John and anyone, comments below,
Rich AT EnglishLogicKernel DOT com
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[mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of John F. Sowa
Sent: Monday, October 18, 2010 5:33 PM
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Oooh, FOL is too hard to learn.
I have taught predicate calculus to average engineers,
and I believe
that the notation is truly *abysmal* and *unusable*
for anybody who
is not a born and bred mathematician. The ideas
seem to sink in
while they're in the classroom, but by the next week,
are totally devoid of any concept from the previous
This engineer/computer scientist
agrees. You mathematicians have a culture that uses symbols that
literally have symbolic meaning to you (fine with me), but I use symbols to chunk
snatches of experience, to apply them to new experiences in the present or
> I think, John, that you are here exemplifying the
top 20%, who think
> that every other competent engineer can do more
or less what they do.
I most certainly do not believe that at all. I
intelligent people for whom anything that looks
remotely like algebra
is an instant turn off. I have spoken to
publishers who say that
each equation that appears in a book will cut sales by
means 10 equations will reduce sales by a factor of a
> Many people use modeling languages in the same
way, to state
> unclear thoughts clearly and often
incorrectly. They don't use
> use the language to mean exactly what the formal
> of the language says is meant by the syntax they
I completely agree.
> Many people have no problem with simple
syllogisms, but are seriously
> confused about quantification.
I totally agree.
> And I can tell you first hand that the first
> electrical engineering students and boolean algebra
is a filter -- the
> ones who will work in electronics understand
quickly, the ones who don't
> understand quickly will become radar technicians
or something. It is
> not just the notation; it is the
abstraction. Many of the
> simplifications of gating logic are
Again, I have had exactly the same experience.
Iterate again here. The math itself
is interesting only as a tool, not as an abstraction in itself, unless it’s
the first time I hear it. But repeating it over and over as though its
> FOL is not casual logic; it is a mathematical
We have to distinguish here between notations for FOL,
and the use of FOL as expressed in ordinary language.
> Many intelligent people can use logic correctly
in their work, but
> they don't have the discipline, and most of them
> that there is a discipline.
Yes, that is certainly true. I most definitely
do *not* believe
that formal logic is the foundation for NL
semantics. On the
contrary, formal logic is an *abstraction* from NLs
are being used correctly -- even when (or perhaps
the people aren't aware of the underlying principles.
People who have no education beyond 4 grade can reason
accurately about subjects they know very well.
hopeless when it gets to any kind of
that point is true of engineers who have had 16 years
> Conversely, the most astonishing use of FOL I
have ever seen was a
> 3-year-old, who...
That's not a counterexample. Three-year-old kids
are much more
intelligent than the average engineer. That's
because they haven't
been brainwashed by 16 years of so-called education.
When computers first became available at large
scientists and engineers were among the *last* to use
They never learned to use them until their *children*
them into learning how.
Summary: I think we agree quite well on all
But I still maintain that they're not an excuse for
software and notations (such as UML diagrams) that do
a well-defined foundation. People can benefit
from a well
designed system, even if they don't know how it was