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Re: [ontolog-forum] [ontology-summit] Estimating number of all known fac

To: <edbark@xxxxxxxx>, "'[ontolog-forum] '" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Hans Polzer" <hpolzer@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 24 May 2012 22:36:35 -0400
Message-id: <029901cd3a1f$349c2d20$9dd48760$@verizon.net>

Ed, Rich, et al:


Ultimately, facts are what institutions we trust, or are subject to the actions of, say they are. We tend to trust institutions and individuals whose statements/assertions corroborate with our own experience – but we clearly can’t verify every such statement/assertion ourselves. Hence, we rely mostly on institutions to establish facts for us, and to create frames of reference by which such facts can be described in an institution-wide scope context. Publication in scientific (or other) literature by itself does not establish facts. It is the reproducibility of what one party publishes/reports by other parties, and mediated by institutions that attest to the general trustworthiness and competence of the other parties, that determines what is a fact. Legal frameworks, rules of evidence and jurisdictions are a special case of this general process.


In some cases, facts are forced on us by institutions that control us or our environment, despite evidence to the contrary (which such institutions attempt to suppress). This often leads to some of us trying to escape the context in which these institutions control us or our environment, be it political emigration/amnesty (like the recent Chen case) or creation of new disciplines and supporting institutions (or like-minded groups of individuals – a weak form of institution that the Internet has made more accessible/feasible than in the fairly recent past).


Recall my earlier emails about this forum underestimating the role of institutions and institutional scope in ontologies. I like to think that this approach to determining what is a fact and how many of them there are is somewhere in between the notion of absolute truths independent of any individual or group of observers, and the “anything goes”, purely subjective and individualized interpretations of reality school of thinking. I also like to think that the history of the human race reflects a gradually increasing scope of such institutions across human society and fields of knowledge/endeavor (not without some occasional setbacks, however). Indeed, we have become so accustomed to this institutional “background” that we tend to take it for granted and actually tend to forget that it is there and that it is not necessarily universal or guaranteed to persist (without active efforts to make it so).  We also have to guard against institutional bias and assumptions of fact that are not really so because the associated institution(s) is not really universal in context and scope and has overlooked/turned a blind eye to countervailing perspectives and evidence (usually because of the institution’s perspective and focus on certain aspects of reality or theory). I think that’s really what Kuhn was talking about with respect to paradigms in scientific revolutions, but it’s not limited to science and rather applies to all fields of knowledge and human endeavor.


So appreciate the institutions that provide you frames of reference and collections of facts in areas important to you, and try to be explicit about which ones you are using when making an assertion of fact – or that you are basing the assertion on your own first-hand experience (in which case you need to try to be as exhaustively explicit regarding the surrounding context as possible so that others can attempt to recreate that experience).



From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Edward Barkmeyer
Sent: Thursday, May 24, 2012 7:16 PM
To: Rich Cooper
Cc: '[ontolog-forum] '
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] [ontology-summit] Estimating number of all known facts


Rich Cooper wrote:

It might be more productive to discuss the number

of evidentiary units rather than the number of facts.

I wrote:

I would be interested to see a definition of "evidentiary unit" that was

significantly different from the definition of "fact".

Rich responded:

The usual evidentiary unit is a statement (one or a few sentences) of the facts and opinions manifest in the case.

Ipse dixit.  I rest my case (so to speak :-) ).


Edward J. Barkmeyer                        Email: edbark@xxxxxxxx
National Institute of Standards & Technology
Manufacturing Systems Integration Division
100 Bureau Drive, Stop 8263                Tel: +1 301-975-3528
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8263                Cel: +1 240-672-5800
"The opinions expressed above do not reflect consensus of NIST, 
 and have not been reviewed by any Government authority."

Rich Cooper wrote:

Ed, please see below for my comments,




Rich Cooper


Rich AT EnglishLogicKernel DOT com

9 4 9 \ 5 2 5 - 5 7 1 2


Ed Barkmeyer wrote


Rich Cooper wrote:

> These discussions don't seem to be bound by

> realistic constraints which exist in all systems

> of fact. 

> In my experience, courts of law are most

> effectively organized to represent facts in a way

> that "the great unwashed" (sic) can either accept

> or reject. 



EB:> Frankly, I think this is a red herring.  The purpose of a court is to

deliver "justice" in the sense that some part of the populace brings a

person or persons to account for wrongdoing.  The only "fact" of

interest is whether there is enough evidence for the authorized decision

makers (judge(s) and/or jury) to conclude that there was wrongdoing by

the person(s) in question.


