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Re: [ontolog-forum] Ontology and Category Theory

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 30 Jan 2009 13:04:11 -0500
Message-id: <4983411B.3070004@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Pat,    (01)

This issue gets back to the distinction between ontology and
epistemology.  It enables philosophers to compartmentalize
their thinking, analyze one problem at a time, and ignore the
very thorny relationships between the two kinds of problems.    (02)

JFS>> ... it's easy to say x=y in logic, but the practical
 >> matter of determining whether a particular observation of x
 >> is sufficient to identify it as y may be challenging.    (03)

PH> All this is true, but I suggest irrelevant.  The same can be
 > said about any assertion in any ontology:  in practice, it might
 > be very hard to tell if it holds in any particular circumstances.
 > But that isn't the central issue for ontology writing.    (04)

I certainly agree.  That is why so much of the ontology writing
is great for publishing books and papers, but worthless for the
guys in the trenches who have to deal with the real world.    (05)

PH> The importance of identity conditions is that they state what
 > the conditions are that need to be checked.  Until that is done,
 > no amount of police procedurals are going to work.    (06)

I agree that identity conditions are important.  But I also claim
that trying to define the conditions without considering how they
are *used* is a recipe for writing *useless* ontologies.    (07)

JFS>> For these reasons, I have a skeptical attitude toward talk
 >> about "identity conditions" as if they were a magical solution
 >> to some very serious issues of ontology.    (08)

PH> They aren't magical, but they are necessary. Several classical
 > ontological disagreements can be seen as differences of opinion
 > about identity conditions.  For example, if you take the engine
 > from an old car and use it as a planter (a real example), is it
 > still an engine?  Ontoclean takes questions like this very
 > seriously, as it should.    (09)

I agree that such examples exist, but I doubt that the people
who used an engine as a planter had the slightest interest in
any answer derived by Ontoclean.  The answer might help Nicola
publish a paper, but as my grandmother used to say, "From that
you won't bake any bread."    (010)

The philosophers I most admire (Peirce, Whitehead, and the later
Wittgenstein) were thoroughly indoctrinated in the philosophical
compartmentalization, and they *rejected* it:  they insisted that
any solution for any practical application *must* address ontology,
epistemology, and pragmatics in a single, integrated approach.    (011)

That is the focus of Peirce's pragmatism:  when making distinctions,
determine what is relevant to the problem you're trying to solve.
There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all set of identity
conditions for any concept used to talk about, think about, and
work with the real world.  (And by the way, it's significant that
Peirce, Whitehead, and Wittgenstein had a solid grounding in
physics and engineering.)    (012)

John    (013)

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