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Re: [ontolog-forum] Data Models v. Ontologies (again)

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 30 May 2008 10:59:21 -0400
Message-id: <48401649.9000800@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Ed and Len,    (01)

Before commenting on your comments, I'd like to mention one of
Doug Lenat's anecdotes.  Whenever he interviews job applicants
at Cyc, he asks them to take a short test with a few English
sentences to be translated to first-order logic.    (02)

The person Doug was interviewing happened to be a professor
of logic, and Doug apologized for giving him such an elementary
exercise.  But the professor flunked.  He gave the lame excuse
"That's not what we teach our students."  Indeed, that's true.    (03)

JFS>> I would claim that a knowledge engineer today who had a good
 >> background in logic, linguistics, lexicography, and, I dare say,
 >> philosophy, could do very good work.    (04)

EB> Well, that probably limits the field to you and Charles Peirce.    (05)

Perhaps today, but that level of knowledge was expected of every
university graduate from the 13th to the 19th centuries.  The basic
textbook, _Summulae Logicales_ by Peter of Spain, was written around
1239.  It contained a combination of logic and ontology based on
Aristotle together with systematic methods for analyzing natural
language sentences (Latin, in those days) and mapping them to logic.    (06)

The old curriculum was based on the "seven liberal arts" -- the
*trivium* of language arts (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) and
the *quadrivium* of mathematical arts (arithmetic, geometry,
music, and astronomy).  For a good English version based on the
traditional texts, I recommended    (07)

    Joseph, Sister Miriam (1937) _The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of
    Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric_, Third edition 1948, reprinted
    by Paul Dry Books, 2002.    (08)

For $12.70, you can get a new paperback version from Amazon.com.  For
$23.07, you can get a reprint of Sister Miriam's PhD dissertation at
Columbia University, _Shakespeare's Use of the Arts of Language_.    (09)

As I said in my previous note, educated people in Elizabethan times
(including the Queen) knew those arts.  Sister Miriam taught them
to freshman English majors in the 1940s and '50s.  I don't think
it's too much to expect knowledge engineers to learn them.    (010)

LY>  Whatever great accomplishments of medieval times - were made
 > despite oppression of ignorance and with enormous waste of time
 > and human life.
 >
 > In fact it is return to forgotten ancient Greek culture (philosophy
 > included) that even made Renaissance possible. I would argue that
 > renaissance men and women where looking for unifying principles and
 > found it in Greek art and philosophy.    (011)

It's important to distinguish the "dark ages" after the fall of Rome
from the "high middle ages" when the major universities of Europe
were founded.  But ancient Greek culture wasn't really forgotten
(except in western Europe).  In the east, it split in two:  the
literary works were preserved in the Byzantine empire, and the
surviving works are the ones that were repeatedly copied for use
in the schools.    (012)

The scientific and philosophical works were also copied, but the
center of scientific studies had shifted from Athens to Alexandria
with other important centers in what is now Damascus and Baghdad.
The Arabs inherited that tradition, and by the 11th century, they
had the best developed science and technology in the world.  As
examples, look at the words that begin with al-, such as algebra,
algorithm, almanac, alchemy, alkali, alembic, and alcohol.    (013)

That knowledge entered western Europe through Spain and promoted
great advances from the 12th to 14th centuries.  After the plague
in the middle of the 14th century, the universities were devastated.
The Renaissance of the 15th century revived the Greek and Latin
literary works, but the research in logic was abandoned.    (014)

When Francis Bacon criticized the Aristotelians, he was attacking
some mediocre professors who continued to teach the old tradition.
His criticisms do not apply to the fertile and creative research
on logic from the 12th to the early 14th centuries.    (015)

LY> In my view "ontology" is that new paradigm, it offers us all
 > ingredients for next big step.    (016)

I support the study of ontology and logic, but note the lessons
of the past.  A creative period of R & D can often get frozen as
dogma that stifles further creativity.  Then some new revolution
stimulates creativity in new directions while killing some valuable
achievements from the past.  Then that new approach becomes dogma
that is just as oppressive as the old dogma.  Plus ša change...    (017)

John    (018)


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