility.
> In practical information systems engineering, ontology-1 leads to a
> canonical form of ontology-2 (sophisticated data model).
> MW: OK. Data models are one way of representing an ontology, but they
> are also the cross over from ontology to epistemology, since that
> specify the information we want to hold about certain things of
> RS: The ontology of types/universals that a community constructs
> includes the ontologies of instances/particulars of those who
> contributed to it.
> We claim only an empirical basis for this Semantic Normal Form. Could
> this have an axiomatic potential?
> MW: Well, data models generally contain relatively few axioms (the
> cardinality constraints would qualify). But these can be added.
> Please give me your comments. Is our ontology-1 really new? I'm sure
> you will disabuse me soon enough if I'm mistaken.
> MW: My question would be whether it is an ontology or epistemology.
> RS: Individuals' experiences provide the groundwork for an ontology-2
> that a community or society can elaborate into a consensual version.
> What to accept into this consolidated ontology-2 is achieved with the
> aid of the various tacit epistemologies people bring to judge what to
> accept or reject. Our approach incorporates an epistemology that
> requires one to check what agents are responsible for the additions or
> I gave a paper at the 2007 ICCS (the series that, I believe, John Sowa
> instigated); sadly he was not there. But that now encourages me to
> introduce the ideas to this group.
> RS: By the way, you will not find this paper in the proceedings,
> despite its being an invited keynote contribution. Springer insisted
> on owning the copyright; I offered them a license to using as they
> wish but that was not enough. I hate bullies, including, perhaps
> especially, large corporations, so I persisted with my refusal. I'd
> be happy to supply a copy to anyone.
> Our research on the formalization of social (and legal) norms, which
> started at the London School of Economics, forced us to handle
> semantics rigorously while never losing sight of the human connection
> between sign and reality.
> MW: Have you read John Searle, The construction of social reality ?
> RS: Indeed! This approach goes much further; it assumes the social
> construction of physical reality too, at least beyond the private,
> individual experiences of it.
> Talk of meaning obliges one to start from the fact that signs have
> meanings because they stand for real things. Hence, to have a clear
> position on meaning, one must make a commitment about the nature of
> MW: Right.
> None of the conventional ontology-1s seemed to work.
> MW: Which ones did you try? Realism is the one I favour (along
> probably with the majority of others here). What was it that did not
> work about realism?
> RS: Platonic Realism – not open to empirical examination; simple
> Objectivism – social reality such as that dealt with by the law (our
> source of empirical material) is constructed and modified by social
> processes; Formalism (?) – meanings based on a sign standing for other
> signs (computational semantics, some mathematics, EDI Semantic
> Repositories or other dictionary meanings . . .) just confine one to a
> world of signs; Conceptualism – signs stand for concepts or percepts
> in the minds of people (Sausurian semiology, much of linguistic
> semantics, IT conceptual schemas, IFIP 8.1 report on a Framework for
> Information Systems Concepts etc) does not allow empirical study;
> Platonic Realism again – mathematical functions mapping signs onto
> set-theoretic structures (some kinds of logic, Montague Semantics)
> makes the introduction of possible world essential, I think, if you
> need to handle time. What have I missed? So we preferred the
> judgment of the proverbial (in UK) 'man on the Clapham omnibus', with
> the proviso that you need to identify him and demand justifications.
> Finally we adopted Gibson's Affordances and added social norms, which
> are invariants that afford repertoires of behavior in the social
> sphere. Gibson's Theory of perception of the material world is
> insufficient to explain an individual human's perception except,
> perhaps, in cases of enfants sauvages. The rich perceptions of those
> raised as members of society incorporate many extra perceptions that
> have been supplied by other people and form the community's shared
> perceptual norms. Moreover the reality of the social world also
> depends on the many other behavioral, cognitive and evaluative norms
> that we also derive from the community that nurtures us. Therefore we
> have taken Society as the root agent in our model of perception.
> Berkeley explained a person's perception of a tree as the result of an
> idea in His mind,
> MW: Now that is beginning to sound like conceptualism.
> RS: Angelic Celestialism, we might say. Even more inaccessible to
> empirical study!
> so that we can accept that the tree continues to exist in the Quad
> when "nobody" can see it, because God is always there.
