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Re: [ontolog-forum] Ontology of Self Interest was: intangibles

To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 10 Aug 2011 17:32:34 -0400
Message-id: <4E42F8F2.3020606@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Doug and Rich,    (01)

Self interest is an interesting concept, but you can't develop
an ontology with just one concept.  It has to fit in a framework
that defines a complete system of concepts and relations.    (02)

> This most general level would not specify the types of groups
> to which self-interest applies other than person, organization, self,
> family, voluntary association, group one is born into, group that
> one is obligated to be in, and maybe a few more such groups.
> Separate microtheories would identify more classes of agent:
> corporation, government, labor union, interest organization,
> lobbyist, attorney, etc. and roles they are engaged in.    (03)

This already gets very complex, and it is hard to isolate the
minimal conditions from the cultural baggage of various kinds
of human organizations.    (04)

That is why I suggested semiotics as the framework in which you
can meaningfully talk about and relate those concepts.  I also
suggested biosemiotics going down to the level of bacteria as
a way of distinguishing the minimum requirements for defining
life, survival, community, self interest, and community
interactions.    (05)

More detail below in my comments on Rich's comments.    (06)

> So is it your suggestion that people (like bacteria) like to congregate
> together, and that is one way in which we pursue self interest?    (07)

It's not a matter of preference (liking).  It's a matter of survival.    (08)

The point I made is that self interest is just one small part of a much
more complex system of concepts.  No living things can survive without
a favorable ecosystem.  You can't develop an adequate ontology of
self interest (survival of the individual) without considering the
ecosystem (community) in which the individual lives.    (09)

> How does that fit into the ontology of self interest?  We (and bonobos)
> seek out each other's company, but why do we take aggressive action
> against each other?    (010)

I cited chimps and bonobos to illustrate two different life styles
of very closely related species.  The chimps evolved a very narrow
kind of self-interest, which led to terrible fighting and an early
death for the top males and anyone who challenged them.    (011)

The bonobos evolved a more stable society when the males stopped
competing with each other for mates.  Instead, they developed
a kind of laid-back, 1960s hippie life style with free sex for
everybody.    (012)

The human range of life styles is much more complex.  Some people
behave like chimps, some like bonobos, and many more somewhere
in between.  For more info about how those insights apply to
human goals, behavior, and life styles, I recommend any of the
books by Frans De Waal.  See, for example,    (013)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/search/ref=sr_tc_2_0?rh=i%3Astripbooks%2Ck%3AFrans+De+Waal&keywords=Frans+De+Waal&ie=UTF8&qid=1313009401&sr=8-2-ent&field-contributor_id=B000APOHE0    (014)

> And how does this consideration fit into an ontology?    (015)

An ontology never consists of one or two concepts.  It must always
be a complete system of concepts and relations for a fairly large
domain.  The biosemiotics ranging from bacteria to humans shows
the full range of communities, ecosystems, and goals from the
simplest to the most complex.    (016)

Any definition of self interest must be sufficiently general
to include humans among other animals.  But going down to the
level of bacteria shows the minimum that must be supported
and what must be added at each level above that.    (017)

John    (018)

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