[Top] [All Lists]

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

To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sat, 19 Mar 2011 19:40:18 -0500
Message-id: <4D854CF2.4080703@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Chris,    (01)

I realize that it's not easy to get the point across, but the short
summary is that Frege was throwing the baby out with the bathwater.    (02)

>> ... 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."
>> That sounds a lot like a witch hunt.    (03)

> Against confusion and unclarity, I'd agree.  Against those
> holding alternative philosophical viewpoints?  I don't see it.    (04)

No.  The claim that there is something wrong with NLs is
a very strong and, I claim, misguided philosophical viewpoint.
My claim is that NLs are just as precise as they need to be
for whatever application they are used for.    (05)

Frege's fallacy is a result of the value judgment is that precision
is better than vagueness.  He explicitly said that a concept with
vague boundaries isn't even a concept.  And he restated that view
again and again throughout his writings.    (06)

Following is a quotation from my rolelog.pdf paper:    (07)

> Precision and clarity are the goal of analysis, not the starting point.
> Whitehead (1937) aptly summarized that point:
>    Human knowledge is a process of approximation. In the focus of
>    experience, there is  comparative clarity. But the discrimination
>    of this clarity leads into the penumbral background. There are
>    always questions left over. The problem is to discriminate exactly
>    what we know vaguely.
> During his career as an experimental physicist and a practicing engineer,
> Peirce learned the difficulty of stating any general principle with
> absolute precision:
>    It is easy to speak with precision upon a general theme. Only,
>    one must commonly surrender all ambition to be certain. It is
>    equally easy to be certain. One has only to be sufficiently
>    vague. It is not so difficult to be pretty precise and fairly
>    certain at once about a very narrow subject. (CP 4.237)    (08)

This is what I mean when I say that Frege did not understand the
nature of natural language, but Peirce, Whitehead, and Wittgenstein
did.  Kant also understood NLs.  He explicitly said that natural
concepts cannot be defined by necessary and sufficient conditions;
only mathematical concepts and artificially stipulated agreements
can be so defined.    (09)

Waismann and the later Wittgenstein made the same points.
But Frege would never admit such a point.    (010)

As late as 1970, Montague claimed that there is no essential
difference between natural languages and formal languages.
His version of language had a perfectly Fregean foundation,
but it was useless for practical NLP.    (011)

> This is of course an older and wiser Carnap, but it's a beautiful
> expression of freedom to postulate whatever ontological categories
> are useful for solving a given problem.    (012)

Carnap wasn't a bad guy, but he drank too much of Frege's Kool Aid.
In his book on the philosophy of science (actually notes taken from
his course by Martin Gardner, but with RC's approval), he still
refused to admit that scientific theories expressed something real.
He still claimed that a theory is just a summary of observations.    (013)

That is very clear and very Fregean.  But only a philosopher
"in the grip of a theory" could be so misguided.    (014)

> Far from a villain, Quine (along with Church and, frankly, the
> later Carnap) is one of the heroes -- perhaps the greatest --
> in the story of the revival of metaphysics in the 20th century.    (015)

No.  I learned a great deal from Quine and Carnap, but they drank
the Fregean Kool Aid and never recovered from it.  It's impossible
to refute them in the same way that it's impossible to refute
a Freudian, a Marxist, or a Solipsist.  They have a closed system
that does not admit any axioms to the contrary.    (016)

John    (017)

Message Archives: http://ontolog.cim3.net/forum/ontolog-forum/  
Config Subscr: http://ontolog.cim3.net/mailman/listinfo/ontolog-forum/  
Unsubscribe: mailto:ontolog-forum-leave@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Shared Files: http://ontolog.cim3.net/file/
Community Wiki: http://ontolog.cim3.net/wiki/ 
To join: http://ontolog.cim3.net/cgi-bin/wiki.pl?WikiHomePage#nid1J
To Post: mailto:ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx    (018)

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>