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Re: [ontolog-forum] Ontology of Self Interest

To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 12 Aug 2011 12:54:57 -0400
Message-id: <4E455AE1.1010704@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Doug and Rich,    (01)

The issues about governments, which led to complaints about discussing
political issues, have exact counterparts in social interactions of
any kind.  To make this discussion less controversial, I suggested
that we start with the simpler issues about bacterial colonies.    (02)

But I recognize that many people find it hard to see the connections
between tooth plaque and international politics.  So I suggest that
we look at human interactions at several levels:  nuclear families
(mom, pop, & kids); small tribes (dozens of related people, such as
primitive societies, villages, small businesses, schools, etc.);
larger tribes (towns, universities, and medium businesses); and
nation states (countries and multinational corporations).    (03)

> Socialists show empathy to the non-powerful in society,
> while libertarians oppose a "nanny state" and feel that
> everyone should fend for themselves.    (04)

Generalizations at that level will never lead to an ontology.
It's more instructive to analyze specific examples.  For a
small socialist example (tribe level), look at a specific
kind of community, such as the Amish.  They're socialist,
but they have minimal government.    (05)

If you want a larger example, you can look at the old Soviet Union
(which could be more accurately described as a Tsarist bureaucracy
with the role of Tsar relabeled as 'Party Chairman').    (06)

> The way different classes of people rank trade-offs needs to be
> modeled.  One person may say, "my right to swing my fist ends where
> your nose begins", while another might restrict that right within
> one meter of his body.    (07)

That's a better issue to address.  But before you can discuss
it, you need an ontology for 'trade-off', 'right', and 'body'
as well as all the subsidiary terms needed to define them.    (08)

> Is the top node in the lattice partitioned into value systems or
> into behaviors, or are both involved in the top partition, the
> reduction of the nil top node to the next level down?    (09)

That is getting closer to the level needed.  But before you can
talk about value systems, you need to define 'value' and how values
are related to modality (may, can, must, should, would, could).    (010)

And before you can talk about 'behavior', you need an ontology
for actions, purposes, purposive actions, and various kinds of
patterns of actions and responses.    (011)

> How do the values and behaviors interact to support or contradict
> each other?  What facts are sufficient to make an unambiguous
> constructive proof for any of our opposing assertions posted so far?    (012)

Those are important questions, but they begin to cross the line
between an ontology of the terms to a theory about behavior.    (013)

Every ontology is a theory about the terms, but I would not claim
that every theory is an ontology.  Some theories use the terms
without changing their basic meanings.    (014)

To relate these issues to bacteria, I would propose something
like Aristotle's hierarchy of psyches.  Unlike Descartes, who
had a very sharp two-level distinction between humans and other
animals, Aristotle started with a vegetative psyche for plants;
a sensitive psyche for sponges and barnacles; a locomotive psyche
for animals that move around; a psyche for animals with higher
senses, especially vision; and a rational psyche for humans.    (015)

When I talk about biosemiotics, I mean a refinement of that
hierarchy to covers all life forms on earth -- and the option
of generalizing it to cover extraterrestrial aliens, artificial
life-like forms, and robots.    (016)

Generalizing the problem can actually *simplify* the ontology
because it allows each level of the hierarchy to be analyzed
separately and show how each feature interacts with the others.    (017)

John    (018)

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