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

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sun, 01 Nov 2009 15:27:28 -0500
Message-id: <4AEDEF30.2080702@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Steve,    (01)

I mostly agree with your comments.  Some clarifications:    (02)

JFS>> That is why I have emphasized the need for *a* framework that
>> can accommodate *an* open-ended *hierarchy* of ontologies.    (03)

SN> I added the emphases in the above quote, possibly changing what
> you meant.  I have no intention of offending, and I'm not trying
> to pick a fight, either. I just keep suspecting that frameworks
> necessarily make ontological assumptions, and that even the
> assumption of hierarchy is an example of such an assumption.    (04)

First point:  when I said "a framework", I didn't mean "exactly one".    (05)

SN> I would argue that what's needed, as the bottom turtle in the
> stack, is a rhetoric capable of accommodating diverse frameworks
> without isolating them from one another.    (06)

I used the word 'framework' in a very informal sense of any approach
that is used to relate ontologies.  The one I was thinking of is
the hierarchy of theories, which I have recommended in many notes.
But I have no idea what you mean by 'a rhetoric', and I suspect
that it probably has a high overlap with what I meant by framework.    (07)

In any case, the point of my hierarchy of theories is that it *does*
accommodate any ontologies that can be represented in logic, and it
most definitely relates them without isolating them.    (08)

SN> Naturally, many frameworks can each accommodate one open-ended
 > hierarchy, but even the assumption of hierarchy is, for me, itself
 > suspect.  "There are more things in heaven and earth..." and there
 > is an odor of a priestly caste and an intent to control discourse
 > about an assumption of hierarchy.    (09)

That quotation by Shakespeare is the first one that I quote at the
beginning of my web page on ontology:    (010)

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

And the word 'hierarchy' has more than an "odor" of a priestly caste.
Tt comes from two Greek words that mean 'sacred' and 'ruler'.    (012)

In any case, I agree that the two words 'framework' and 'hierarchy'
have ontological implications:    (013)

  1. Assuming a framework implies that the world has some structure
     in which some things persist for more than an instant.    (014)

  2. Assuming a hierarchy of categories implies that there is a
     partial ordering of types of entities.    (015)

I agree that those are big assumptions.  Without #1, we might have
a world in which there is no regularity of any kind, total chaos,
and no patterns that have any resemblance to other patterns.    (016)

Without #2, there might be some patterns that persist, but none
that could be grouped in categories on the basis of greater or
lesser degrees of similarity.    (017)

I believe that both of these assumptions are fairly well established
by observation.  Furthermore, neither one rules out the possibility
of more things than we have imagined or can imagine.    (018)

SN> I'd be happier to start somewhere so fundamental that nothing
 > human can possibly be alien, nor be isolated from anything else.    (019)

I would agree with that.  Terence said the first part nearly two
millennia ago, and Leibniz said the second part over 300 years ago.
But assumptions #1 and #2 above are far more primitive.    (020)

John    (021)

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