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Re: [ontolog-forum] Universal and categories in BFO & DOLCE

To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 06 Sep 2011 23:23:38 -0400
Message-id: <4E66E3BA.6040709@xxxxxxxxxxx>
On 9/6/2011 2:57 PM, Ed Barkmeyer wrote:
> In general, there is no relationship between 'general' and 'generalization'
> (of the subsumption kind).  'Specialization', however, almost always has
> the right general understanding...
> The fact is, however, that 'subsumption' is an accepted term of art in the
> description logic field (and others), which is of similar vintage, and
> whose only weakness is that it had a much smaller population until recently.    (01)

The commonly accepted term of art is 'hierarchy', which is often used
with some other word in front.  Following are the Google counts for
various two-word combinations in decreasing order of frequency:    (02)

    class hierarchy           7,760,000
    category hierarchy          784,000
    type hierarchy              233,000
    concept hierarchy           188,000
    set hierarchy                37,800
    specialization hierarchy     19,870  (includes 2,170 with S)
    generalization hierarchy     19,520  (includes 1,920 with S)
    subsumption hierarchy        17,400
    subset hierarchy              1,370    (03)

Cyc, by the way, uses the symbol #$genls for the links in their
generalization hierarchy.  Google says that there are 32,500
web pages with one or more occurrences of #genls.    (04)

For the history and usage of the words, I'll cite Aristotle and
his buddies instead of Peirce.  In the 3rd century AD, Porphyry
drew the first known tree diagram in his commentary on Aristotle.
Following is a Latin version of Porphyry's Greek tree:    (05)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Arbor_porphyrii_(probably_from_one_of_Boethius%27_translations).png    (06)

As that web site says, this may be from a translation by Boethius in
the 6th century.  In any case, variations of that tree were used in
textbooks on logic by every college freshman in European and American
universities from the 12th century to the early 20th century.    (07)

Following is an English translation of the labels on the tree:    (08)

    http://www.jfsowa.com/figs/porphyry.gif    (09)

Note that the top node is called the supreme genus, intermediate
nodes are called subordinate genera, the leaf nodes are called
individuals, and the node immediately above the individuals
is called species.    (010)

It's not a coincidence that programmers and philosophers draw
trees that look very similar to the Tree of Porphyry.    (011)

Aristotle's method of definition "by genus and differentiae" is
used in all dictionaries from the middle ages to the present.
Any dictionary that gives etymologies will say that the word
'general' comes from 'genus', and 'specific' from 'species'.    (012)

As for the English words, the OED gives many definitions, including
variations of the ones I cited.  From the Merriam-Webster web page
for 'general':    (013)

> 2: involving, relating to, or applicable to every member
>    of a class, kind, or group"    (014)

For 'specific', M-W says    (015)

> 1 a : constituting or falling into a specifiable category
>   b : sharing or being those properties of something that allow
>       it to be referred to a particular category"    (016)

For the word 'special', M-W gives a brief discussion of synonyms:    (017)

> Synonym Discussion of SPECIAL
> special, especial, specific, particular, individual mean
> of or relating to one thing or class. special stresses
> having a quality, character, identity, or use of its own
> <special ingredients>. especial may add implications of
> preeminence or preference <a matter of especial importance>.
> specific implies a quality or character distinguishing
> a kind or a species <children with specific nutritional
> needs>. particular stresses the distinctness of something
> as an individual <a ballet step of particular difficulty>.
> individual implies unequivocal reference to one of a class
> or group <valued each individual opinion>.    (018)

John    (019)

PS:  For the Google counts, I noticed that the counts tend to vary
quite a bit, even over a period of just a few minutes.  So your
counts might not be identical to mine.  But the relative frequencies
should be similar.    (020)

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