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Re: [ontolog-forum] Just What Is an Ontology, Anyway?

To: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Christopher Menzel <cmenzel@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 30 Oct 2009 15:14:56 -0500
Message-id: <4FE6803F-83FE-407C-BFF3-FB357AE77D1A@xxxxxxxx>
On Oct 30, 2009, at 2:38 PM, Burkett, William [USA] wrote:    (01)

>> Correct.  All I was objecting to was the usual move I perceived  
>> (the other) Bill of making, which is to toss out some kind of  
>> Kantian argument against the possibility of ontology.
> Am I the other Bill?  I said that?  No, I didn’t.  You’re running  
> with an interpretation of my statement that wasn’t intended.  You  
> Kant do that to me!  ;-)    (02)

Hey, for philosophy humor, that's pretty good!  It's a pretty rare  
thing. :-)    (03)

> When I said:  “Besides: who is any of us to say how things *are* in  
> the world.  All we can realistically do is express our view of them.”
> I wasn’t questioning the value of either ontology or science.  While  
> science is “an expression of our view of the world”, the whole  
> practice of science has made it very valuable expression of how  
> things “are” – so much so that we can get on a plane with a high  
> degree of comfort, confidence, and security.  Yes, we have granted  
> “license”, as you say, to scientists and engineers to interpret how  
> things “are” in the world – and success of science/engineering gives  
> us the confidence to do so.  But it’s all just a model that has  
> worked objectively and repeatable-ly within our realm of experience.
> My point is that there is an unavoidable and inherent subjectivity  
> to all expressions of how things “are” in the world (to a greater or  
> lesser extent depending on how the expression was created) and it’s  
> a misguided to think that one can unequivocally assert how things  
> “are”.    (04)

Perhaps, but let's be sure we know why.  I'm willing to agree with  
this statement (though I'd replace "misguided" with something like  
"often unwarranted").  What I agree with however, is that our  
*epistemological* limitations often prevent us from being able to  
know, with certainty, what is true; it is often very hard, sometimes  
impossible, for us to know what the world is like.  What I would not  
agree with (and what I believe Bill was alluding to with his reference  
to Kant) is that the source of our uncertainty about the world is that  
there is simply no objective world to be known in the first place;  
that, in some sense, we create the world, we give it its shape and  
structure.  Whether the sort of "metaphysical realism" I endorse is  
itself true is another question, but it does seem to me that realism  
is methodologically critical to science -- we have to believe there is  
an objective world out there to be known and about which we can be  
right or wrong.  How else can we justify our pursuit of knowledge  
(what are we pursuing?) and argue through our disagreements?    (05)

-chris    (06)

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