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

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Mike Bennett <mbennett@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 26 Sep 2008 17:17:45 +0100
Message-id: <48DD0B29.20804@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Thanks John, that's very helpful. Some thoughts interleaved below...    (01)

John F. Sowa wrote:    (02)

>That is a good approach, and the interlocking definitions are expected:
>MB> It made sense to me, to define a whole universe of such high-level
<snip>    (03)

Thanks, that's good to know. It was like solving a giant puzzle.    (04)

>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.
Very good point. I have "Goal" as an independent, abstract thing, and 
there is a relationship whereby an Actor (in an Activity) pursues some 
Goal. This was inspired by the Digitial Rights (DOI) ontology. I have 
done some breakdown of goals specifically for the purpose of modelling 
risk (as risks impact on different goals) but not otherwise. It might 
well be worth putting specialisations of goals in elsewhere, e.g. in 
process and transaction breakdowns. I'll give this some thought - thanks.    (05)

I would assume that Strategy is a second order thing, relating to the 
first order thing which is Goal?    (06)

>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).
>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.
Interesting point. I do have a few triadic relationship in the model, 
but no obvious way of indicating these except by the layout of the 
graphic. I can't think of a way to represent these in OWL, but I could 
extend the representation format I'm using, to use for example a UML 
Constraint class. Otherwise I think such relationships fall into the 
area of rules rather than plain representation?    (07)

I must admit I hadn't realised the intimate connection with goals here. 
I'm using second order for things like Actors (which always have a goal) 
and Parties, which are simply party to something like a contract or a 
transaction, without any relevance to the goal. I am probably being a 
bit naive / incorrect in places, about how I link this to third order 
mediating things (contexts). I've used "Mediating Thing" as the parent 
class of all business contexts e.g. securities trading, portfolio 
management, but I haven't been rigorous about attaching every second 
order thing to a goal. Should I?    (08)

>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.
>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.
Given that I haven't done a lot with goal, I don't see how that would 
preclude identifying things as second order. Thinking about it, I guess 
goal is implied in any second order thing, as per your example, even if 
I haven't explicitly stated it. I have always read it as meaning "a 
thing in relation to something else", e.g. your woman/pilot/aviation 
example.    (09)

>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.
>I wouldn't say it's impossible, but it is certainly nontrivial.
I held off posting that email just yet, as maybe I'm reacting to 
something that people aren't actually saying. I agree it's non trivial, 
and I guess the wider the range of uses for a given ontology, the more 
non-trivial it becomes - after all, every system has an ontology even if 
it doesn't know it, and the ontology of a single system is almost by 
definition trivial. An ontology of everything in the universe would 
itself be a universe, like the mind of God.    (010)

>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.
Not sure that's really an issue for the thing I am creating. My 
instructions were to "keep the philosophy out of sight" in order to 
create a single consensual set of terms for the industry, and almost no 
one is concerned at the moment about the additional ways a good ontology 
can be used. It's a replacement for ad hoc and badly managed sets of 
business terms spreadsheets and things, and a solution to the 
logarithmic explosion of mappings between different message formats. 
Nonetheless, without second order types of thing, it becomes impossible 
to distinguish parties, actors and so on, which (particularly in 
derivatives trading) is an important distinction.    (011)

>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.
Thanks. You have really given me a lot of food for thought here. Much 
appreciated.    (012)

Mike    (013)

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Mike Bennett
Hypercube Ltd. 
89 Worship Street
London EC2A 2BF
Tel: 020 7917 9522
Mob: 07721 420 730
www.hypercube.co.uk    (015)

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