My evidence for the usefulness of such an approach is empirical. We've found
it to be useful.
We've taken a similar, but less ambitious, approach to Pat and created what we
call a minimalist upper ontology, but perhaps Foundational Ontology would be a
better name. We started with some of the same inspirations (Wierzbicka and in
our case the observation that Tok Pisin the official language of Papua New
Guinea, where I spent a lot of time, has only about 2000 words was similarly
We've found a foundation ontology with about 100 properties and 100 classes
typically needs another 100 properties to cover the kind of enterprise
ontologies we've been working with, and several hundred very specific
categories to cover the kinds of distinctions people generally create in
commercial systems, that aren't easily reduced to axioms.
Not only is it a productivity aid, over 90% of the classes we've defined have
been subclasses of the FO, which is encouraging as many organizations are
concerned about what to do as their systems boundaries are extended past their
four walls. Even more than the productivity, it helps resolve ambiguity
earlier in the process than starting with a clean sheet of paper.
I look forward to what Pat comes up with.
Dave McComb, President, Semantic Arts, Inc. www.semanticarts.com
(970) 490-2224 twitter
> -----Original Message-----
> From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ontolog-forum-
> bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of John F. Sowa
> Sent: Thursday, February 04, 2010 3:13 PM
> To: [ontolog-forum]
> Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Foundation ontology, CYC, and Mapping
> Pat and Chris M,
> I have read the following slides, which make some interesting points
> and cite some useful references:
> First of all, I have a very high regard for the work by Anna Wierzbicka
> which I have been following for nearly 30 years. (I cited her early
> _Lingua Mentalis_ in my 1984 book.) I also agree with Cliff Goddard
> that the arguments against that kind of research are *bad*.
> But I must emphasize that the so-called "primitives" that Anna W. and
> others have proposed are most definitely *not* primitives in the sense
> that mathematicians use.
> Anna W's primitives and the Longman's primitives may be useful as
> rough guidelines in a methodology for designing good human-factored
> representations. I suspect that they could support a better basis
> for pedagogy than set theory, which turned out to be a disaster
> when it was inflicted upon innocent children by inept teachers.
> I would encourage such research.
> But Anna W's "primitives" are extremely vague and squishy. She manages
> to use them to "define" lots of different terms across many different
> languages and cultures. I find those exercises intriguing. But her
> definitions are so vague that they would be totally worthless for
> formal ontology. The give *ZERO* evidence in support of Pat's claim
> that a precise FO is possible or that it would have the slightest
> value for interoperability.
> Furthermore, the FO that Pat has suggested is a closed system.
> Following is the point I made, which Pat did not address in the
> more recent note:
> JFS> I suspect that what you have in mind is a closed system: a
> > finite set of relations (i.e. primitives) that are fully specified
> > by necessary and sufficient conditions...
> > Then all possible terms that could be defined in your system would
> > consist of closed-form definitions of the following kind:
> > Every term T is either a primitive or it is defined as synonymous
> > to an expression that is composed only of primitives.
> A closed system is a dead end. It rules out most of mathematics,
> including systems that are important for physics and engineering.
> Since it is very difficult to analyze a system with 2148 "primitives",
> I used the many versions of set theory as an example. Chris raised
> the following point, which I agree with:
> JFS>> But Chris M. used the example of set theory, all versions of
> >> which have the same two "primitives" -- subsetOf and elementOf.
> CM> elementOf, i.e., ∈, is the only primitive you need (and the only
> > one you'll find in most modern texts).
> I agree. I should have added a qualification to avoid that objection,
> but I'd like to generalize the issue in a way that makes my argument
> The reason why I claimed two "primitives" for set theory is that
> I was thinking of a broader range of theories, which would include
> the many versions of mereology and set theory as special cases.
> Some versions of mereology deal with continuous stuff, which is
> infinitely divisible (no atoms). Other versions have atoms, but
> no continuous stuff (sometimes called 'gunk'). And other versions
> of mereology contain both atoms and gunk.
> It is possible to treat set theories as special cases of mereology
> in which there is no gunk. In that case, the subsetOf operator of
> set theory is a relabeling of the partOf operator of mereology,
> and there is the more basic elementOf operator, which can be used
> to define subsetOf.
> When you consider the many versions of *both* mereology and set
> theory, you get a huge number of ways of formalizing the vague
> notions of parts, wholes, and collections -- and all of them are
> based on just one or two "primitives".
> You can also look at all the many axiomatizations of the notions
> of possibility, necessity, and other modal operators. Those are
> further examples of the open-ended number of ways of formalizing
> the vague modal terms that are common in NLs.
> I'm sure that every one of Anna W's "primitives" and any others
> that might be proposed by Goddard and others can be similarly
> formalized in an open-ended number of ways. Picking just one
> of those formalizations over any others would be purely
> Conclusion: Pat has not shown any credible evidence for the
> claim that an FO based on such primitives would help support
> interoperability among practical computer systems. On the
> contrary, its closed nature would probably create more
> obstacles than it could eliminate.
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