On Feb 7, 2009, at 12:29 PM, Matthew West wrote:
OK. So it looks like we agree after all.
Quicksort. Im quite happy to just say that Quicksort, the algorithm, is an abstraction, if you prefer that way of talking. We still need a way to refer to the 'abstract' version of an ontology, if we believe that such things exist: the thing that stands in the same relation to a number of formal ontologies that an 'abstract' algorithm stands in relation to any of its renderings as programs in a formal programming language.
[MW] It seems to me that there are (at least) 3 levels: 1. Some “physical” representation (including actions as signs here). 2. The content of a physical representation in some “language”. 3. The content of a physical representation independent of “language”. I agree that we need a way to refer to an abstract version of an ontology. How about “theory”? The OED has amongst a number of definitions: “A scheme or system of ideas or statements held as an explanation or account of a group of facts or phenomena.”
That gives you program/algorithm and ontology/theory. It also sounds reasonable to say that an ontology represents a theory in a language.
Sounds nice, but (unfortunately?) "theory" has been appropriated long ago by logicians, to refer, ironically, to a set of formal sentences in a logic, ie to a formal ontology, the "program" end of the contrast. I think it would cause more harm than good to try to use it for an explicitly contrasting term.
How about "conception"? My conception of time is that it is a fourth dimension; others' conception of time is that it is a dynamic property of the ever-changing present. Given such different conceptions, its no wonder that we don't come up with compatible ontologies.
This also has the advantage of coming with a useful verb form, to conceive (some topic or area) (in a certain way). Somebody will at some point start making jokes about womb-envy, but we can ignore them.
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