> Without the mysterious intervention of God, Society provides an
> empirically testable explanation for continuing to accept the tree's
> MW: How? I would have thought the tree was sufficient for continuing
> to accept the tree's existence.
> RS: No, not at all. Your remark suggests a simple objectivist
> position: the tree and all the other things, including the quad, have
> their independent existences; they just continue to be there
> regardless of anyone. In our sever actualism, you can believe that
> they continue to exist – it is a very reasonable position! I have the
> same sort of belief but, as an extreme actualist, I have to admit
> that, having left the quad, the tree ceases to exist for me, in here
> and now, as a realized affordance. But my memory of and my written
> note about the tree does exist here and now with me outside the quad.
> I can use these records to support my belief and also to help me
> persuade others that the tree is still there. After a little while,
> the tree may no longer be there, having been felled preparatory to
> some building work. I can phone a friend with rooms overlooking the
> quad, or ask a person who has just left the college to check the
> validity of my belief. If questioned about it, I can justify it
> because of a number of shared cognitive norms concerning the longevity
> of oak trees, the conservative practice of the college fellows in the
> management of their property, especially their desire to keep any
> two-hundred-year old tree if at all possible. Thus, through the
> skilful use of signs that Society has evolved, the community, as the
> responsible agent can hold the tree in existence as a realized
> affordance and allow me to share in that aggregate perception. That's
> why Society replaces God for good engineering reasons. The Root Agent
> in all our business and legal schemas/ontology-1s is Society.
> An analogy might help: you directly experience your pet cat over an
> extended period (during which it is available to you as an affordance
> or invariant repertoire of behaviour – all the things you can do to or
> with a cat that differentiate a cat from things in other categories).
> However, during that time, sometimes a few cells in your hand have
> direct experience of the cat, at other times cells in your legs,
> sometimes cells in you ears register the cat, you also see it but not
> always . . . and so on. Through the communications via your nervous
> system, the direct experiences of thousands of individual cells in
> your body become aggregated into the perception made by the whole of
> you. I'm saying that the whole of Society perceives things beyond the
> reach of any one of us by aggregating our reports of our direct
> experiences. Unlike the cells of our bodies, we, as individuals, can
> obtain and use pictures of things in the world assembled by Society as
> the perceiving agent.
> Many people think that this is a very laborious way of explaining the
> continued existence of the tree compared with the normal assumption of
> realism. Of course, for everyday tasks, we all adopt realism as a
> practical ontology-1. Certainly I do. But as an engineer of
> information systems, actualism does compel one to examine exactly how
> we use information to arrive at the apparent perception of a reality
> far beyond anything within the scope of an individual's experience.
> 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.
> RS: Exactly!
> The rich world we ontolog participants believe in lies beyond the
> perceptual reach of any isolated human being.
> MW: So here at least you seem to acknowledge a world independent of
> our perceptions.
> RS: No! I believe in such a world as a valuable heuristic for
> everyday decision-making but I acknowledge it as a belief that ceases
> to be correct when I'm trying to understand the details of the
> semiological mechanisms in a community or even in an information
> system. Actualism then becomes an instrument helping to make visible
> the complex details of observation, reporting, forming beliefs and
> norms, checking what is said etc.
> Society enables us to aggregate our puny individual experiences
> through the information we exchange and the norms we share. We test
> them until we arrive at the familiar picture of an apparently
> objective reality.
> MW: Sounds like epistemology again.
> RS: Epistemology serves as a toolkit for building an ontology-2 that
> exploits the very simple experiences of many individuals. The
> ontology-1 of extreme actualism enables us to build, from the world
> views that unaided individuals can construct, to the sophisticated
> world views that Society can develop.
> To represent fully something that we believe exists, we must say who
> perceives it and what affordance the agent realizes for the period of
> its existence. So we need sentences of the form:
> Agent affordance
> The root Agent must be a particular (convention: uppercase capital).
> During the Agent's realization of this affordance, it is, in effect a
> modified kind of Agent able to experience some other affordance.
> (Agent affordance) affordance
> When an affordance ceases to be realized, as far as the root Agent is
> concerned that thing totally ceases to exist.
> MW: But only as far as the agent is concerned, not necessarily in
> reality, right?
