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

To: Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx>
Cc: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sat, 15 Mar 2008 00:24:07 -0500
Message-id: <47DB5D77.3070906@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Dear Matthew and Pat,    (01)

There are certainly many descriptions of the same situation or
scene that are totally independent, and no mappings between them
are possible.  One example would be an aesthetic appreciation of
"the purple mountains' majesty" and a geological description
of the rock formations.    (02)

But there are many purely factual observations, which people make
and state without any thought to their ontological underpinnings:    (03)

    Bob woke up at 7:30, took a shower and shaved, got dressed,
    drove to the train station, bought coffee, a doughnut, and
    a newspaper, and got on the train.    (04)

All the words in that sentence would be familiar to a child,
who could understand it without making any assumptions that are
incompatible with any of the ontologies we have been discussing.    (05)

PH> What it illustrates is that there are important cases where
 > mappings exist between descriptions. But that is a much more
 > modest claim than yours here, which is that if they both describe
 > the same object or situation then there must be a mapping between
 > them: in other words, that truly incompatible descriptions of a
 > single reality are impossible.    (06)

Since there are truly incompatible ontologies, any statements
that depend on the differences between those ontologies would be
incompatible.  There are also statements such as the aesthetic
and geological descriptions, which are completely independent
(and therefore incapable of contradicting one another).  But I
would like to see examples of factually correct, but inconsistent
descriptions of the same scene or situation that were written by
competent reporters who were untutored in philosophy or ontology.    (07)

MW> I seem to recall that Barwise et al had put together a pretty good
 > argument in his Information Flow book for pretty much just this.
 > Did I misread this, or do you find some fault with his argument
 > (in which case details please)?    (08)

I read that book some time ago, and I don't recall the details.
But I believe the examples they used were similar to the factual
examples I described:  Bob's morning routine, airline schedules,
or scenes and situations that might be described by competent
reporters who were trying to tell the basic facts to readers
who were not philosophers or knowledge engineers.    (09)

But I will grant the following point:  for many kinds of detailed
reasoning (as in typical knowledge-based systems) various ontological
distinctions are important.  And the 4D ontology, by the way, is one
that I believe has many important advantages for such reasoning.    (010)

John    (011)

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