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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: Tue, 03 Jun 2008 11:49:11 -0400
Message-id: <484567F7.8060501@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Antoinette,    (01)

That is an extremely important consideration:    (02)

 > How about Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things by George Lakoff as
 > prototype for, say embodied semantic model. Love to see a thread
 > go on this.    (03)

People like well-defined pigeonholes for classifying everything
-- including other people.  Lakoff is a healthy corrective to the
tendency among many ontologists to set up a definitive, a priori,
all-encompassing, formally defined set of precise pigeonholes. He
likes to state his views in a way that irritate people who accept
the prevailing ways of thinking and talking.  I enjoy that.    (04)

Unfortunately, Lakoff himself creates a set of pigeonholes that
are just as strict as anybody else's.  Even worse, he often talks
about revolutionary new ways of thinking that all seem to begin
with himself and his best buddies.  As an example, following is
a review I wrote of one of his books:    (05)

    Review of Lakoff & Johnson    (06)

The title is _Philosophy in the Flesh: The embodied mind and its
challenge to Western thought_.  As I said in the review, I think it
makes many important points, but I find Lakoff's style irritating.
At the end of this note is the concluding section of my review.    (07)

To return to the earlier book by Lakoff, I would say that it very
rightly criticizes (and I would even say *demolishes*) the idea
that a fixed, rigid hierarchy is possible.  That view is opposed
to certain logicians who were strongly influenced by Frege, Russell,
Carnap, and the early Wittgenstein.    (08)

But there are equally competent logicians, especially Peirce,
Whitehead, and the later Wittgenstein, for whom those points are
obvious.  For this group, Lakoff's remarks would not be disturbing
in the slightest.  On the contrary, they would be obvious.    (09)

John Sowa
_______________________________________________________________________    (010)

 From the ending of http://www.jfsowa.com/pubs/lakoff.htm    (011)

A glaring omission in a book on embodied minds that discusses Aristotle
is the failure to mention Aristotle's theory of the psyche, which is the 
earliest and one of the best characterizations of the embodied mind. 
Aristotle defined the psyche as the logos or principle that determines 
what it is for something to be a living entity. Instead of a single 
principle of the psyche that covers all living things, Aristotle defined 
a hierarchy of six functions, each of which is a prerequisite for all 
the rest: nutrition, perception, desire, locomotion, imagery, and 
reason. He maintained that plants have a psyche that is limited to the 
nutritive function, sponges to the first three functions, worms to the 
first four, and the higher nonhuman animals to the first five. In having 
reason, the human psyche requires all the others as prerequisites. 
Aristotle's theory is consistent with Lakoff and Johnson's criterion for 
a theory of embodied mind: "There is no such fully autonomous faculty of 
reason separate from and independent of bodily capacities such as 
perception and movement. The evidence supports, instead, an evolutionary 
view, in which reason uses and grows out of bodily capacities." (p. 17)    (012)

Aristotle's hierarchy bears a striking resemblance to the levels of 
competence that Rodney Brooks (1986) defined for mobile robots: 
avoiding, wandering, exploring, mapping, noticing, reasoning, planning, 
and anticipating. Since all of Brooks's robots have locomotion, 
Aristotle's theory predicts that they must also have nutrition (the 
ability to recharge their batteries), perception (at least at the level 
of touch), and desire (a preference that determines goals). The first 
four functions are sufficient to support the competence levels of 
avoiding, wandering, and exploring. Imagery is necessary to support 
mapping and noticing, and thought is necessary to support reasoning, 
planning, and anticipating. The lower levels of Aristotle's hierarchy, 
which he applied to sponges and clams, could support sedentary agents, 
such as thermostats and alarm clocks.    (013)

The most irritating feature of the book is the authors' repeated claims 
of novelty, either for themselves or for their colleagues. A typical 
example is the following paragraph from page 10:    (014)

    Cognitive science is the scientific discipline that studies
    conceptual systems. It is a relatively new discipline, having
    been founded in the 1970s. Yet in a short time it has made
    startling discoveries. It has discovered, first of all, that
    most of our thought is unconscious, not in the Freudian sense
    of being repressed, but in the sense that it operates beneath
    the level of cognitive awareness, inaccessible to consciousness
    and operating too quickly to be focussed on.    (015)

By dismissing Freud's theory of the unconscious as irrelevant, the 
authors try to make the recent work sound more "startling". Yet the 
literature contains well-documented examples of prior art. Among the 
best is William James's two-volume textbook _The Principles of 
Psychology_, which, in 1890, devoted many pages to the processes that 
operate beneath the level of cognitive awareness. James supported his 
presentation with explicit citations of experimental evidence, including 
reaction-time studies. On the cover of the 1965 reprint, one of the 
reviewers remarked "Rereading James brings a sense of perspective and 
even a little humility to our regard for more modern achievements".    (016)

In summary, this book makes an important contribution to the ongoing 
debates about the roles of syntax, semantics, and world knowledge in 
language understanding and their dependency on the physical world and 
the human mechanisms for perceiving, interpreting, and interacting with 
the world. Its major weakness is its tendency to exclude other 
perspectives, such as Aristotle's, which can accommodate both formal 
logic and a theory of embodied mind. Although the authors frequently use 
the word neural, none of their discussion depends on the actual 
structure or method of operation of a neuron. NTL [Neural Theory of 
Language] could with equal justification be considered an acronym for a 
Neoaristotelian Theory of Language.    (017)

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