Comments below Chris
> All knowledge is fallible -
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.
RV: Yes, this is a traditional definition of knowledge. An evolutionary perspective that I have been influenced by, in contrast is that “knowledge is solutions to the problems of life”. It is grounded in a realist’s perspective, not a constructivists perspective.
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.
RV: Yes I agree. To some extent the knowledge world is influenced by these two different views – the realists (with for me is influenced by the anti positivism of Popper etc who very much admired the Amercial pragmatists especially Pierce) and the constructivists perspectives (influenced by the likes of Michael Polayni). Etc. In KM, there is a revival in interests as well in Pierces notion of abductive reasoning., which to some extent holds the prospect of finding a middle way, but for me the danger in the way this is thought about is that it provides a cover for progressing a new face of constructivism whilst avoiding the hard questions about realism.
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.
> Some theories better explain something than others because they are consistent with observations (principle of induction).
Mere consistency with observation is a pretty low form of explanation.
> Observations that are inconsistent with theories act to refute theories.
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.)
> 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...
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.
RV: Yes, … this to me supports a view that knowledge itself needs to be understood as evolutionary. There is something very contextual about the Galileo’s route to market for a new proposition about the relationship between the sun and the earth. As well as Charles Darwin’s claim about evolution. Darwin’s work very nearly did not get published.
> 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.
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.
RV: Sure: Trying to reconcile five different quality standards where there is a need to make explicit the tacit schemas embedded in five different print documents. See section 2 of this paper (sorry to requote this), where we look at the challenge of what is involved in creating commensurability between five separate quality standards in the community services context. The problem is regulatory burden for those institutions that deliver services across these types of service silos. There are plenty other examples. The primary focus for me is dealing with incommensurability, not necessarily ontology engineering. Ontology merging maybe.
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