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Re: [ontolog-forum] Guo's word senses and Foundational Ontologies

To: "'[ontolog-forum] '" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Matthew West <dr.matthew.west@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 1 Jun 2009 11:26:52 +0100
Message-id: <4a23ad4b.0a1ad00a.3d31.1fab@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Dear John,    (01)

I think there are some serious short comings in some of your arguments
around upper ontologies.    (02)

> I'll address your points first, since they are central to the main
> theme.  The other notes get into issues that are also important,
> but not directly related to the central focus of this thread.
> MW> What (I think) Pat is proposing is to produce one ontology into
>  > which others could be translated/mapped. Those other ontologies
>  > need not be changed at all, so a 3D and a 4D ontology could each
>  > be mapped to the "universal" ontology without having to give up
>  > their own commitments.
> That depends on how detailed your mapping happens to be.  If the
> foundational ontology happens to have underspecified categories
> with very few axioms, and you don't expect to preserve all the
> information in your source ontology, then you could do some such
> mapping.    (03)

[MW] If a mapping is not precise, then it has very little value in my
> But if you intended to map all the detailed axioms of a 4D ontology
> into the FO in such a way that they could be fully recovered by a
> reverse translation, then all those commitments would have to be
> represented in the terms of the FO.  If that FO could also preserve
> all the commitments of a 3D ontology, then it would have to be
> able to accommodate two very different systems simultaneously.    (04)

[MW] If by "accommodate" you mean that it includes or has precise mappings
into those different paradigms (or adopts one and maps to the other) then I
> That is a very strong constraint to lay on the FO, and I doubt
> that it could lead to a consistent and successful system.  If
> anyone believes that it can be done, that would make a good
> research project.  But it is not yet suitable for a standard.    (05)

[MW] I agree. Actually, I think that looking at the mappings between the
relatively small number of upper ontologies (at least in terms of different
ontological commitments) is the next critical piece of work to be done in
ontology (i.e. I think it is unlikely that anything else will add much value
until that is done).
> MW> Well, for the record, I conjecture that there is not a finite set
>  > of primitives from which any and all ontologies can be defined...
> PC> I am suggesting that we actually investigate the issue with a
>  > proper test rather than simply assume it is impossible and
>  > congratulate each other on our ignorance.
> I sympathize with Matthew's conjecture.  But if Pat wants to
> explore the possibility, that's his choice.  In any case, it's
> a long-term research project, not something that is suitable for
> a standard until some working prototypes have been implemented.    (06)

[MW] I agree. I think the attempt will be useful whether it succeeds or
> MW> I can quote examples where millions of dollars have been saved
>  > in practice by taking some "ontologies" and integrating them
>  > through a single ontology (ISO 15926) (whether or not it is
>  > actually universal does not affect the benefits for particular
>  > cases).
> Your experience is consistent with Bill Andersen's reports about
> their results at OntologyWorks.  They have been doing a good
> business in aligning independently developed databases by means
> of ontologies.  Originally, they had an upper-level ontology
> based on Dolce, but as they continued, they discovered that
> the upper levels were not very helpful.    (07)

[MW] Well personally I also find that the upper levels of DOLCE are not very
useful, but then I'm a 4 Dimensionalist :-)    (08)

More seriously, as I mentioned elsewhere, I can quite understand that with
the sorts of projects I guess they have been involved in, I can quite see
how an explicit upper ontology is not critical (especially if it is somewhat
arbitrary as I find DOLCE).    (09)

However, there will be some upper ontology that is implicit in what they
have done whether they like it or not. So I think I need to be clear and
spell out what I think the essence of an upper ontology is. I think the
following are the key elements of an upper ontology:    (010)

1. A set of ontological commitments, such as:
   a) 3D or 4D (or some combination)
   b) identity of individuals defined by extension (or not)
   c) identity of classes/types/sets by intension or extension.
   d) modal logic or modal realism (e.g. possible worlds)
   e) approach to intentional objects (tools, agreements, money)
2. A core set of relations, in particular:
   a) classification (class - instance)
   b) specialization (subtype - supertype)
   c) composition (whole part)    (011)

Now you keep saying that you do not need an upper ontology. So I would
welcome either an explanation of how you can avoid using these relations and
making commitments in these areas, or that you concede that an upper
ontology of this type is unavoidable, even if it is left implicit.    (012)

On the other hand, I would agree that much of what you find in practice in
some upper ontologies are what I would describe as arbitrary classes/types
that really make no difference to lower levels. For me this just points to
weaknesses in those ontologies, and that Occam's razor should be applied.
> Instead of an upper-level ontology, they currently use a
> collection of domain-oriented ontologies that are closer to
> the level of the categories in the databases they are trying
> to align.    (013)

[MW] I suggest that these will necessarily include the elements I set out
above, so they do include an upper ontology - you just don't want to call it
that.    (014)

Regards    (015)

Matthew West                            
Information  Junction
Tel: +44 560 302 3685
Mobile: +44 750 3385279
http://www.matthew-west.org.uk/    (016)

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