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Re: [ontolog-forum] What is "understanding"

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 04 Apr 2008 22:10:57 -0400
Message-id: <47F6DFB1.4040305@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Gary,    (01)

Since you mentioned a comment I made when the following paper was
presented at FOIS 2006, I thought I would clarify my position
about what that paper was claiming:    (02)

GBC> I was also thinking of an event at FOIS 2006 (I think) where
 > Philipp CIMIANO and Uwe REYLE presented a paper called "Towards
 > Foundational Semantics Ontological Semantics Revisited".
 > See http://www.aifb.uni-karlsruhe.de/WBS/pci/Publications/fois06.pdf
 > ... if I remember right, John Sowa asked the authors what was new
 > in what they were saying, it all was in his Conceptual Structures
 > book from the 70s ...    (03)

Actually, my CS book appeared in 1983, but many other people had said
something similar much, much earlier.  See for example, my review of
a collection of papers by Margaret Masterman, who wrote those papers
during the 1950s and '60s:    (04)

    Review of _Language, Cohesion and Form_    (05)

In their paper, Cimiano and Reyle criticized Nirenburg and Raskin for
not having a "foundational ontology" or what many people call an
"upper ontology":    (06)

    In line with Nirenburg and Raskin's Ontological Semantics framework,
    we thus adhere to the basic tenet that natural language semantics
    needs to be captured with respect to an explicitly formalized
    ontology. Further, we argue for a novel direction in computational
    semantics, i.e. what we will call foundational semantics.
    Foundational semantics differs from ontological semantics in that
    it is concerned with identifying that abstract meaning layer which
    remains constant across domains and applications. In this respect
    our approach differs crucially from the ontological semantics
    framework of Nirenburg and Raskin, who are not concerned with
    domain-independent aspects of meaning.    (07)

My major objection is to people who use words like "novel" for
techniques that people have been working on for many decades.
Cyc, for example, has the largest formal ontology ever implemented,
and it is thoroughly integrated with an upper (or foundational)
ontology.  Lenat & Co. have had linguists working with them since
Cyc was founded back in 1984, and their "integrated" approach has
not enabled them to do significantly better than many other systems,
including ones that Nirenburg & Raskin have been working on.    (08)

Sergei is quite capable of defending himself, but I'd like to
mention another point related to the second author, Uwe Reyle.    (09)

Reyle is the second author of a very good book on Discourse
Representation Theory, which was introduced in the 1980s by the
first author Hans Kamp:    (010)

    H. Kamp & U. Reyle, _From Discourse to Logic_, Kluwer, 1993.    (011)

Kamp was a student of Richard Montague's, who had been one of
the pioneers in the logic-based approach to natural language
semantics.  Although Kamp's DRT diverged from Montague's method,
it has also been one of the major influences on the use of logic.    (012)

However, Kamp himself has recently expressed some very serious
doubts about the assumption that formal logic, by itself, is
adequate as a foundation for NL semantics:    (013)

    A Farewell to Logic in Action: Hans Kamp    (014)

In my 1983 book and in my more recent publications, I have been
a strong supporter of logic, but I have never claimed that logic
alone is sufficient.  In the concluding chapter 7, called the
"Limits of Conceptualization," I summarized all the very serious
problems, which I later published in papers about "knowledge soup":    (015)

    The Challenge of Knowledge Soup    (016)

Although I think logic is important (and I have said so many times),
I also believe that deductive logic based on a uniform "foundational"
ontology cannot, by itself, provide an adequate basis for NLP.    (017)

In the 40 years since Montague wrote his papers, there has never been
any logic-based system that could translate a single page from any
textbook to a formal logic of any kind.  When Kamp was a graduate
student in the late 1960s, he was hired by Rand to translate (by
hand) an article from the _Scientific American_ to logic.  That
experience is what led him to move away from Montague's method to
his own DRT.  But after working with many people who were using
DRT, he realized that even DRT was insufficient.    (018)

So far, there is ZERO evidence that a logic-based method based
on a uniform, formal foundational (or upper) ontology, by itself,
would be adequate for NL semantics (or as a foundation for the
Semantic Web or for computer system interoperability).    (019)

I still believe that logic and ontology are important.  They are
useful, but they're not magic.  And many people want magic.    (020)

John    (021)

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