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Re: [ontolog-forum] What's "Ontology Chemistry"?

To: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, "Leo Obrst" <lobrst@xxxxxxxxx>
From: "Christopher Spottiswoode" <cms@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 25 Nov 2011 21:38:42 +0200
Message-id: <0AFEB95E207C4293A47AC337BA47AD99@klaptop>
Leo, thank you, what a wonderful send-up that slapstick Emperor is of
any ontological pretension!  And "Not Ideas About the Thing But the
Thing Itself", though contradicting itself, and necessarily so, well
achieves that sustained tension which is all we can aim for as our poor
minds try to grasp our real reality, that something "wholely other", by
conceptualizing it.    (01)

Ah, but you have tempted me...    (02)

... though usefully, I believe, before I finalize and send the
nuts-and-bolts engineering material I am still putting together for my
next major post. As promised, it will be in the "foundation and method"
thread near whose outset I had posited this:    (03)

> The foundation is an awareness of the infinite complexity of the real
> world as the given for the process of conceptualization and
> ontology-formation.    (04)

(That was the paragraph now here:
http://ontolog.cim3.net/forum/ontolog-forum/2011-10/msg00135.html#nid07.)    (05)

That complexity is already evident in many forms, for example in fields
as diverse as Complexity Theory, Chaos Theory, Catastrophe Theory,
Undecidability and Incompleteness, Hilbert Spaces in Quantum Mechanics,
even macroeconomics and climate modelling, and as I have already just
said, in gene expression (See this paragraph:
http://ontolog.cim3.net/forum/ontolog-forum/2011-11/msg00127.html#nid016).    (06)

Especially, here in Ontolog, complexity which we best regard as infinite
is the very essence of the subject-matter of the Ontological and
ontological ventures, that is, both in philosophy and in IT.    (07)

But 'complexity' is also an affair of immediate relevance to our
everyday lives.  Leo's sample poems give nice indications of that.
Another good down-to-Earth example was implicit in a recent offline
email drawing my attention to the looming problem of middleclass jobs
disappearing with progress in AI and IT in general.  I replied with
these paragraphs:    (08)

> [Here in South Africa] we have youth unemployment at around 60%, and a
> failing education system (with stories that are hard to believe), so
> many of those youths are generally regarded as unemployable.  But we
> are also only too aware nonetheless of globalization- and
> computerization-induced joblessness too. [...]
> [...]
>  So all that is very much in the forefront of my mind as I project
> what we might collectively achieve with better technology.  But I
> don't let it distract me too much, I don't think, as at this stage I
> can very much hide behind that other favourite quote of mine (from
> Heinz Zemanek):  "An architect does not tell people how to live.  He
> creates an environment in which people can live their own lives
> creatively."
> So The Mainstream is very much one of everybody, even our supposedly
> "unemployable" youths, being better empowered to leverage their own
> peculiar qualities and situations.  That is the real "complexity"
> which more dynamic and evolvable ontologizing and Riding The
> Mainstream will help bring to the fore in so many simplified and
> therefore immediately practical ways.    (09)

You will see in that much-trumpeted next post, which as I have said will
build on Pat H's admirable statement of ontological method, how in that
"neats and scruffies" divide discussed on the Forum recently I am very
much on the side of the neats.  However, I tend to doubt that the strict
rules and engineering practices I shall be setting out there are what
the typical ontologist would be expecting at the moment.    (010)

Hence the importance of the common Ontological ground, with that
complexity as its philosophical background and target for better yet
practical exploitation in ways perhaps still not adequately
conceptualized.    (011)

So, rather than risk encumbering the coming major post with what many
might mistakenly dismiss as waffle,  I have now brought forward to this
post what I call the "Ontology Fallacy".  It underlies this
loosely-stated commandment:    (012)

                Do not take any one word too seriously!    (013)

As a negative it needs a positive.  That will be the unifying theme of
that "next major post" from me, but here it is, likewise loosely-stated,
and a common cliche as you would expect in any phenomenon one might
presume to call "The Mainstream":    (014)

                Always judge a word by its context!    (015)

The Ontology Fallacy, then, is the root cause of recurrent failures in
both philosophy and IT.  Here are some sample caricatures we shall see
more of later, which illustrate the point and its wide impact:    (016)

* The Linguistic Analysis school in Philosophy inasmuch as it displays
(or once tended to display) the tendency to believe it possible to make
a "complete analysis" of any single concept, or even discuss all the
contexts in which it might appear.    (017)

* The "Classical Object Model" in Object-Orientation with its reliance
on the single class as the target of method calls.    (018)

* The "Root Segment" in hierarchical DBMS, with "physical databases" so
needing to be supplemented by kludgey "logical databases".    (019)

* XML with its single-root requirement too, limiting its success to mere
interfacing but not dynamic restructuring.    (020)

Fortunately, of course, the later Wittgenstein with his language games
and Satzsystem concept did much to redeem Anglo-Saxon philosophy from
the Linguistic Analysis tendency mentioned.  Similarly, inasmuch as
Continental philosophy was once so enmeshed in Deconstruction, likewise
exposing itself to the Ontology Fallacy temptation, at least Derrida did
distance himself from it:    (021)

> Deconstruction has never presented itself as something possible.
> [...] it loses nothing in admitting itself impossible [...].  The
> danger for a task of deconstruction is rather _possibility_, and
> becoming a handy collection of regulated procedures, of methodical
> practices, of accessible paths.  The interest of deconstruction, of
> its force and of its desirability, if it has any, is a certain
> experience of the impossible: that is to say [...] _of the Other_,
> experience of the other as invention of the impossible, in other words
> as the only possible invention.[1]    (022)

