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Re: [ontolog-forum] Ontology vs OWL implementation

To: Bill Andersen <andersen@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 2 May 2008 00:15:59 +0200
Message-id: <p0623091ac43fe85ad544@[]>
At 3:36 PM -0400 5/1/08, Bill Andersen wrote:

The only reason I can see for the use of the term "ontology" in this connection is to increase the chances of winning funding from people who still attach mystic significance to the term "ontology" that they would not to "logical theory"

Quite. But isn't that the only reason for using the word "ontology" under any circumstances?

No.  One would only be using it cynically if they were convinced there was nothing to the term other than in the sense of "logical theory" but chose to use "ontology" instead for tactical reasons.

I disagree. The term has become to be in wide use, and it is understood by a much wider audience than 'logical theory'. Its not cynical to use a word that someone understands when trying to communicate with them. You will agree that every ontology *is* (equivalent to) a logical theory, right?

 A person could believe (wrongly in your view, but nevertheless earnestly) that there is something to "ontology" not captured by "logical theory".

Indeed, and if they can explicate that difference reasonably precisely, I would be quite happy to listen to them. But when all I read is that it is a matter of intuition, or cannot possibly be articulated, or that the critical distinction is that if you have 3 classes its an ontology but not if you only have 2 (got any other suggestions?) then I refuse to take it seriously, and revert to my cynical but as yet unchallenged view that it is a meaningless distinction.

 That person might be wrong, but they are not being cynical.  Whether they are wrong is, I believe, an open question.

Surely you can't be in favor of introducing a new term that does no more and no less work than established terms of art in logic and automated theorem proving, can you?

I wouldn't be if the term really were new (and I resolutely ignored it when it was first introduced)

You mean the 1993 "new" or the 1600-something "new".

1993, of course. I wasn't around in 1600.

 If the former I wish you'd go back to the old Pat :-D  I think you were better off.

but its no longer new, and we are now stuck with it. But it does a lot less harm if its merely a synonym than if its supposed to have some mystical importance inherited from philosophy or the latest vogue in management theory. Certainly I don't think we should be trying to invent some way to separate it from 'logical theory' simply in order to justify its existence.

No, certainly not.

So, let's toss the word "ontology" for the moment and talk about the technologies and practices associated today with the use of that term.  Someone else a few message back asked what the difference is, then, between these practices and what data modeling practice and technology have been concerned with for the last 40-50 years.

Well, do ontolo..., sorry, does logical KR work - go beyond data modelling practice and technology? Im not sure what the latter refers to, exactly.

 What is new with the advent of these technologies and practices?

  * Lifting the burden of explicit management of identifiers as elements of data models?  Check.
  * Making things exchangeable on the web?  Check.
  * Automated theorem proving.  Bzzzt - not new

Well, to be fair to the DL guys, a lot of the current projects are pushing the state of that art in new ways. Had you heard about hypertableaux before last year? And when did anyone before this generation apply ATP to hundreds of thousands of sentences in serious commercial applications?

I don't see anything else (but I'm willing to be convinced).  Proceeding from the assumption there is nothing else, I say who cares?  All of the energy poured into the Semantic Web concept has all been based on an unsubstantiated hypothesis that somehow, coherence will emerge from little pieces of web-exchangeable logic floating around, the net effect of which will be measurably better than what IT has achieved in the 45 years preceding the Semantic Web.

Oh hell, another troglodyte semantic-web basher. Look, what the SWeb is all about so far is setting standards. That took a number of years and was a hell of a lot of the total energy, and it wasn't exactly research. But nobody in the previous 45 years had even thought of doing that. IT simply hasn't approached this topic, or ever had this ambition, or ever considered the issues that arise when you do (and take it seriously). Common Logic is almost wholly motivated by the thinking that comes out of this. For evidence that IT wouldn't have done it right, look at what it did do, viz. KIF and CycL.

Most of the rest of any energy expended has either been extending the state of the various arts (notably tableaux reasoners) or 'social' projects such as FOAF. The hypothesis that you refer to is only one way that the SWeb is expected to evolve. Many people don't buy into this notion (I do, but I think Im in the minority) and they may be right; there are all kinds of other models of how the SWeb might go.

Pat, you're big on evidence.  What evidence is there that the above hypothesis is correct?

Well, its too early to ask for anything conclusive, but the success of things like RSS and FOAF suggests that it is certainly a live option. What I think is important about the SWeb is that it at enables such ideas to be pursued. Without something of the scale of the Web, it is impossible to even contemplate such an idea, or to run any experiments.

 What evidence is there that it is more correct than the hypothesis that there is something more to "ontology" than data modeling or automated theorem proving or the "new" features cited above?

I'd say absolutely no evidence for that second hypothesis at all. Can you point me at any way of using OWL or RDF content which does not amount to some kind of KR work and involve ATP (in a broad enough sense) ? What "something more" do you have in mind?



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