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Re: [ontolog-forum] Event Ontology

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From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 04 Sep 2009 09:22:00 -0400
Message-id: <4AA11478.4080005@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Azamat,    (01)

That is an extreme version of nominalism:    (02)

> "events are primarily linguistic or cognitive in nature.
 > That is, the world does not really contain events. Rather, events
 > are the way by which agents classify certain useful and relevant
 > patterns of change."
> http://motools.sourceforge.net/event/event.html
> I read many event ontologies, but this one is the most idiosyncratic,
 > softly speaking.    (03)

Unfortunately, that point of view was fairly widespread among
20th century analytic philosophers.  Some of them even claimed
that all the laws of physics are merely verbal (or mathematical)
summaries of observations.    (04)

That view is true of some so-called laws, such as Bode's law,
which states a simple numerical formula for the distance of the
planets from the sun.  Most physicists, however, are realists
with regard to the laws of physics:  they believe that there is
something real underlying the laws that have been tested and
verified under many kinds of conditions by large numbers of
experimenters.    (05)

The option of treating events as real and allowing quantified
variables to range over events is usually called 'event semantics'
and attributed to Donald Davidson.  However, Peirce insisted that
it was appropriate to quantify over events long before Davidson,
and Whitehead made events the central focus of his ontology.    (06)

Furthermore, Davidson had taken Whitehead's course when he
was an undergraduate at Harvard.  He was so enthusiastic about
Whitehead's approach that he decided to study for a PhD in
philosophy at Harvard.    (07)

Unfortunately, Davidson was suckered into a "bait and switch"
deal because Whitehead retired, and Davidson was stuck with
Quine as his thesis advisor.  Quine was a nominalist who had
no sympathy with Whitehead's philosophy, so Davidson couldn't
write his dissertation on event semantics under Quine.    (08)

But Davidson did return to event semantics after he got tenure
and didn't have to "suffer the slings and arrows" of the
nominalists.  But it would be more appropriate to call event
semantics the Plato-Aristotle-Peirce-Whitehead-Davidson theory.    (09)

And by the way, you could also add the logician Alonzo Church
to the anti-Quine, anti-nominalist group.  Church presented the
following paper at Harvard, especially because he knew it would
annoy Quine:    (010)

    http://www.jfsowa.com/ontology/church.htm    (011)

Following is the title and opening paragraph of that paper.    (012)

_________________________________________________________________    (013)

The ontological status of women and abstract entities    (014)

By Alonzo Church    (015)

Goodman says somewhere that he finds abstract entities difficult to 
understand.  And from a psychological viewpoint it is certainly his 
dislike and distrust of abstract entities which leads him to propose an 
ontology from which they are omitted.  Now a misogynist is a man who 
finds women difficult to understand, and who in fact considers them 
objectionable incongruities in an otherwise matter-of-fact and 
hard-headed world.  Suppose then that in analogy with nominalism the 
misogynist is led by his dislike and distrust of women to omit them from 
his ontology.  Women are not real, he tells himself, and derives great 
comfort from the thought -- there are no such things.  This doctrine let 
us call ontological misogyny...    (016)

Source:  http://www.jfsowa.com/ontology/church.htm    (017)

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