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Re: [ontolog-forum] A different approach to ontology

To: rick@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx, "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sun, 11 May 2008 13:00:54 -0400
Message-id: <48272646.4050405@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Rick,    (01)

Those questions could take volumes to analyze and discuss.
Some brief remarks on your points:    (02)

 > The RDF semantics states a) that it restricts meaning to what
 > "can be captured in mechanical inference rules" and b) that
 > equates a particular world with an interpretation.    (03)

That may be what that particular document says, and some
people who use RDF may observe the caveats.  But I get the
impression that many people who use RDF are "triple hackers".
For those uses, all bets are off.    (04)

 > Would you happen to have a reference to an academic paper the
 > defines an interpretation as a world ?    (05)

The term 'possible world' raises an enormous number of serious
philosophical questions.  When you examine the formalisms in
detail, it turns out that what they call a "world" is better
described as an undefined abstract entity in a set of entities
called 'worlds'.  The thorny questions of how a correspondence
between those abstract entities and the real world could actually
be determined (perceived, computed, or documented) are usually
swept under a very thick rug called "epistemology".    (06)

One of my major complaints is that the division of philosophical
labor into two distinct fields called epistemology and ontology
is nice distinction that has had disastrous consequences.  It
has led people working in either field to toss the nastiest
questions over the fence to the other.  As a result, neither
group takes responsibility for integrating them.  Following
is a paper I wrote (abstract below):    (07)

    Worlds, Models, and Descriptions    (08)

 > CL model theory doesn't make the same claim: that an interpretation
 > is a world. Why ?    (09)

Because doing so would open a can of worms that we could never stuff
back into the can.  An ISO standard is not the place to deal with
problems that have not been solved by philosophers in the last three
millennia.  That doesn't mean the problems are unimportant -- just
that it would be a bad idea to standardize decisions on which there
is no consensus.    (010)

 > Is it fair to say that vocabularies that satisfy interpretations
 > under RDF and CL allow us to extend meaning with to what Goguen
 > called representational and relational theories or meaning.    (011)

Some would.  But note the remark about "triple hackers".    (012)

______________________________________________________________________    (013)

Worlds, Models, and Descriptions    (014)

John F. Sowa    (015)

Abstract. Since the pioneering work by Kripke and Montague, the term 
possible world has appeared in most
theories of formal semantics for modal logics, natural languages, and 
knowledge-based systems. Yet that term
obscures many questions about the relationships between the real world, 
various models of the world, and
descriptions of those models in either formal languages or natural 
languages. Each step in that progression is
an abstraction from the overwhelming complexity of the world. At the 
end, nothing is left but a colorful
metaphor for an undefined element of a set W called worlds, which are 
related by an undefined and undefinable
primitive relation R called accessibility. For some purposes, the 
resulting abstraction has proved to be useful,
but as a general theory of meaning, the abstraction omits too many 
significant features. So much information
has been lost at each step that many philosophers, linguists, and 
psychologists have dismissed model-theoretic
semantics as irrelevant to the study of meaning. This article examines 
the steps in the process of extracting the
pair (W,R) from the world and the way people talk about the world. It 
shows that the Kripke worlds can be
reinterpreted as part of a Peircean semiotic theory, which can also 
include contributions from many other studies
in cognitive science. Among them are Dunn's semantics based on laws and 
facts, the lexical semantics preferred
by many linguists, psychological models of how the world is perceived, 
and philosophies of science that relate
theories to the world. A full integration of all those sources is far 
beyond the scope of this article, but an outline
of the approach suggests that Peirce's vision is capable of relating and 
reconciling the competing sources.    (016)

Published in Studia Logica, Special Issue Ways of Worlds II, 84:2, 2006, 
pp. 323-360.    (017)

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