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Re: [ontolog-forum] intangibles (was RE: Why most classifications are fu

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sun, 31 Jul 2011 10:02:00 -0400
Message-id: <4E356058.2070507@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Avril, Cory, and Azamat,    (01)

> The dichotomy to tangible and intangible is also fuzzy in a certain
> sense. We can start with naturalism: everything that exists in whatever
> way is physical. But physical can be divided into two categories:
> concrete/tangible/not mental and abstract/intangible/mental. The
> dichotomy is not absolute in the sense that it is agent-related at least
> in principle. In principle, a human's thought could be tangible to a
> certain sort of an agent. But this is only in principle; the dichotomy
> works very well in practice.    (02)

That discussion shows why the dichotomy 'tangible' vs 'intangible'
should be replaced with a clearer, more precise terminology.    (03)

> A contract or law has “observable effects”, so by your definition
> they are tangible, however I would still consider them intangible
> since they don’t exist in space. Since they do have observable
> effects they are “real” in terms of the abstractions we are modeling.
> In fact in business modeling MOST of the elements we deal with could
> be considered intangible.    (04)

I agree.  And this is another reason for using better terminology.    (05)

> I incline to think that reality/tangibility and irreality/intangibility
> are two extremes, allowing the grades of reality//ideality...    (06)

That's another reason why we need to replace those words with terms
that are less likely to create confusing interpretations.    (07)

The problem with all talk about what is mental is that we have no way
of observing anybody else's mental contents except through signs.
Those signs might be produced by the agents themselves:  language,
gestures, and other actions that give some clue about what they think.    (08)

With more refined methods of neuroscience, we can now gather signs
directly from the brain or from nerve endings elsewhere in the body.
Those signs might confirm the voluntary signs that the agents make,
but they could show some voluntary discrepancy (lying or at least
the suppression of relevant information).  And they can sometimes
show unconscious processes that are surprising even to the agent.    (09)

Peirce's solution was to draw a generalization that focuses on the
signs.  In his writings on semiotics, one of his basic distinctions
is the trichotomy of mark/token/type:    (010)

  1. A mark is any potentially observable phenomenon prior to its
     interpretation by any agent.  An example would be a pattern of
     green and yellow before anyone recognizes it or classifies it
     in any way.    (011)

  2. A token is an interpretation of some mark as an instance of
     some type.  For example, the mark mentioned in point #1 could
     be perceived as an instance of a plant, a flower, a dandelion,
     a weed, or a salad green.    (012)

  3. A type is an abstract pattern that is used to interpret and
     classify marks as tokens of the type.  All the categories
     mentioned in point #2 (and many more) are examples of types:
     Plant, Flower, Dandelion, Weed, SaladGreen.    (013)

Unlike marks and tokens, which are physical aspects of the world,
types are abstract patterns.  They can be said to "exist" in the
same sense as any mathematical structure:  e.g., a number, a cube,
a dodecahedron, or some bit pattern that represents some kind of
image in virtual reality.    (014)

The question of how an existential quantifier used in mathematics
differs from an existential quantifier in empirical science is
a major issue in philosophy.  But even philosophers like Quine,
who try to avoid all talk about mental entities, are willing to
admit sets and other mathematical structures into their domains.    (015)

I consider anything abstract as having the same nature as
mathematical entities.  They can resemble physical things in the
same way that virtual reality resembles what we see in the world.    (016)

But like virtual reality or any mathematical pattern, abstractions
can be used to shape multiple physical copies, they can be encoded
in computer files, and they can be be transmitted unchanged via
electromagnetic signals (wires or wireless).    (017)

For anyone who may be interested in a brief summary of Peirce's
semiotics, see Section 2, pp 3-9, of    (018)

    http://www.jfsowa.com/pubs/rolelog.pdf    (019)

Peirce wrote much more about these issues than I summarize in that
article, but just his trichotomy of mark/token/type can cut through
and clarify a huge amount of confusing talk.    (020)

John    (021)

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