And that, at last, closes the circle by tying back to the opening
paragraph of this post.    (023)

But I must still situate all that in my plan as this post leads into
that much-promised next major one with its "neat" or formally strict
themes:    (024)

1.  Thus it is fully explicit in the positive form of the commandment
above that context is the key.  I further recall the following from my
answer to Ali Hashemi's question on the semantic desktop notion (from
point 1.2 in
http://ontolog.cim3.net/forum/ontolog-forum/2011-10/msg00162.html):    (025)

> Precise, complete, yet nimble and flexible context-management might
> even be said to be the prime modus operandi of the AOS.    (026)

2.  The first post in the "foundation and method" thread (in which that
next post will appear) introduced a Homer's Odyssey connection (in this
and the remaining paragraphs:
But there is far more to it, and it is a background task for me to write
all that up in much more detail.  Here let me just mention that "the
Ontology Fallacy and how to avoid it" is the core lesson of that entire
work.  As I demythologize The Odyssey, falling prey to that Fallacy is
represented by the way Odysseus' crew fell prey to the temptation to eat
the cattle of the sun on "The Island of the Sun, the comfort of
mankind".  Don't wonder now about the apparently way-out detail of that
interpretation!  But do take note in the meantime that the very opening
lines of the entire work highlighted that episode, and its dangers were
the subject of two serious divine warnings to Odysseus.  So we should
probably deduce that the lesson was deemed a very central one.
Moreover, a further connection is with the "logos" of later Greek
philosophy, as we shall see in some detail in a much later post.    (027)

Thank you.    (028)

Christopher    (029)

[1] My translation of the footnote in Derrida's _Force de loi_, p 78, in
which he quotes his _Psyché, Inventions de l'autre_, p. 26-27.
Derrida's italics and omissions.    (030)

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Obrst, Leo J." <lobrst@xxxxxxxxx>
To: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Thursday, November 24, 2011 7:46 PM
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] What's "Ontology Chemistry"?    (031)

Well, there were the metaphysical poets, of course.    (032)

And I've always thought that Wallace Stevens is a kind of ontological
poet:    (033)

The Emperor Of Ice-Cream    (034)

Call the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
As they are used to wear, and let the boys
Bring flowers in last month's newspapers.
Let be be finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.    (035)

Take from the dresser of deal.
Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
On which she embroidered fantails once
And spread it so as to cover her face.
If her horny feet protrude, they come
To show how cold she is, and dumb.
Let the lamp affix its beam.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.    (036)

And of course:    (037)

Not Ideas About the Thing But the Thing Itself    (038)

At the earliest ending of winter,
In March, a scrawny cry from outside
Seemed like a sound in his mind.    (039)

He knew that he heard it,
A bird's cry, at daylight or before,
In the early March wind.    (040)

The sun was rising at six,
No longer a battered panache above snow...
It would have been outside.    (041)

It was not from the vast ventriloquism
Of sleep's faded papier-mache...
The sun was coming from the outside.    (042)

That scrawny cry--It was
A chorister whose c preceded the choir.
It was part of the colossal sun,    (043)

Surrounded by its choral rings,
Still far away. It was like
A new knowledge of reality    (044)

The Idea of Order at Key West
http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/172206.    (045)

An Ordinary Evening in New Haven
http://payingattentiontothesky.com/the-idea-of-order-at-key-west-by-wallace-stevens/an-ordinary-evening-in-new-haven-wallace-stevens/    (046)

For these and others by Wallace Stevens, e.g.:
http://www.poemhunter.com/wallace-stevens/poems/    (047)

This site is in fact a good location for poetry:
http://www.poemhunter.com/poems/. With a lot of crap, of course.    (048)

Leo    (049)

-----Original Message-----
From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
[mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of John F.
Sent: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 4:40 PM
To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] What's "Ontology Chemistry"?    (050)

On 11/22/2011 3:57 AM, Christopher Menzel wrote:
> I don't find them any more illuminating with regard to any concrete
> element of ontological engineering than I find poetry.    (051)

Don't knock poetry.    (052)

_De Rerum Natura_ by Lucretius had an enormous influence in preserving
and transmitting the ancient theories of atoms and thereby influencing
the pioneers in modern chemistry.    (053)

The physicists didn't accept atoms until much later than the chemists.
Boltzmann was an early adopter.  Unfortunately, he was driven to
suicide by the skeptical Ernst Mach and his cronies.    (054)

But Lucretius was presenting atoms as a scientific hypothesis.
His did use a metaphor in calling atoms "seeds of things", but
that was a simple term, not a fanciful embellishment.
See excerpts below.    (055)

______________________________________________________________________    (056)

http://classics.mit.edu/Carus/nature_things.mb.txt    (057)

This ultimate stock we have devised to name
Procreant atoms, matter, seeds of things,
Or primal bodies, as primal to the world...    (058)

Indeed, and were there not
For each its procreant atoms, could things have
Each its unalterable mother old? ...    (059)

Nothing Exists Per Se Except Atoms and the Void...    (060)

Atomic Motions    (061)

Now come: I will untangle for thy steps
Now by what motions the begetting bodies
Of the world-stuff beget the varied world,
And then forever resolve it when begot,
And by what force they are constrained to this,
And what the speed appointed unto them
Wherewith to travel down the vast inane...    (062)

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