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Re: [ontolog-forum] Sharing and Integrating Ontologies

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From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 29 Sep 2010 18:40:38 -0400
Message-id: <4CA3C066.9060105@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Folks,    (01)

Some comments on some of the issues.    (02)

DF> The word "entity" seems to me to indicate something that has
 > an independent existence.  The redness of an apple, the weight
 > of a ping pong ball, or the experience of the breeze brushing
 > against my face don't seem to be well covered by this English
 > word.    (03)

Yes.  We can refer to such things, count them, measure them
compare them, etc.   As Quine said, "To be is to be the
value of a quantified variable."  If we want to use variables
to relate them, we need to consider them elements in mental
or Tarski-style models.    (04)

JA> The Greeks had a word for it:
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0057%3Aentry%3Dpra%3Dgma    (05)

DF> "Pragma" in computer science means a directive to the compiler
 > that is essentially a comment in the code....
 > Since we are operating at least somewhat in a computer science
 > context, i don't think that is the best word to use.    (06)

As Jon points out, the word _pragma_ in Greek came to mean
'thing'.  But that is a derivative from an originally verbal
sense of 'what is done'.  The comp. sci. meaning is closer
to the original.  See the excerpt quoted below.    (07)

DE> "Object" is far too dangerous since it brings all sort of
 > baggage that is likely inappropriate for many circumstances.    (08)

FK> It is important to see that the three components - object,
 > property and relation do not exist without one another, although
 > object has a greater autnomy than the other two. They are fine
 > to describe the world as conceived as spacetime.    (09)

Note that the word 'object' also originated from the Latin
verbal form 'objectus', which means "that which is thrown
against'.  The German equivalent 'Gegenstand' literally
means 'that which stands against'.    (010)

If you want a 4-D ontology that is compatible with modern
physics, I strongly recommend Whitehead's ontology, which
makes process fundamental.  What some philosophers call
'continuants' are merely slow-moving processes that don't
change their shape very much from one encounter to another.
I also discuss Whitehead, among others, in that article
cited below.    (011)

RM> The purpose of my experiment is to determine whether the brain
 > can produce signs.    (012)

Peirce considered the brain to be a semiotic processor par excellance.
Every living cell is a semiotic processor that interprets signs
(e.g., a glucose gradient) by performing some action (e.g. swimming
toward it).  The most sophisticated semiosis performed by living
cells is to interpret DNA signs by creating replicas.  Viruses
are signs, which cells interpret to their own detriment.    (013)

Most cells communicate locally with their neighbors, but neurons
are long distance communicators.  The brain is a colony of about
10 billion neurons which interpret signs from sensory cells,
pass signs among themselves, and send signs to muscles.    (014)

PK> Understanding a diagram is much faster than reading the words
 > or text..  It is easier to learn with visual aid like diagrams.
 > In other countries math is taught in a different way more practical
 > way....  Put four sticks on the floor, make them two piles of two
 > each.  Make a child count them couple of times.  The child will
 > remember that 2+2 is 4. quite easily.  But if you write a theorm
 > for it, probably I would not have taken that class.....    (015)

Yes.  Visualization is essential for mathematics.  Those misguided
mathematicians who tried to eliminate diagrams from textbooks did
a great disservice to the field.    (016)

John
_______________________________________________________________________    (017)

Signs, Processes, and Language Games:
Foundations for Ontology    (018)

Source:  http://www.jfsowa.com/pubs/signproc.htm    (019)

Excerpt from Section 1:    (020)

The thing-property ontology, which Russell (1918) pushed to the extreme 
of treating objects as nothing but "a bundle of properties," is derived 
from the substance-property-accident representation of Aristotle's early 
philosophy. In reviewing the development of Greek philosophy, 
Wolfgang-Rainer Mann (2000) observed that far from being common sense, 
the position Aristotle presented in the Categories was "a revolutionary 
metaphysical picture":    (021)

     To formulate it most starkly: before the Categories and Topics,
     there were no things. Less starkly, things did not show up as
     things, until Aristotle wrote those two works. (p. 4)    (022)

The fundamental issue is the nature of the 'beings' or 'entities' (ta 
onta) that are ontologically primary. Both Plato and Aristotle used the 
word ousia for those privileged entities. Plato considered the abstract 
Forms to be ousiai and physical entities to be imperfect copies that 
participate in the Forms. In the Categories, however, Aristotle 
considered physical things, of which his main examples were living 
things, to be ousiai, which Boethius translated into Latin as 
substantiae. But as Mann notes, Aristotle distanced himself from those 
early views in his later philosophy, especially the Metaphysics and De 
Anima. In those books, Aristotle's primary representation of physical 
entities is the form-matter composite, which is more compatible with 
Plato than with his own early philosophy. The main difference between 
Plato and the later Aristotle is over the nature of the combination: 
whether physical entities participate in the Forms or whether the Forms 
inhere in the physical entities.    (023)

Besides telling a fascinating story about the development of ancient 
philosophy, Mann raised serious questions about what views might be 
considered "common sense." He also observed that the presocratic 
philosophers had no single word that corresponds to the English word 
thing. The closest words in Greek were derived from verbs: pragma 
literally means what is done, and chrÍma means what is used. Other 
languages also use verbal forms for "object": objectus in Latin and 
Gegenstand in German mean something that is thrown against or standing 
in the way. As Mann's analysis indicates, a revolutionary view that 
Aristotle once proposed and later abandoned can hardly be considered so 
obvious that no further justification is required.    (024)


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