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[ontolog-forum] "Amy Winehouse is the apotheosis and nadir of post-moder

To: "Ontolog-Forum-Bounces" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Sean Barker" <sean.barker@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sat, 6 Jun 2009 09:12:46 +0100
Message-id: <OOEEJGAPCAJOKOFFPHLHIECECAAA.sean.barker@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Ontobloggers    (01)

Following up on my suggestion last week of a paradigm shift:    (02)

a) I'm not claiming I know what it is.    (03)

b) In the unlikely event that I work it out, it will probably be by
accident, and I won't notice I've done it, so someone will need to point it
out to me.    (04)

However, my suggestion revolved round the question of what knowledge one
brings (and might be expected to bring) to understanding a statement. For a
worked example, I return to "Amy Winehouse is the apotheosis and nadir of
post-modern femininity".    (05)

Firstly, the vocabulary "nadir", "apotheosis", "post-modern" imply that this
is intended more for an intelligensia than popular consumtion. Secondly, the
reference to Amy Winehouse - a singer feted as much for the excesses of her
lifestyle as her singing - situates the discusion at least on the edges of
popular culture. The word "post-modern" rings alarm bells that is probably
the strapline of an article by a member of the chattering classes - a member
with pretentions of gravitas - bemoaning the state of contemporary culture.    (06)

That is, the vocabulary and choice of subject suggest a popular article on
semiotics, possibly following the heretage of Bathes' Mythologies, and
probably published in a week-end edition of a (UK) broadsheet. (Ironically,
most broad sheets are now published as tabloids).    (07)

The point being, as a sentance, one infers a context in which to interpret
it. This particular context may be specific to the UK - for example, a UK
reader might image it originating from someone like Will Self. One would
also infer that an attempt to evaluate the truth of the claim by formal
logic would be rather pointless, since the object of such a discussion is
the discussion itself and the relationships it forms between elements of
contemporary culture.    (08)

Obviously, the formalization and evaluation of such a phrase is outside the
remit of this forum. However, the fact that there is an outside implies that
the scope needs demarkating in some way. Historically, this seems to have
been done by insisting on the properties of formal representation, that is,
what is considered to be an ontology. However, for external comprehension,
that boundary also needs to be articulated in terms of the relation between,
on one hand, formalisations which (confusingly) use natural language terms
as labels and on the other, natural language, which does not have a formal
semantics, and, in fact, thrives on ambigity, allusion and connotation.    (09)

Having this distinction between ontologies and natural language clear
expressed would help enormously in set the right expectations about what can
be delivered by the semantic wed in general, and ontologies in particular.
Over to you.    (010)

Sean Barker
Bristol, UK    (011)

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