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[ontolog-forum] Offline note

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 29 May 2009 07:32:52 -0400
Message-id: <4A1FC7E4.9010203@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Dick,    (01)

I'm responding in private because there is no point in continuing
to spam the world.    (02)

When you say things like the following, you sound like an adolescent
child who has fantasies of being an Ayn Rand-style hero.  You are
misunderstood by the establishment, but will eventually save the world.    (03)

 > I have studied in the field for 45 years.  I said that I had no
 > knowledge of the work being done at Cycorp.    (04)

What field?  How can you make that claim if you know nothing about
the largest project in the field?    (05)

 > I said that my 5-year system was similar to Cycorp's 20-year system.    (06)

That comment makes you sound like a crank.  There are many aspects
of Cyc that can and have been criticized for many legitimate reasons.
But you can't duplicate the essentials of a project that has had 700
person-years of work in 5 person-years.    (07)

 > Why do you continue to deny that a working computer program
 > provides any specification of the data structures and the
 > reasoning?    (08)

I don't deny that point.  There are two ways of specifying semantics:    (09)

  1. A purely declarative method based on logic. That is the most
     common way of specifying a declarative language such as mKR.    (010)

  2. A procedural method based on an abstract machine.  That is
     often convenient for specifying procedural languages.    (011)

But a fully functional computer program, although it determines
the semantics of the language, involves so much extraneous detail
that it is impossible to understand the semantics.  Nobody could
understand the semantics of C, for example, if they had to wade
through the C compiler in order to make sense of it.    (012)

 > "never read" ??? Come on, John.  You know that's not true.    (013)

The following comment confirms my suspicions:    (014)

 > While I have not published any books, you also know that
 > my "woolly paragraph" is a summary of material published
 > in the books of Ayn Rand, Leonard Peikoff, David Kelley.
 > Citations of these books are listed on my website.    (015)

I attended a talk by Ayn Rand when I was a student at MIT, and
I have read some of her writings since then.  But the most
charitable thing I can say about her is that anyone who likes
Aristotle can't be all bad.    (016)

I had never heard of the other two, but I checked them on Google.
Following is an excerpt from the Wikipedia article about Kelley:    (017)

 > Kelley is trained as a philosopher: He received his BA and MA
 > in philosophy from Brown University, where he studied with the
 > American rationalist, Roderick Chisholm. He received his Ph.D.
 > from Princeton University, where his advisor was the American
 > postmodernist Richard Rorty. He taught philosophy and cognitive
 > science for 7 years at Vassar College, where he failed to obtain
 > tenure. He then taught logic for a brief time at Brandeis
 > University, while working as a freelance writer for Barron's
 > Magazine and other publications.    (018)

Chisholm and Rorty are well known philosophers, and I would assume
that anyone who received a PhD from Princeton isn't stupid.  However,
there are a lot of PhD's who don't live up to their early promise.
That one paragraph summary doesn't instill confidence, but there
are a lot of good people who don't get tenure.    (019)

However, the following comment about Kelley's book confirms my
worst fears about Objectivism:    (020)

 > In Contested Legacy, philosopher David Kelley analyzes the conflicts
 > that led him to break ranks with orthodox Objectivists and create
 > an independent branch of the movement...  And he describes the nature
 > of tribalism among intellectuals, showing how the troubled legacy of
 > Ayn Rand has followed a pattern familiar from the not-so-civil wars
 > among followers of other original and charismatic thinkers such as
 > Marx and Freud.    (021)

Science doesn't have "movements", and anything that has orthodoxies
is a religion.  Physics, for example, has competing groups and people
who disagree with one another until they can get enough data to
clarify their disputes.  Engineering (and AI is a branch of engineering)
has specializations.  But science and engineering doesn't have warring
factions.  That passage shows that so-called "Objectivism" is
a pseudo-science along the lines of Marxism and Freudianism.    (022)

In short, I would classify Ayn Rand and her followers as a bunch of
cranks.  There is nothing wrong with reading some of that stuff, but
if that is your primary source of information on these topics, I have
no hope for you.    (023)

If I weren't so polite, I'd repeat a comment I once heard:    (024)

    His head is so far up his ass, he's looking through his mouth.    (025)

Unless you start broadening your reading list, I suggest that you
avoid spouting your philosophy unless you are talking to members
of your "movement".    (026)

John    (027)

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