[Top] [All Lists]

Re: [ontolog-forum] [ontology-summit] Estimating number ofall known fact

To: "'[ontolog-forum] '" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Rich Cooper" <rich@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 24 May 2012 22:35:52 -0700
Message-id: <A0F81D52844144739269D810D6C5EAD4@Gateway>

That definition is disembodied.  I.e., consider definition entry number 3:


a truth known by actual experience or observation; something known to be true: Scientists gather facts about plant growth.


If a truth is known by actual experience, then who is doing the experiencing?  If a truth is known by … observation, then who is doing the observing?  If something is known to be true, then who “knows” it so and why does said who believe it “true”? 


This linguistic form of explanation avoids any commitment toward narrowing the universe of sentient sapients, yet blithely assumes that some agent experiences and knows and observes and acquires knowledge about what is “true”, having somehow decided on what is “true” somehow without ANY subjectivity?. 


I disagree in the details.  That definition only begins to cover the ground facts and the opinion facts, probabilistic or ontological or partially defined.  But it’s a pretty good start to begin discussion, so thanks Patrick!





Rich Cooper


Rich AT EnglishLogicKernel DOT com

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

From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Patrick Cassidy
Sent: Thursday, May 24, 2012 8:32 PM
To: '[ontolog-forum] '
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] [ontology-summit] Estimating number ofall known facts


What are “facts”?  Or, putting it another way, what is the best definition of the word “fact” for practical purposes?

  In the Random House dictionary, the most relevant senses are:


fact (fakt), n.

1.   something that actually exists; reality; truth: Your fears have no basis in fact.

2.   something known to exist or to have happened: Space travel is now a fact.

3.   a truth known by actual experience or observation; something known to be true: Scientists gather facts about plant growth.


    What we would like to be able to use is definition (1), much like what Matthew prefers – the actual state of things.  Unfortunately, there is no way to achieve absolute certainty about the actual state of things, there are always alternative possibilities, though the alternatives may be very improbable.  The best we can hope for is a high degree of certainty about the actual state of things.

    Mathematical and logical “facts” are one possible exception, since they can be put into the form: IF we accept premise P then conclusion C follows.  But even that is open to the objection that human intellect is prone to error, and even if most or all people currently believe X right now, X might be false.  The best we can say is that, given what we think we know, some things are so certain that it would be at least foolish and perhaps insane to believe otherwise.


   The best definition IMO that I have seen of a “fact” is ‘an assertion for which there is convincing evidence’.   I use that as a working definition, and it serves my purposes.


   As this discussion has demonstrated, there are an infinite number of such ‘facts’, and one needs to constrain the domain about which one is concerned and exclude mathematical facts (e.g. the integers) and negative ‘facts’ to get to a tractable number.  For the number of such  ‘facts’ that can be gleaned from the world’s literature and on-line data, that must be well over 10^15, and climbing fast.


  Interestingly, even a blog written by some ignoramus with many dumb statements has multiple ‘facts’ of the form “Blogger X said ‘Y’”.  These facts can actually be significant if that blogger decides later to run for public office.




Patrick Cassidy





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."



Message Archives: http://ontolog.cim3.net/forum/ontolog-forum/  
Config Subscr: http://ontolog.cim3.net/mailman/listinfo/ontolog-forum/  
Unsubscribe: mailto:ontolog-forum-leave@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Shared Files: http://ontolog.cim3.net/file/
Community Wiki: http://ontolog.cim3.net/wiki/ 
To join: http://ontolog.cim3.net/cgi-bin/wiki.pl?WikiHomePage#nid1J    (01)

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>