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Re: [ontolog-forum] Self Interest Ontology

To: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Christopher Menzel <cmenzel@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 17 Aug 2011 12:40:52 -0500
Message-id: <DB1642FD-4D80-4363-887E-77F08EE07B52@xxxxxxxx>
On Aug 17, 2011, at 5:44 AM, Richard Vines wrote:
> Hi John,
> On slide slide 67 of this http://www.jfsowa.com/talks/iss.pdf you say:
> ● But all true theories must be consistent with observations.
> I am not sure if this is a pedantic or a substantial matter I am raising. 
> I would take the view that there are never any "true theories".
> All knowledge is fallible -    (01)

Well, if by this you mean that things that we know can be false, knowledge is 
*not* fallible. We can't *know* things that are false -- cf. the traditional 
definition of knowledge as justified *true* belief.  However, if by "all 
knowledge is fallible" you mean only that our *justification* for things that 
we know can be undermined, that is certainly true.  In that case, I'd suggest 
that the more general (if not quite correct) thing to say is that all *beliefs* 
are fallible.  But from this important (albeit insufficiently qualified) 
principle it doesn't follow that there can't be true theories -- unless you 
think there are no truths at all (a position that, on the face of it, is 
self-refuting).  For if you allow that there are some true propositions, there 
is no reason why the axioms of a theory (hence all of its theorems) cannot all 
be true.  Note this is not to say that we can always *know* whether or not the 
axioms of a theory are all true.  But their being true and our knowing that 
they are true are two different things.    (02)

> Some theories better explain something than others because they are 
>consistent with observations (principle of induction).    (03)

Mere consistency with observation is a pretty low form of explanation.    (04)

> Observations that are inconsistent with theories act to refute theories.    (05)

Rarely, I think. Theories regularly bump up against apparently contradictory 
evidence.  The *last* thing a scientist will do when confronted with such 
evidence is conclude her theory has been refuted. More commonly, the evidence 
will be dismissed as anomalous or, if similarly contravening observations are 
easily replicated, the scientist will *revise* her theory to accommodate them.  
(I suppose then, in the latter case, this is an acknowledgment that, *strictly 
speaking*, the theory in all its detail has been refuted, but "theory" is 
usually understood more loosely than that.)    (06)

> But what happens when we cannot compare apples with apples. In fact, I would 
>argue this is almost always the case in reality. Knowledge is always 
>contextual...    (07)

I'm never sure how to understand this claim.  It just seems obviously false.  
What is contextual about the fact that addition on the natural numbers is 
commutative or that the earth orbits the sun?  There was of course a time when 
people *believed* the sun orbited the earth, but that was not a context in 
which it was *true* that the sun orbited the earth. It was a context in which a 
false proposition was believed to be true.    (08)

> Therefore, from one context to another, we need to have a way of dealing
> with the incommensurability between different linguistic frameworks
> associated with those contexts.    (09)

Would you provide an example of different, modern day linguistic frameworks 
that are "incommensurable"?  Please stick to frameworks that have a bearing on 
ontological engineering.    (010)

Cheers,    (011)

Chris Menzel    (012)

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