> RS: No! If the agent is a simple organism with no memory (not
> counting evolved, instinctive patterns of behaviour) then, when that
> affordance ceases to be realized that particular ceases to exist. If
> the agent is more sophisticated, with a memory and a role in Society,
> then the thing may continue to exist, for practical purposes, until
> every memory or record of it is expunged. Then the thing does cease
> to exist for all practical purposes.
> The environment may afford the Agent two of these repertoires of
> behaviour simultaneously:
> Agent (affordance while affordance)
> again becoming the modified agent
> (Agent (affordance while affordance)) affordance
> Thus a) the effective existence of anything
> MW: As opposed to the actual existence of anything.
> RS: Effective / actual? Does the thing exist in a way that allows one
> to act upon it, effect some change in it, or even merely observe it?
> A particular thing that some person realizes as an affordance exists
> effectively in that sense, because that agent can act upon the thing
> on our behalf. There is no 'real reality' beyond the effective
> reality unless it belongs in the imagination or books or hypotheses,
> which are all signs that certainly are effectively real and available
> in the here-and-now.
> depends fundamentally on the agent who takes responsibility for
> his/her/its choices.
> MW: This sounds like beliefs again.
> It also b) depends on the coexistence of some other, 'ontological
> antecedents'. Between the Agent and the affordance in question one may
> draw a lattice where each affordance has one or a maximum of two
> antecedents. If this lattice includes the antecedent affordances that
> are necessary and sufficient for the existence of the one being
> analysed, one will have a schema in Semantic Normal Form.
> A little example (I'll leave you to draw a graphical version) is a
> marriage (person-1 (Society), person-2 (Society))
> If person-1 proposes such a marriage, he (usually) must use a sign
> that stands for that marriage, which does not exist:
> proposal (person-1 (Society), "marriage ( . . . .)")
> As the ontology-1 only allows us to talk about things existing here and
> MW: Oh, so you are a presentist too then are you?
> RS: Absolutely! It's a marvelous discipline making one see things as
> they are.
> everything in the past or future is available only in this semiological
> SNF-compliant schemas are very stable and systems built on them can
> accommodate changes of requirements with remarkable economy. Looked at
> from another angle, the schema in SNF has a valid generality across
> cultures, while able to accommodate any differences through the
> variations in the authorities that determine when things start and
> finish their existence. This supports the accretion of semantic
> information without imposing any artificial uniformity. Presumably,
> these properties are highly relevant to the semantic web.
> SNF-compliant schemas can be aggregated. We have built some quite
> large schemas
> MW: Large I discover is a relative term. Is large for you 100 entity
> types, 1000 entity types, 10000 entity types 100,000 entity types or
> 1,000,000 entity types?
> RS: You are quite right to ask. Here, in our remote French hamlet, I
> have none of the data. However I can offer guestimates for some
> systems: Higher Education admin, c.600; Packaging and Marketing for a
> large brewery, c.1000; Marketing and Distribution for Electrical White
> Ware, c. 400; Raw Material Quality Control for a Food Manufacturer,
> c.200; Medical Insurance Policy, c.200; etc. These are large enough
> for the specification of computer applications in those areas.
> but need far more experience to discover where the limits lie.
> Building a schema in SNForm is not a trivial task, by the way. If you
> wish to try, don't fall into the trap of treating an ontological
> dependency as a cause-effect relationship. Your schema can represent
> only what exists here and now, as defined by the Agent and its
> MW: I prefer realism and 4-dimensionalism, so I think I'll pass on this.
> RS: The agent is the origin of its experienced spatial domain.
> Topological affordances enable to agent to experience the
> dimensionality of the space.
> Times have to be constructed semiologically. An agent, during the
> realization of an affordance, may assume it has a start and will have
> a finish; provided the agent is sophisticated enough, it can refer to
> those events as "The start of x." and "The finish of x." and use these
> signs as rudimentary time references. Introducing chronometers that
> allow us to attach numbers to them leads to the notions of time we now
> take for granted. Start and finish events always lie in the past or
> future, not in the here-and-now.
> Every node on the schema should be accompanied by a list of attributes
> that includes the identifier of the thing it stands for, the universal
> it instantiates, when its starts and finishes its existence and the
> authorities that determine these start and finish events/times.
> MW: So when does the number two start and finish, or the colour green?