RC:> Actually, the courts distinguish between what they call “fact witnesses” and those who are qualified by the court processes to be considered “expert witnesses”, aka “opinion witnesses” who are considered qualified to add opinions to the fact base.


Furthermore, only criminal charges imply wrongdoing by any party.  Civil cases, which (IANAL) I estimate as more common by far, end without such findings of “wrongdoing” but allocate compensation, typically financial, but sometimes extrafinancial. 


"Evidence" is what leads one to believe something.  It was originally

what we perceived by our senses, but in a court of law, it degenerates

into the reports of what others have sensed or their interpretations of

what they sensed. 


Again, evidence is what each party considers, in its own theories of the case, to be “what leads one to believe something”, but since the other side(s) and even such neutrals as court appointed “special masters” provide additional evidence, and exposit about the “meaning” or correct “interpretation” of the evidence in total submitted.  So “facts” in litigation relate to whatever can be disinterred during the legal discovery process, while opinions (i.e. what each testifier is “lead to believe something” in your terms) is far from equivalent to the next testifier’s. 


The courts also have evolved an elaborate “discovery process” which involves both sides looking at the other side’s cards, dealing some of their own, and making motions for the judge to enforce the discovery rules relevant to the case.  So there is quite a deep process for establishing what is fact, what is opinion, and what interpretation is prescribed by the law.  The law only occasionally delivers what you call “justice”, but nearly always delivers fair due process for all parties involved. 


It is philosophically rather less than satisfying,

but, as systems for determining "truth" go, it is way ahead of taking a

metal bar out of a pot of boiling water with your bare hand.


There is no requirement in law courts that one take a metal bar out of a pot of boiling water.  That is more in concert with the ancients’ beliefs that the gods are interfering in their lives than in concert with current American laws.


That is not at all what Matthew Lange asked about, and not, as far as I

can tell, what anyone else has addressed.


Yet, IMHO, it establishes at least one system (the courts) for identifying facts, opinions, and legislative compliance.  Our discussion so far has simply been a Babel of opinions without firm foundations.  The closest thing that science has to a process for discovering truth is publication in a journal of “peers”, which has been found wanting far more often than litigation has been found wanting. 


Remember OJ’s trial, and “if it doesn’t fit you must acquit”?  Remember Casey Anthony’s trial and the lack of factual evidence that she murdered the child?  Opinions by the police, investigators, medical examiners and others in the case were not considered “factual” enough to convince the jurors.  But in this thread, we have given only opinions on what a fact is, rather than establish processes for construing facts, defining them, and placing them in consistent theoretical structures. 


> But arguments based simply on assertions and rules

> without proper grounding are at the other extreme,

> starting with the ancients who believed the gods

> were rigging their lives, through the modern

> physicists who posit esoterica based on the poles

> and zeros of equations that have never been

> observed actually behaving at the precise pole and

> zero values. 

> Courts of law are organized to accept evidence,

> with judge, jury and observers choosing to accept

> or reject the asserted "facts" as truths or

> falsehoods.  Findings are still considered

> "interpretations" and "judgments" based on judge,

> jury and observer opinions of the evidence.  But

> few true "facts" can even be represented in a

> proper court of law. 

> I suggest we drop the word "fact" and instead use

> the word "evidence" in this thread.  From the

> various viewpoints so far expressed, we are

> getting only the assertions without the evidence.

> That is, we are getting opinions and

> interpretations, or toe counts, not evidence, and

> therefore not pure epistemological facts.

> Therefore we should not be calling these "facts".

> It might be more productive to discuss the number

> of evidentiary units rather than the number of

> facts. 



I would be interested to see a definition of "evidentiary unit" that was

significantly different from the definition of "fact".


The usual evidentiary unit is a statement (one or a few sentences) of the facts and opinions manifest in the case.  So we are back to NLP descriptions for the most part.  In patent cases, the claim sentences are the most basic of facts, while the mapping of claim elements to assertions of facts or opinion about the validity and infringement evidence. 


Finally, most civil cases and perhaps even most criminal cases (again IANAL) end in settlement agreements among the parties.  This happens when all parties feel that the facts resulting from guided discovery processes represent a likely outcome, or risk of outcomes, that is too high to accept compared to the settlement agreement.  This means all sides agree to SOME extent what the facts and opinions are likely to do to persuade a jury and/or judge. 






> -Rich

> Sincerely,

> Rich Cooper

> EnglishLogicKernel.com

> Rich AT EnglishLogicKernel DOT com

> 9 4 9 \ 5 2 5 - 5 7 1 2



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