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Re: [ontolog-forum] standard ontology

To: "'[ontolog-forum] '" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Matthew West <dr.matthew.west@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 11 Feb 2009 23:04:16 -0000
Message-id: <49935986.1e2d400a.34e6.5b31@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>

Dear PatH,



OK, I've read all the way down. Now, let me respond. First, OK y'all have described your system quite tightly and thoroughly, which is good. But you are also stuck in a cul-de-sac, apparently paying no attention to the rest of the world, which is not good. You don't understand RDF and RDFS, which maybe isn't itself very important but I fear may be only a symptom of a deeper malaise.


[MW] Actually Ian is pretty good at the techy stuff, even if he does not explain it in standard philosophical terms.


You mis-use established terminology ("individual" here being the worst culprit: that isn't what everyone else means by "individual". 


[MW] That’s a bit vacuous. There is hardly any word that does not have a large number of meanings, and at least this is one of the meanings that individual has been used for.


Perhaps I should have said, throughout the literature on logic and knowledge representation. 


[MW] Not entirely, I have come across at least some who use individual for things that do not have members, as opposed to just a membership role in some set. I agree that some of those would admit abstract individuals like numbers, but I still don’t know a better word to use (and using spatio-temporal extent all the time is just too much of a mouthful).


For example, the number three is an individual, but not one of yours.)


[MW] Well it doesn’t have a spatio-temporal extent does it?


Right, because having a spatiotemporal extent has nothing to do with being an individual. 


[MW] Only according to your usage.

I agree they are missing numbers, but they do not have to be called individuals, whatever they are.


Just generally, you appear to not know about basics like the distinction between syntax and semantics, what 'extensional' means, the difference between actual and possible, and so on. Look, I'm not meaning to criticize or pull rank here, just letting you know that there is a big ontological world out there, and before suggesting that your brand-new minor variation on a theme by Aristotle is the final answer to the world's problems, it might be a good idea to try reading a little more about what others have done. You aren't the first people to invent a formalized system for representing general knowledge, and you ought to at least know a little bit about what was already done. After all, suggesting any ontology as a possible general ontology standard amounts to making a VERY large philosophical claim, one that most professional philosophers or ontologists would hesitate to even approach. At the very least, it surely behooves one to know just a little about the field in which one is making such grand suggestions. Like knowing what some of the long words mean, and being able, or maybe willing, to actually read and understand the specifications of the notations one is bandying about. 


[MW] You realise this is Chris Partridge you are describing as not well read and not knowing anything about ontology?


No, it was the author of the email I was responding to. If Chris were to tell me that RDF was only a syntax, I would be very surprised, but would have some confidence that after reading the specs he would revise his opinion. I know Chris' philosophical angles, so I know what he would be saying if he were to suggest this as a universal ontic framework. I havn't heard him suggest that, however. 


[MW] Only the first sentence above was about syntax and semantics.

... Not sure I’d like to have to trade reading lists with him...


Here's a few questions for y'all. 


[MW] Well I’m pretty familiar with Chris’s positions on most of these, so I’ll give this a go.


(1)   Is Sherlock Holmes an individual? [MW] Yes
One might say he is located in a possible space-time, but not in the actual one. Do you want to say that? [MW] Yes
If so, how are the many possible but non-actual space-times related to one another, if at all? [MW] By counterpart Theory (David Lewis, straight down the line)


OK, but then you ought to be talking about possible spatiotemporal extents, not actual ones. I believe Barry has made the same point. 


[MW] Sure. Again, when you have a mouthful, you look for a useful contraction, it is human nature. In ISO 15926 we did call what is individual here possible_individual, and then made the contraction in subtypes (when it should be  obvious that we mean possible because of what it is a subtype of).

If not, what do you want to say about S.H. ?


(2)   How much extent is required? Is the event of a quantum being emitted by a sodium atom's moving from a higher to lower energetic state an Individual? [MW]Yes

(How does one kick that?) [MW] Metaphorically (Ian was of course talking loosely)


Maybe he should talk a little less loosely, given that he is claiming in the same message to be giving precise identity conditions. 


[MW] agreed.

Are things like vortices in a fluid, waves on the ocean, burstings into flame, explosions all Individuals?[MW] Yes
 (How does one kick them?) Is an acceleration an Individual? (Say my truck goes from zero to 30 in about a minute when I set off to work tomorrow. Is that acceleration an Individual? [MW] Yes


OK, take that acceleration: is it part of my truck('s history, ie my truck, in your extensionalist framework, right?)? But surely that particular piece of space-time, my truck during its acceleration, has other properties as well. Its not JUST an acceleration. Which part (?) or aspect(?) or type(?) of it is the acceleration itself? 


[MW] OK, the long answer. It is the individual that has the acceleration, but if you want to describe the acceleration value, it is the rate of change of the curve of the individual passing through space-time (it helps if you can imagine the space-time map for this example). It’s really just your calculus.

How does one kick it?)


(3)   You say a type is identified by its members, which I take to mean that if it has the same members, its the same type. That sounds like saying that a type is a set. Is a type a set, in fact? [MW] Yes
If not, how do they differ from sets? If they are, are all sets types? [MW] Probably, but I’m not sure what the approach would be to ordered sets, like temperature or the real numbers.


An ordered set is just a set with an associated ordering relation, so it is still a set. You can ignore the ordering. But Im more worried about sets which seem clearly to not be types in any sense, such as sets of random things that are completely unrelated. If you want to say that all sets are types, why do you need the new word? Why not just talk about sets? 


[MW] I can only talk about ISO 15926 here. I have found that if you talk about sets, there is a very strong presumption that you are talking about ZF sets, and people are inclined to get quite upset when you disabuse them of this. The other reason is that the words people use are words like type and class in most domains, and so those words are the line of least resistance. You just make sure the definition is right, or at least the usage.

If not, what distinguishes the type-type sets from the non-type-type sets? [MW] Well that would be the ordering relation.


No, ordering has nothing to do with it. 


[MW] Good.


(4)   You say that a type can be a member of a type (which is good, and not un-extensional.) Can a type be a member of itself? More generally, can there be circles of type-membership, so that A is a type of B is a type of C is a type of A ? If not, why not? [MW] Not sure. I would say yes, but I think Chris is uncertain. He leans towards type theory rather than set theory (that might impact some earlier answers.


(5)    Into which basic ontic category would you put the following: the number three; the color purple; the property of being square; the relation between people of being the natural mother of ; the shape of a face (in the sense in which a death mask has the same shape as the face it is a casting of); the Krebs cycle in cellular biology; Moby Dick, the novel by Melville (not any particular imprint or edition of it, but the work itself); a website (c.f. the current W3C debates over the notion of an "information resource"); an email message; the sentences in that same email message; a substance (such as clay or air: not any particular piece of it, but the stuff itself); a time-interval?  I realize this is a longish list, but since you have your identity criteria so well defined, you ought to be able to rattle them off pretty quickly.

[MW] I think Ian has answered these, no they are not very difficult.


He skipped the number and the Krebs cycle and the website and the substance. BUt given his answers, I can guess what these would be. "Clay" is the set, sorry type, of all things made of clay, and so forth. I'm still wondering about the time-interval, though. 


[MW] There is also the all-clay-stuff object as well. Chris is quite keen on this.




Matthew West                           

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