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

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Doug McDavid <dougmcdavid@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sun, 1 Nov 2009 15:36:39 -0800
Message-id: <adc610520911011536m680aed2fyde4153b0cb9b0aa2@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
John, I thought it was a lattice of theories.  Did you change your thinking on that when I wasn't looking?

On Sun, Nov 1, 2009 at 12:27 PM, John F. Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

I mostly agree with your comments.  Some clarifications:

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

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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


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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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.



Doug McDavid

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