Yes, I do have an
ontology that addresses the problems I raise. Indeed it also leads to
some interesting results in computing terms.
At its foundation is
an ontology in the metaphysical sense, not in the Ontolog sense. The core
ideas will appear quite alien to the Ontolog community. However, I shall
try to explain but you must allow for the impossibility of my anticipating all
the objections you might raise.
You and I may
believe in an objective reality. But I emphasise that these are our separate
beliefs. Each of us can have direct knowledge of only the tiny fragment
of reality existing in the individual's here and now. Using signs (language,
gestures, pictures etc.) that stand for the things known directly, we can
extend our knowledge to embrace distant, past and future things. Using
signs is essentially social.
Still confined to
our individual here and nows, we each construct images of a 4-D world that we
confidently treat as the one objective reality. While "bounded in a
nutshell" like Hamlet, each of us counts himself "a king of infinite
space". This amazing result depends upon our use of signs to form a
society and share a composite view of the world.
By taking our
well-founded belief in an objective reality for granted, we fail to address the
fundamental problem of how we have attained the wonderful result that Hamlet
drew to our attention. Solipsism, despite its bad press, can help us find that
Theory of Affordances provides an appropriate solipsistic account of direct
knowledge. An organism perceives, not by recognising a given, ready-made,
objective reality placed in the window of its senses, but by discovering,
through direct action and experience, what repertoires of behaviour the world
ALL objects of
perception are invariant repertoires of behaviour.
affordances are few compared with those we learn through indirect perceptions
based on our collective, shared experiences. These indirect perceptions
depend on what we say to each other and the records and memories we keep.
All those linguistic and other signs also exist only in the present but they
allow us to picture the past and future.
speaking (metaphysical sense) reality consists of the affordances we recognise
both individually and collectively.
You will be
wondering where this might take us technically, formally or
computationally. I shall not disappoint you.
Building on Gibson's
work, we see that all knowledge of the world depends a) on an agent to do the
knowing and b) the agent's behaviour that embodies the invariants we treat as
perceived things. This suggests a syntax:
By realising or
making available a repertoire of behaviour, the agent modifies itself, so that
recursively we can say:
depend for their existence on two, coexisting antecedent affordances:
(affordance while affordance) ) affordance
(paper while pencil)) draw
When we move from
direct knowledge to knowledge shared by Society through the use of information,
we need to treat Society as the root agent, for example:
(person while person) marriage
(John while Mary) marriage
But suppose they are
not married; someone, perhaps John, can use a sign that stands for the marriage
when he wants to propose:
Society (John, "(John, Mary) marriage"
where the quotes indicate that we are talking about
a sign that stands for a marriage that does not yet exist, a sign that John
employs to propose.
Thus one builds a
schema of ontological dependencies. Imagine it as a semi-lattice rooted
in the node, Society. Each node has associated with it a tuple of
intrinsic properties: identity, the universal of which it is a particular, one
or a max. of two ontological antecedents, a start, a finish and authorities for
the start and the finish.
Those schemas have
an empirical canonical form that leads to stability in any system based on
them. The data organised under such schemas can be manipulated using a
very powerful, easily understood, 4GL that employs temporal operators.
The Semantic Normal
Form (the canonical schema) obeys a few strict rules, especially that for an
affordance to exist all its ontological antecedents must coexist. The SNF
makes the 4GL possible. While the SNF is linguistically neutral as it
only deals with perceptions, each node / affordance in the schema can be
labelled in whatever languages you want to work with. The SNF contains
the kernel of the meanings of those labels to which cultural variations or
refinements of meaning may be provided by the start and finish authorities.
engineering and also for computing, the benefits are huge but one must swallow
the ontology (metaphysical) on which the theory is based and learn how to
construct empirically based schemas of ontological dependencies – not so
easy but worth the effort.
Sorry to inflict
such a long mail on you.
On Fri, Oct 3, 2008 at 4:59 PM, Patrick Cassidy <pat@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
interesting issues. Do you have an ontology or otherwise based
computational system that demonstrates how you would address them? Or can
you point to one?
> it makes some kind of sense that the past can be
> "seen" while the future is still not available for viewing.
- Jeff Schiffel
following John Sowa
or, indeed, the other way round, provided that one is not taken in by
In fact, speaking personally, I can see neither the past nor the future either
before me or behind me. The best I can do is to construct mental images
of them that do exist now. Of course, I make use of records and plans
that are external signs provided that they also exist here and now.
Ontologically speaking (metaphysical sense), by riding on either metaphor,
we take unnecessary risks believing in the existence of things past and future.
Worse still, as a community interested in information and its uses, these
metaphors deflect our attention from the challenge of the fundamental question:
how do we use pictures, language and other signs to construct the past,
the future and distant things so that we can use them in the only world
available to us, the here-and-now.
Ontologically speaking (semantic web sense) I feel uncomfortable with all
those formal ontologies that evade that fundamental question. Most of all I
recoil from the unjustifiable faith that some place in possible worlds. Mental
images composed of formal models in some platonic realm simply reproduces these
metaphors of 'seeing' the past and future but in a more sophisticated shape.
Surely, any ontology (in either sense) cannot fully meet the needs of
information systems engineering until it takes account of the people in whose
present minds past and future necessarily reside, and how they arrive at their
beliefs and place any trust in them.
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