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Re: [ontolog-forum] Semantic Systems

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sat, 11 Jul 2009 09:39:26 -0400
Message-id: <4A58960E.1060307@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Frank,    (01)

I agree with the basic points you made in your last note,
but I wanted to qualify some of them:    (02)

FK> The issue is not to define "what", but "how". Existence
 > is experienced and everything we experience in space-time
 > we experience its absence as well, because everything is
 > in constant motion and change, and we notice changes at
 > our scale.    (03)

I agree.  Everything we experience is embedded in space and time.
But that experience is strongly influenced by and determined by
attention, emotion, intention, and background knowledge (all of
which are derived from previous experience).    (04)

The point I would qualify is that we directly observe absence.
More precisely, we experience *contrast*.  That is a more
immediate experience that does not depend on retrieval and
comparison with anything from background knowledge.    (05)

For example, the experience of something vanishing or popping
into view is a contrast.  But a report that there is no
hippopotamus in the room is unlikely to be the result of
experiencing a hippo that suddenly went "POOF".    (06)

FK> When we have concepts to identify the chunks of reality,
 > we have verbal forms to be used to make a picture, which is
 > the clue to understanding or making sense. But verbal forms
 > are not suitable for assembly, and content must be aligned
 > with the use of forms between the speakers of any language.    (07)

I agree, but I would emphasize that immediate experience is
prior to any verbalization.  In fact, most use of language
involves a great deal of reasoning (by analogy with prior
experience and by induction, deduction, and abduction from
previously processed experience as codified in concepts).    (08)

The fact that verbal forms encode so much background knowledge
makes it difficult for us to say what is immediately before
our eyes (and ears, nose, hands).  What we report tends to be
a combination (by various forms of reasoning) that mixes and
colors the immediate experience with previous knowledge.    (09)

FK> But unfortunately, the concept of meaning, context and the
 > communication model of a bargaining situation where we should
 > arrive at an agreement as to the sense of any form, or concept
 > is not dealt properly among ontologists.    (010)

I believe that *every* large ontology that has so far been
presented or even proposed is far, far too simplistic to be
a suitable foundation for understanding experience and its
verbalization in natural languages (or in logic, which is
a further abstraction away from language).    (011)

That is why I have been emphasizing an open-ended collection
of ontologies, in which the most important are *not* the upper
levels, but the lowest levels that are closest to the subject
under discussion.    (012)

And every different subject is a different way of experiencing
reality, thinking about it, and acting upon it.  The upper
levels cannot be defined *in advance*.  They are always
abstractions from the more concrete lower levels.    (013)

Any attempt to fix and freeze an upper level in advance is
guaranteed to be hopelessly inadequate.  As I have said to
Pat C, the best upper level should be little more than a
collection of words that are linked by very few axioms.
The most important reasoning must be done at the lowest levels
that are closest to the experience and action required for
the subject matter at hand.  Note the word 'hand'.  I mean it
literally as an important part of what we use to experience
the world, not as a metaphor for something close by.    (014)

John    (015)

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