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Re: [ontolog-forum] Dennett on the Darwinism of Memes

To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: John F Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 01 May 2013 13:01:57 -0400
Message-id: <51814A85.2030904@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Kathy, Pat, Tara, Pavithra, Maxwell, and William,    (01)

This discussion is drifting toward the philosophy of science, and
I'd like to encourage that drift.    (02)

Instead, of talking about God, I suggest the notion of disposition,
which Barry Smith said is fundamental to the BFO ontology.    (03)

For examples, see the following 4-page paper by Arp & Smith, which
has a succinct summary of the BFO ontology:    (04)

http://precedings.nature.com/documents/1941/version/1/files/npre20081941-1.pdf    (05)

Arp & Smith
> In this paper, we attempt to elucidate the categories of function, role, and
> and disposition in BFO. We also describe two sub-type categories of function,
> the artifactual and the biological, and provide definitions for each.
> Within the context of BFO, one should correctly state:
> ∑ the (or a) function of the heart is to pump blood
> ∑ the role of the surrogate is to stand in for the patient
> ∑ blood has the disposition to coagulate
> ∑ that patient has suicidal tendencies    (06)

Those terms -- function, role, disposition -- are used in important
fields, such as medicine.  Defining them precisely would be useful.    (07)

A & S
> A disposition is a realizable dependent continuant that typically
> causes a specific process in the object in which it inheres when
> the object is introduced into certain specific circumstances.    (08)

They contrast dispositions with tendencies:    (09)

A & S
> A tendency... is a realizable dependent continuant that potentially
> (not invariably or definitely) causes a specific process in the object
> in which it inheres when the object is introduced into certain specific
> circumstances as a result of the objectís physical structure property.    (010)

There is much more detail in the BFO documentation, but these brief
summaries are sufficient for the moment.    (011)

> I never said parsimony wasn't useful. As a heuristic, it is extremely
> useful.  I said parsimony does not constitute scientific disproof.    (012)

> Your position is often claimed by philosophers of science, but in fact
> parsimony is used constantly throughout scientific explanations in practice    (013)

I certainly agree that parsimony is used constantly in science.    (014)

But I would add that parsimony is used in *all* human thinking on
*all* topics of any kind.  Even people who have ideas we would reject
as incompatible with modern science are trying to maintain a coherent,
parsimonious explanation of their experience.    (015)

> It is quite hard to even get one's head around how big the universe is.
> A "being" made all this? How? And even if it did, why would such an
> incredibly large and powerful creature be particularly concerned with us...    (016)

Most theists would agree with the first line.  But what do you mean
by 'being'?  Spinoza and Einstein identified God with nature, which is
just as big as any other proposal.  Most theists and atheists consider
"a big being" and "concerned with us" as two separable issues.    (017)

> Proofs (and "disproofs") are possible in mathematics, but not in
> science. At best, there is more or less evidence to support
> a hypothesis relative to its alternatives.    (018)

I agree.    (019)

> Many scientific discoveries are proved used mathematical equations    (020)

Mathematics can be used to disprove a theory by showing that it is
inconsistent with observations.  But no final proof is possible
for any scientific theory.  The very next observation might show
that it fails under circumstances for which it had not been tested.    (021)

> The definitions were taken from the Concise Oxford English Dictionary
> which I regard as adequate for my purpose    (022)

My main point is that the words 'god', 'science', and others in your
note have multiple definitions.  Any argument could only refute one
of many, many possible interpretations of your sentences.    (023)

> I think many people just have no interest in or patience with this
> aspect of human experience.    (024)

The experiences are important.  An ontology should accommodate them.
But very intelligent people have been trying to prove or disprove
the existence or nonexistence of God for centuries without success.    (025)

That's why I suggest the smaller, more manageable notion of disposition,
which Barry and others believe is important for ontology.    (026)

Does anybody have any thoughts, pro or con, about the excerpts
I quoted above (or any definitions from other sources)?    (027)

John    (028)

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