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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 21:43:58 -0500
Message-id: <4D82C6EE.402@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Pavithra,    (01)

JFS
>> Throughout history, the puritans of every religious stripe
>> are the ones that start wars and witch hunts.    (02)

PK
> I would say fanatical people start wars ..
> I would say Gandhi was puritan.... many puritans are idealists and
> pacifists too..    (03)

Actually, I was thinking of the Puritans who escaped religious
persecution in Europe and settled in Massachusetts.  They wanted
religious freedom for themselves, but not for anybody else.    (04)

Unlike Gandhi, they were very negative people who were always
setting up prohibitions and "Thou shalt not..." commandments.
And they're the ones who accused and persecuted innocent people
as witches.    (05)

In any case, I'll drop the word 'puritan'.  In a paper I wrote a few
years ago, I emphasized Peirce's positive ideas that could have made
a major advance in cognitive science and are still relevant today:    (06)

    http://www.jfsowa.com/pubs/csp21st.pdf
    Peirce's Contributions to the 21st Century    (07)

The following quotation from that article shows how Frege's negativism
stifled important ideas and misled philosophers ranging from the
early Wittgenstein to more recent ones like Quine and Strawson.    (08)

John
______________________________________________________________________    (09)

Source:  http://www.jfsowa.com/pubs/csp21st.pdf    (010)

The negativism began with Frege (1879), who 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." His strength lay in 
the clarity of his distinctions, which Frege (1884) summarized in three 
fundamental principles:    (011)

  1. "always to separate sharply the psychological from the logical,
     the subjective from the objective;"    (012)

  2. "never to ask for the meaning of a word in isolation, but only
      in the context of a proposition;"    (013)

  3. "never to lose sight of the distinction between concept and
     object."    (014)

These distinctions may sound good in isolation, but in practice the 
borderlines are not clear. Instead of trying to understand the reasons 
for the lack of clarity, Frege imposed arbitrary restrictions:    (015)

     In compliance with the first principle, I have used the word "idea"
     always in the psychological sense, and have distinguished ideas
     from concepts and from objects. If the second principle is not
     observed, one is almost forced to take as the meanings of words
     mental pictures or acts of the individual mind, and so to offend
     against the first principle as well.    (016)

With this interpretation, Frege made it impossible to formalize 
metalanguage as language about language because there are no physical 
objects that can serve as the referents of metalevel terms. In the 
Tractatus, Wittgenstein (1921) observed Frege's restrictions and defined 
meaningful language in terms of references to physical objects and their 
relationships. Everything else, including his own analysis of language, 
had no legitimate reference:  "My propositions are elucidatory in this 
way:  he who understands me finally recognizes them as senseless" (6.54).    (017)

While reviewing Quine's Word and Object, Rescher (1962) was struck by 
the absence of any discussion of events, processes, actions, and change. 
He realized that Quine's static views were endemic in the analytic 
tradition:  "The ontological doctrine whose too readily granted 
credentials I propose to revoke consists of several connected tenets, 
the first fundamental, the rest derivative:"    (018)

  1. "The appropriate paradigm for ontological discussions is a thing
     (most properly a physical object) that exhibits qualities (most
     properly of a timeless  i.e., either an atemporal or a temporarily
     fixed  character)."    (019)

  2. "Even persons and agents (i.e., "things" capable of action) are
     secondary and ontologically posterior to proper (i.e., inert or
     inertly regarded) things."    (020)

  3. "Change, process, and perhaps even time itself are consequently
     to be downgraded in ontological considerations to the point where
     their unimportance is so blatant that such subordination hardly
     warrants explicit defense. They may, without gross impropriety,
     be given short shrift in or even omitted from ontological
     discussions."    (021)

"It is this combination of views, which put the thing-quality paradigm 
at the center of the stage and relegate the concept of process to some 
remote and obscure corner of the ontological warehouse, that I here 
characterize as the 'Revolt against Process'."    (022)

Rescher found that the only analytic philosopher who bothered to defend 
the static view was Strawson (1959), who adopted identity and 
independence as the criteria for ontological priority:  "whether there 
is reason to suppose that identification of particulars belonging to 
some categories is in fact dependent on the identification of 
particulars belonging to others, and whether there is any category of 
particulars that is basic in this respect" (pp. 40-41). By applying that 
principle, Strawson concluded that physical objects are "basic" because 
processes cannot be identified without first identifying the objects 
that participate in them. Rescher, however, found Strawson's arguments 
unconvincing and presented three rebuttals:    (023)

  1. Since people are commonly identified by numbers, such as employee
     numbers or social-security numbers, Strawson should grant numbers
     ontological priority over people. Church (1958) observed that a
     similar argument could be made for the ontological priority of men
     over women because women are typically identified by the names of
     their fathers or husbands.    (024)

  2. All physical things are generated by some process. Therefore, they
     owe their very existence to some process. Processes can generate
     other processes, but inert things cannot generate anything without
     some process.    (025)

  3. The method of identifying an object is itself a process. Therefore,
     things cannot even be recognized as things without some process.    (026)

Undeterred by the rebuttals, Strawson (1992) published a textbook that 
he used to inculcate philosophy students with the thing-property 
doctrine. He mentioned event semantics as proposed by Davidson (1967), 
but dismissed it as "unrealistic" and "unnecessary." He took no notice 
of the rich and growing literature on event semantics in linguistics and 
artificial intelligence (Tenny & Pustejovsky 2000).    (027)

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