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Re: [ontolog-forum] Fwd: Re: Using controlled natural languages for onto

To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 16 Mar 2011 21:49:00 -0500
Message-id: <4D81769C.7090500@xxxxxxxxxxx>
On 3/16/2011 5:20 PM, Christopher Menzel wrote:
> As for the rap: Quine deserves great thanks for pointing out
> that the existential quantifier is the locus of ontological
> commitment, a general, methodological contribution that added
> great clarity to ontological investigation and which applies
> regardless of whether one's ontological tastes tend to the
> sparse or the promiscuous (this means you, Jerry! :-).
> It seems to me this was Quine's most important and influential
> contribution to ontology.    (01)

I learned a great deal from Quine, and I read most of his books
when the only thing I knew about Peirce was that he was a buddy
of William James.    (02)

But I was at Harvard in the late 1960s, in Applied Math.  I also
cross registered for Minsky's AI course at MIT, and I wrote my first
paper on conceptual graphs as a term paper for Minsky's course.    (03)

Among other things at Harvard, I took a course from Dreben in the
Phil. Dept., and I bought a copy of the new _From Frege to Gödel_,
in which van Heijenoort graciously thanks Quine, Dreben, and Wang
for their "help" in selecting texts.    (04)

They really helped!  Quine is the one I blame the most -- he
completely cut Peirce out of the history of logic.  Even Putnam
was amazed when he discovered that Peano derived his notation
from Peirce -- not from Frege.  See the article by Putnam:    (05)

    http://www.jfsowa.com/peirce/putnam.htm    (06)

But van Heijenoort's book jumps from Frege to Peano without
a single mention of Peirce.  The first occurrence of Peirce's
name is in a footnote by Peano (who does *not* cite Frege).    (07)

The thing that really bugs me is that I had spoken to several
of the philosophers at Harvard, including Putnam and some
other grad students.  But nobody told me about Peirce or
the fact that his manuscripts were in the Harvard library.    (08)

I didn't learn about Peirce's existential graphs until about
ten years later:  from an article in the mathematical games
section of the _Scientific American_ by Martin Gardner (1978).
Just a hint that CSP had done something with logic and graphs
would have given me an excellent thesis topic.    (09)

Quine was very intelligent, I learned a lot from his books,
but he was guilty of the worst kind of historical malpractice.
He had yearly seminars on Frege, but he sat on Peirce's
manuscripts for half a century without suggesting that
anybody might consider a comparison of Peirce & Frege.    (010)

John    (011)

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