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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: Thu, 17 Mar 2011 16:07:29 -0500
Message-id: <4D827811.9050001@xxxxxxxxxxx>
On 3/17/2011 3:16 PM, Christopher Menzel wrote:
> I would strongly have agreed had you said simply that we'd be
> better off if Peirce had been studied and admired as much as Frege.    (01)

OK.  I'd be happy with that level of agreement.    (02)

CM
> I have to confess I find both Whitehead and later W. largely
> incomprehensible and with little of value to offer modern
> knowledge engineering. But hey that's just me.    (03)

I admit that Whitehead's _Process and Reality_ is opaque.
But he was constantly stressing the point that deduction is only
one small part of reasoning.  The really hard part is in finding
the appropriate starting assumptions.  But that gets into all
the messy areas that Frege, Russell, and Carnap hoped to ignore.    (04)

As for Wittgenstein, he apologized for not writing a "good book"
in the preface to the _Philosophical Investigations_.  But he
also said that his goal was to expose the "grave errors" of
his first book and the philosophers who led him into them
(i.e., Frege and Russell).    (05)

I like to quote C. I. Lewis's letter to Hao Wang in 1960:    (06)

    It is so easy... to get impressive 'results' by replacing the
    vaguer concepts which convey real meaning by virtue of common
    usage by pseudo precise concepts which are manipulable by
    'exact' methods  the trouble being that nobody any longer
    knows whether anything actual or of practical import is being
    discussed.    (07)

The people Lewis was criticizing are ones like Carnap and Goodman
who oversimplify all the hard stuff and pretend that they have
done something useful.  Carnap's Logische Aufbau, for example,
degenerates into nothing but vague hand waving when things
get hard (see the later chapters of that book).    (08)

JFS
>> P, W, & W had a much deeper appreciation for the nature of
>> natural language. F, R, C, & Q rejected NLs in favor of their
>> own "purified" vision. Throughout history, the puritans of
>> every religious stripe are the ones that start wars and witch hunts.    (09)

CM
> Oh please.    (010)

I'm willing to delete the final sentence, which I admit gets into
some purple prose.  But there is some justification for it.  Frege 
(1879) set out "to break the domination of the word over the human 
spirit by laying bare the misconceptions that through the use of 
language often almost unavoidably arise concerning the relations between 
concepts."    (011)

That sounds a lot like a witch hunt.  And Frege's student, Carnap
wrote his manifesto against metaphysics in a similar tone.  As an
antidote to that, I like to quote Peirce's comment about Mach:    (012)

    "Find a scientific man who proposes to get along without any
    metaphysics... and you have found one whose doctrines are
    thoroughly vitiated by the crude and uncriticized metaphysics
    with which they are packed" (CP 1.129).    (013)

John    (014)

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