> RS: For an isolated agent everything starts (if at all possible) not
> before the agent comes into existence and finishes no later than the
> agent's death. For most animals that is or is nearly the case but they
> also perceive certain affordances by evolved instinct. For social
> agents with varied and sophisticated semiological skills, we can build
> theoretical models of reality going back to the Big Bang and
> reasonably believe that many different shades of green began to exist
> in the spectra of various elements, but these are beliefs. Labeled
> shades of green that members of society actually experienced and about
> which they can communicate probably came into existence (my guess)
> 100,000 years ago. But colour categories are culturally dependent and
> probably change over time.
> We know that a few animals and birds can recognize the affordances of
> two or three things, so those integers may have been parts of the
> realities of some isolated creatures. There may be some traces in the
> archeological and historical records concerning the starts of the
> existence of some integers in Society. The infinite and the eternal
> do not exist in an actualist's world except as signs, in particular as
> rules (signs for norms) governing processes that have no necessary
> All our cherished beliefs and theories are acceptable in this
> actualism provided that one acknowledges they are beliefs and,
> therefore, subject to critical appraisals recommended by whatever
> epistemology anyone chooses to judge them – the value of the chosen
> epistemology can the be judged by its ability to eliminate damaging
> practical consequences in our actions.
> Our Legally Orientated Language for manipulating data held under
> SNF-compliant schemas allows us to represent social norms precisely
> and in a form that 'naïve' users find easy to understand.
> We have designed many and built some systems (but not yet enough)
> using these concepts with marked success.
> MW: Can you say what the applications you have built do?
> RS: See the list above, first: most of these ontology-2s, if they were
> used to implement systems, were taken over by people employing
> conventional methods. Our interest has been to add to the ontology-2
> the norms that govern the starts and finishes of things in order to
> complete the specification of the human system roughly in the manner
> of drafting legislation governing actions by people in the domain. We
> then have the further interest in automating the implementation of
> helpful computer applications from such system specifications. We
> have implemented one administrative system this way with truly marked
> success: even with a first attempt, development costs were cut by a
> factor of three, support and maintenance costs by a factor of seven in
> comparison with a similar system implemented using an adjustable
> package that had already evolved over 200 different implementations.
> Subsequently we found that nearly all our maintenance costs had been
> caused by the initial adoption for a short period of orthodox
> requirement specification methods that introduced 'malignant
> structures' (Ades). Perhaps more importantly, our methods were able
> to suit the exact needs and all the needs of the organization whereas
> the organization using the packaged solution had to be altered to fit
> the package and some of their functions had to be met by marginal
> annotation of printouts. Because the SNF schema components are
> reusable, and because we can perform the analysis much more quickly
> now, we are confident that development costs can be reduced by another
> factor of three. We'd welcome the opportunity to test the methods on
> other applications.
> Note that although we have been funded by Research Councils in the UK
> and Netherlands, we have never had any amount of funding approaching
> that of CYC.
> The formal aspects need far more work.
> RS: How better to explain actualism, this weird way of thinking, more
> effectively also calls for much more work. I'm just completing a book
> on how to do it in a practical way.
> Awaiting some feedback, with my regards,
> RS: For this first feedback from Matthew West, my warmest thanks. It
> is so healthy to be forced to respond to such perceptive comments.
> Ronald Stamper
> PS: It has taken some time to be able to send this message and now
> I'll be away from my desk for a few days. - Further apologies!
> RS: I'll post this straight away to the forum although I see there is
> another posting from John Sowa for my attention. Having the narrowest
> of narrow band connections to the net, makes for hard work.
> Forgive me if I've made a pig's ear of the layout of the text I'm now
> [Second version – I hope this pig's ear is slightly more readable.]
> Message Archives: http://ontolog.cim3.net/forum/ontolog-forum/
> Subscribe/Config: http://ontolog.cim3.net/mailman/listinfo/ontolog-forum/
> Unsubscribe: mailto:ontolog-forum-leave@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
> Shared Files: http://ontolog.cim3.net/file/
> Community Wiki: http://ontolog.cim3.net/wiki/
> To Post: mailto:ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Message Archives: http://ontolog.cim3.net/forum/ontolog-forum/
Shared Files: http://ontolog.cim3.net/file/
Community Wiki: http://ontolog.cim3.net/wiki/
To Post: mailto:ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (04)