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Re: [ontolog-forum] Semantic Systems

To: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Ronald Stamper <stamper.measur@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 30 Jun 2009 13:43:58 +0100
Message-id: <30190434-B580-4EF4-8F3C-6B13E9EB08F9@xxxxxxxxx>

Dear colleagues,


May I toss a little pebble into the semantics pool?


Perhaps I have misunderstood the discussion but it appears to concern the use of languages, especially forms of logic, to solve problems of meaning. 


You can do that with FOL provided that you are prepared to deal only with the self-contained world to which it gives access.  Kowalski and his PROLOG team at Imperial College dismissed our work on semantics at the London School of Economics.  Another professor of computer science, at about the same time, rebuked me for using the terms ‘ontology’ and ‘epistemology’ and warned me against falling into a ‘philosophical bog’.  I’m worried that most Otologgers belong in the same camp.


Kowalsik put it clearly on p.9 of his book “Logic for Problem Solving”:

‘It follows that it is unnecessary to talk about meaning at all.  All talk about meaning can be reexpressed in terms of logical implication.’ 

    To us this declared their retreat into either a world of pure symbol manipulation or a rarefied Platonic reality accessible to some privileged minds.


Dealing with concrete business activity and legal problems, we held the view that meanings are relationships between signs (logical or other) and the physical things and social constructs that business information and laws deal with.  A tiny fraction of our meaning relationships could be between signs (logical expressions) and other signs but the great majority would be between signs and many other things that exist in the real world, such as steel ingots or culpable behaviour.  Moreover those relationships cannot be dreamed up anonymously by whoever reads the signs; but they are supplied by the producers or interpreters of the signs / sentences / reports / evidence / etc. who will be held responsible for their imputed meanings.


So: no semantics without ontology

and no semantics without responsible agents.


Of course we started with the usual objectivist view of reality.  But that does not work in a legal context, among other things, because it omits the responsible agents.

I shall not attempt to explain the form of the actualist ontology we employ but you may glean a little about it in the two papers on www.rstamper.co.uk.


For work on semantics, do we not need a kind of logic that keeps the agents in the picture? one that starts from responsibility and existence as primitives and then leads to truth and falsity as derived concepts.   I guess that it will resemble FOL with a twist. 


Ronald Stamper

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