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Re: [ontolog-forum] Ontology Chemistry - foundation and method

To: Christopher Spottiswoode <cms@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 24 Oct 2011 13:31:44 -0500
Message-id: <D03F6E2F-E407-4975-BE6D-23225C25C29A@xxxxxxx>
Christopher, you have one more chance. If your next email is as completely 
devoid of actual content as this and the two previous ones, my mail filters 
will auto-trash all future emails with your name on them anywhere.     (01)

Best wishes    (02)

Pat Hayes    (03)

On Oct 24, 2011, at 11:13 AM, Christopher Spottiswoode wrote:    (04)

> All,
> This is the third post of my opening survey of some aspects of the
> suggested Ontology Chemistry Grand Challenge as outlined at [0].  The
> first two posts are archived at [1] and [2].  This is a continuation of
> the Q&A of [2], which ended with my accepting the fact that Grand
> Challenges will always appear as impossible leaps, apparently only for
> foolhardy mental cases.  I had promised more reassuring perspectives.
> Q6:  But how can you - and we! - possibly have well-based confidence
> that the leap is in the right direction, its take-off is sure, and that
> its spring can be remotely strong enough?
> A:  A challenge indeed!  But your question leads to the meta-matter of
> foundation and method, and there can be no simple answer when the
> fundamental problem is infinite complexity.
> Q7:  Hmmm, one has to agree that "foundation and method" in a
> "complexity" context does seem rather important.  It is rather obviously
> a challenge both wide and deep.  But it invites endless discussion
> merely inhibiting take-off.  If a Grand Challenge is to sell, first to
> organizers and funders then to potential entrants, can you escape your
> own past habits and be brief?
> A:  Well, let me try a new tack, somewhat short-cutting my past
> wafflings.
> The foundation is an awareness of the infinite complexity of the real
> world as the given for the process of conceptualization and
> ontology-formation.
> The method is simply to take fuller cognizance of the usual patterns and
> anti-patterns in that process.  So it's all very mainstream.  But we
> _can_ enhance and project the lessons!  (Hence also the "Ride The
> Mainstream!" slogan I've been brandishing since March 1990.)
> Q8:  What?  All that is completely opaque Greek to any potential funder!
> A:  Ho, it's even more Greek than you may think!  But let me start
> closer to home, with the core anti-pattern that ontologists and other
> wise folks know well enough already.
> Here is some convenient touching on that core anti-pattern from
> impeccable quarters and in a most appropriate context.[3]  Peter Yim is
> responding to a comment by Nicola Guarino during the Ontology Summit
> 2010 Communique discussions:
>>> [NG]  2. Ontology as a way of clarifying meaning -
>>> "The secret to making a good movie is getting everyone to make the >>
>>> same movie." So it is with enterprises and that's what ontologies
>>> do.' - Jack Ring [[quoting Francis Ford Coppola]].
>>> Again, this risks to be interpreted in a dangerous way, ...
>> [ppy]  [[.]] ... I tend to agree with you, Nicola.
> Both Nicola and Peter have clearly encountered the tendency to
> figurative reincarnation amongst practicing ontologists of the Greek
> mythic figure Procrustes (Look him up on Wikipedia).  Many proposed
> enterprise ontologies, or community standards, for example, bear the
> marks of Procrustean imposition (though it is true that
> committee-deliberation constraints and deadlines are usually to blame
> too).
> So that core anti-pattern in its Classical Greek fancy-dress is an easy
> reminder of the perennity and ubiquity of the syndrome.  True, it could
> be glibly brushed-off as cliche and mainstream stuff once more, but it
> is handy as easily-buttressing argument when emphasizing the wide and
> ongoing relevance of any technique or device or approach that might help
> us be better aware of the tortures of cognitive dissonance so that we
> might forestall or at least reduce it..
> Q9:  That's fine and dandy but it's not very earth-shattering material
> for Grand Challenge promotion, is it?
> A:  Funny you should put it that way.  As it happens, Procrustes was the
> son of Poseidon, the god of the sea and of earthquakes, styled "the
> Earthshaker".  And Poseidon was in his turn the inveterate avenger of
> Polyphemus the cyclops, also Poseidon's son, whom Odysseus the wandering
