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Re: [ontolog-forum] Interoperability - its natural basis

To: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Ronald Stamper <stamper.measur@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 16 Mar 2009 23:47:55 +0000
Message-id: <9FD8BD7C-3D3C-496E-9737-DF78ABD43A12@xxxxxxxxx>

Dear Chris Menzel

 You quoted me: 

RS:  In our MEASUR methods we use only the words of the users.  All  

invented vaguely word-like strings one finds in OWL, for example,  

are not permitted.


CM:  For some purposes, that might be quite appropriate.  However,  

something like the "vaguely word-like strings one finds in OWL" are  

indispensable if you are interested in (a) sharing your ontologies in  

a standardized fashion on the Web or (b) being able to take advantage  

of powerful computer-based tools to manage and reason upon ontologies  

generally.  Are you not interested in these things?


RS:  Indeed I am but the human users take precedence, in my opinion.


RS:  'Listening in' to the ontolog discussions I sense a widespread   

belief that logic and formal methods will solve the problems of  

ontology development.


CM: I doubt there is a single person who participates in this forum who  

thinks that.  What many here do believe is that logic and formal  

methods are *necessary* to the solution of the problems of ontology  

development.  No one believes they are sufficient in and of themselves.


RS:  I take your word for that but the tone of some discussions made me suspicious.  I am accustomed to using ‘ontology’ in the metaphysical sense where formal methods are of secondary importance.


RS:  I am all for formal precision once we are sure we have fully grasped  

what we need to be formal and precise about.


CM:  Well, sure, if all that means is that we have to clearly circumscribe  

the intended domain of an ontology.  But a major point of introducing  

formal methods, once we are clear about the domain, is to make  

concepts out of ordinary discourse that are initially vague and  

ambiguous clear and precise.


RS: That suggests that we can clear up the meanings we find in ‘ordinary discourse’ (which naturally is defective?) using formal methods.  I find that, although formal methods help during the intermediate stages of analysis, they cannot finally remove all defects and ultimately one must rely upon the relevant people for their judgements.


I thought that the age of logicism had closed by mid-20th century.


CM: Logicism, a creation of the German mathematician Gottlob Frege in the  

late 1800s, was an attempt to "ground" all of mathematics on logical  

principles alone.  Bertrand Russell torpedoed Frege's attempt around  

the turn of the 19th century by showing that it was possible to deduce  

his famous paradox in Frege's system.  Russell's own attempt to  

resurrect logicism in Principia Mathematica (1910-1913, with co-author  

A. N. Whitehead) also largely ended in failure, a fact widely  

acknowledged by the mid-1920s.  "Logicism" is also sometimes used to  

refer to the logic-based approach to AI and knowledge engineering,  

which didn't even exist until the mid-20th century.  And this movement  

is of course still very robust.


RS:  True!  But the tone of much ontolog discussion suggests that the attitudes of the logicists are still influential.


The generic-specific hierarchies that play such an important role in OWL 'ontologies' play only a minor role in our schemas because they are forms of cognitive norms without ontological importance.  We use them to make some schemas rather more succinct.


CM:  Why the ironic quotes around 'ontologies'?  


RS:  Because of a deep personal prejudice against using ‘ontology’ in the ontolog sense I would feel dishonest to omit them.  Putting ‘ontology’ before ontology is putting the cart before the horse.


CM:  Do you have any arguments (beyond the mere observation that they simply have no role to play in your own approach) to suggest that OWL ontologies, even those that are only type hierarchies, don't deserve the label?  


RS:  I’m sure they deserve the label if understood in its established ontolog sense.  But I would like to see a clear, explicit statement of the ontological assumptions on which OWL is based.  Can you provide one?


I have placed two papers on a very amateurish website:  www.rstamper.co.uk


CM:  This URL is broken.


RS:  And I am mortified and full of apologies.  When I have the chance I shall attend to the problem.


Ronald Stamper



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