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Re: [ontolog-forum] RDF & RDFS (was... Is there something I missed?)

To: Matthew West <dr.matthew.west@xxxxxxxxx>
Cc: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 9 Feb 2009 12:21:20 -0600
Message-id: <D449AA9F-2094-4329-8463-80AA05069459@xxxxxxx>

On Feb 7, 2009, at 12:29 PM, Matthew West wrote:

Dear Pat,
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.

Comments, anyone? 

Matthew West                           
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