> hero in Homer's Odyssey blinds and foolishly gloats over.  And that
> brings us to how The Odyssey is a marvellous and accessible narrative
> depiction of the method I held forth above, involving those "patterns
> and anti-patterns" in "the process of conceptualization and
> ontology-formation".  We shall see how the whole classical connection
> might after all be somewhat earth-shaking, and even provide some handy
> assistance as we traverse the stormy seas of life.
> Horrible complexity, here symbolized as Charybdis the whirlpool, is the
> looming background threat in the very climax of Odysseus' own
> first-person recounting of his life-threatening adventures.  Opposite
> Charybdis, as echoed in the familiar saying, is Scylla the many-headed
> monster, in this demythologization representing oversimplification in
> the face of complexity, with implications much in common with those of
> the Procrustes figure.
> Q10:  Yes, we have noticed from your earlier "wafflings" (your word,
> above) on this forum and elsewhere that the pattern of "steering between
> Scylla and Charybdis" has long been a guiding theme for you.  But such a
> cliche is not going to help anyone leap the Grand Canyon, is it?
> A:  No, even though it does sound a useful note of caution before any
> important leap.  So let me announce the most excitingly relevant further
> interpretations of Homer, and of the immediately-following development
> of Classical Greek philosophy, that have only occurred to me during the
> past year.   (And as far as I have yet been able to see, Google can
> produce no comparable "prior art" here.  There are many tantalizing
> intimations of parts of the picture but none get very close to the whole
> perspective.  Perhaps in any spare time you could find other prior or
> new ways of connecting the same dots in the analysis of the earliest
> Greek legacies?)
> Interestingly, it was while I was trying to check my interpretation of
> the Scylla and Charybdis episode, by more widely examining its context,
> that I was bowled over by how a fuller interpretation was not only
> confirmation of the aptness of my earlier and more limited reading, it
> even brought a much greater elaboration of the connections between the
> Homeric past and our supposedly post-modern present.  That has become an
> important factor in the "immeasurably more positive" position I feel is
> justified here (as I put it at the end of my previous post).
> So I'm planning to introduce the extension of my interpretation in my
> next post.  You will see how the further aspects are so illuminating,
> and so solidly supportive of the theme of those "patterns and
> anti-patterns" as encapsulating appropriate method, that you might even
> want to consider naming the suggested competition "The Homeric Grand
> Challenge".  ("The Homeric Grand Challenge of Ontology Chemistry", nice
> multi-kerneled capsule that it is if you have such tastes, is I guess
> too long and doubly confusing.)
> It's almost incredible and certainly startling how the ancients had
> managed to evolve such packaged wisdom still so applicable to our day
> and age.  (So some usefully-universal ontology has to be abtractable
> from that theme.  And indeed it is.)
> We shall even draw consequences from our new vantage-point that much
> modern philosophy would do well to consider.
> But for now let me highlight just one of all those lodes we shall
> exploit:
> Though sadly only fragments of it have come down to us, we can fill in a
> direct line from The Odyssey to the later and more classical issue of
> Being and Becoming.  While Being is the subject-matter of Ontology,
> Becoming is the realm of change, of process, of evolution ... and of
> real-life Systems Engineering.  We shall see how Homer points almost
> explicitly to the integration of those two sides of the same coin of our
> handling of our given complexity.
> Christopher.
> [0] http://ontolog.cim3.net/cgi-bin/wiki.pl?OntologySummit/Suggestions
> [1] http://ontolog.cim3.net/forum/ontolog-forum/2011-10/msg00088.html
> [2] http://ontolog.cim3.net/forum/ontolog-forum/2011-10/msg00122.html
> [3] The extract is from here in Peter's post as now archived:
>      http://ontolog.cim3.net/forum/ontology-summit/2011-04/msg00182.html#nid04
>      [[ ]] pairs in my extract indicate my slight rearrangement of the
>      original texts.
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