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Re: [ontolog-forum] Reality and semantics. [Was: Thing and Class]

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Ed Barkmeyer <edbark@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 18 Sep 2008 10:47:50 -0400
Message-id: <48D26A16.8080704@xxxxxxxx>
Chris Menzel wrote:    (01)

> Seems to me pretty clear that it does not mean that!  Indeed, your last 
> sentence is exactly what I'd say about the relation between a model -- 
> the mathematical "description" -- and the world.  But really now.  Let's 
> define a model (for a given first-order language L, say) to be a triple 
> <D,R,V>, where D is a set of objects, R a set of extensional relations 
> over D, and V is a mapping from L to appropriate semantic values in D 
> and R. Surely neither *the world*, nor any physical part of it, is 
> literally such a triple.    (02)

I would observe that what the world *is* is a philosophical problem that 
we don't need to solve.  It is the function of philosophers to study 
problems we don't need to solve. ;-)    (03)

But, from a scientific point of view, the real world itself is 
"unknowable".  What we have is a collection of individual perceptions of 
the world, and our brains organize our individual perceptions into a 
model.  What the nature of that model is is the subject of cognitive 
theory, and I don't pretend to know anything about that, either.  But 
the great leap forward among humans occurred when we learned to 
communicate our mental models to others.  And the problem seems to be 
that 40,000 years later, our languages, natural and formal, are still 
not able to express the entirety of our mental model of elements of the 
"real world".  But in ontological engineering, it is our job to do that 
as well as we can, with the languages we have.    (04)

So my tenets:
(1) the world itself is whatever it is.
(2) our understanding of the world, or any aspect of it, is a 'model'.
(3) our communication of our understanding is an inferior 'model'.    (05)

I'm not sure whether any of those matches John's philosophy.  I think I 
may be close to the positions of Pat and Chris.    (06)

-Ed    (07)

"All models are wrong; some are useful."
   -- W. Edwards Deming (1947) and George E.P. Box (1979)    (08)

Edward J. Barkmeyer                        Email: edbark@xxxxxxxx
National Institute of Standards & Technology
Manufacturing Systems Integration Division
100 Bureau Drive, Stop 8263                Tel: +1 301-975-3528
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8263                FAX: +1 301-975-4694    (09)

"The opinions expressed above do not reflect consensus of NIST,
  and have not been reviewed by any Government authority."    (010)

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