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Re: [ontolog-forum] Upper ontology content and structure

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 25 Sep 2008 16:17:48 -0400
Message-id: <48DBF1EC.5050308@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Mike,    (01)

That is a good approach, and the interlocking definitions are expected:    (02)

MB> It made sense to me, to define a whole universe of such high-level
> things as our financial terms are descended from - contracts, legally
> binding terms, parties, transactions, money, capital, formula terms
> and so on. What started as an exercise in defining the common,
> necessary facts about contracts and transactions, soon grew into
> an interlocking set of defined terms and relationships from which
> to derive the specialised things and properties in our specific
> universe of discourse, the financial sector.    (03)

An essential point about a business is that it has a goal:  to make
money.  That implies a subgoal:  to provide goods and/or services
that make a profit.  That implies further subgoals:  sell things
to customers, buy things from suppliers, hire employees, organize
them in departments with managers, sign contracts with customers,
suppliers, and employees, etc.  Those financial concepts either
record or reflect intentions and goals:  contracts, legal terms,
parties, transactions, money, capital, etc.    (04)

MB> It also made sense to me, to distinguish between first- second-
> and third-order classes of Thing, as defined by John Sowa and
> others (John's book summarises the history of those terms very well).    (05)

Peirce made the observation that any concept that involves intentions,
purposes, or goals must have at least one triadic relation in its
definition.  You could "nominalize" such relations to nouns (such
as 'contract'), but you can't eliminate the triadic connection.    (06)

MB> What interests me, and what I am really asking here, is why is
> this approach not noticeable in upper ontology resources like
> the Suggest Upper Merged Ontology (SUMO)? Am I missing something?
> SUMO looked to me like a single taxonomic hierarchy of classes
> of Thing, without these three sets of partitions.    (07)

The short answer is that they ignored the purpose or goal.  You can
define a business to be a set of people, but that doesn't explain why
those people are in the business.  It doesn't distinguish a highly
organized set from an accidental set, such as the people who happen
to be passing through Grand Central Terminal at 12 noon.    (08)

MB> I will address the question about whether the whole venture is
> conceptually impossible, in a separate posting, as I'm sure
> that's a view.    (09)

I wouldn't say it's impossible, but it is certainly nontrivial.
If you omit purposes or goals, you might make it somewhat simpler,
but then there are many aspects that cannot be discussed -- such
as any question that begins with the word "why".  A similar
question that cannot be answered is the traditional "Cui bono?"
(For whose benefit?)  The questions 'why' and 'cui bono' are
central to explanations, reasoning about motives, and making
observations and predictions about human behavior.    (010)

And by the way, I'm not saying that it's always necessary to
include the purpose in every application.  A management hierarchy
doesn't need to specify purposes, but such information would be
important for planning, decision making, etc.    (011)

John    (012)

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