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Re: [ontolog-forum] What is the role of an upper level ontology?

To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: John F Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sat, 18 May 2013 09:59:30 -0400
Message-id: <51978942.2030501@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Gary, Doug, and Rob,    (01)

Fundamental issues:  the role of an upper level ontology (ULO),
what should be included in it, how it should be represented,
and how much detail should be included in (a) the upper level
(b) the middle and lower levels, and (c) any particular use.    (02)

>>> Examples are Semantic Theories of:
>>>   parts & wholes,
>>>   essence & identity,
>>>   composition and constituency.    (03)

>> I agree that many people who propose an upper ontology like to include
>> such things.  Unfortunately, those are among the most complex issues
>> that have been debated in philosophy for millennia -- with no consensus.    (04)

> Identity is the crux of all of the above.  And the problem is that identity
> for some spatio-temporal entity is human defined and human created.    (05)

I agree that the problems of defining and recognizing identity are
central to all issues..    (06)

> To the extent that "identity" has to do with *distinguishing*, then yes
> there is a certain degree of fiat involved. And to the extent that it is
> confined to (or formulated into) some logical or mathematical formalism
> the same holds. But to the extent that identity involves that which makes
> some putative unity or whole separate/distinct (in a mind-external sense)
> from another, it's not human defined and created.    (07)

The point I was making is that similarity is what we perceive.  All our
statements about identity are inferences, which could be mistaken.
Infants, for example, recognize similarities from birth.  But they don't
recognize the continued existence of their mommies until they reach the
"Peek a Boo" stage.    (08)

> Reality affords minds to distinguish, and so some reality outside
> of minds grounds these unities.    (09)

We can all agree on that.  As adults, we have more experience in
recognizing the continued existence of many more things and kinds
of things than infants.  But all our inferences are fallible,
even the most precise and sophisticated scientific theories.    (010)

> What is out "there" are a bunch of quarks, leptons, and photons that
> interact in various ways.  Patterns of groups of them have "interesting"
> properties and various of the properties last for those patterns (which
> are continually gaining and losing members) for macroscopic periods of
> time.    (011)

Those inferences are based on the most precise observations and the
most detailed and general theories known to modern science.    (012)

> This reflects one reductive view of the world. Whether it's true is
> another question. What's important is that "interesting" does not
> mean "arbitrary"...    (013)

That word 'reductive' can hide a variety of sins.  One sin is to say
that the world is "nothing but" that soup of particles.  The opposite
sin is to dismiss or ignore that soup of particles as meaningless for
our daily lives.  There are many levels of construction above the soup,
which are characterized by chemistry, biology, physiology, the many
versions of engineering, and the Geisteswissenschaften of philosophy,
psychology, linguistics, anthropology, sociology...    (014)

Of all the ontologies proposed during the 20th century, Whitehead's
process ontology has the best claim as a foundation for modern science
and the many levels up to and including our perceptible macro level.    (015)

Unfortunately, ANW's magnum opus, _Process and Reality_, was prepared
and delivered as a series of lectures.  It was a work in progress that
requires much, much more work to complete and refine.    (016)

 From ANW, P & R, Chapter 2:
> We must first consider the perceptive mode in which there is clear,
> distinct consciousness of the 'extensive' relations of the world...
> Undoubtedly, this clarity, at least in regard to space, is obtained
> only in ordinary perception through the senses.    (017)

Then he continues for another 300 pages in which the "panta rhei"
(All things are in flux) by Heraclitus is characterized by the
"logos" -- the patterns of words for the patterns of perceptions
that characterize "the permanences amidst the flux" of the slowly
changing processes that we call objects.    (018)

Those extensive relations, by the way, are represented by ANW's
version of mereology, which he had originally developed for the
planned fourth volume on geometry of the _Principia Mathematica_.    (019)

> The meaning of "identity" seems clear.  As one Supreme Court justice
> said about pornography: "I know what it is when i see it."    (020)

> The quote makes a good point. These are general and basic notions that
> resist precise description so well. It's no surprise since they are so
> general and perhaps in the background of our psyche.  Perhaps two different
> senses of 'identity' are being used, here? One about describing what the
> justice was trying to identify, the other about individuating (particles).    (021)

There are many more than two senses of identity.  At the level of
quarks, leptons, and photons, physicists use differential equations
to specify the soup (wave functions) of particles.  Identity is a
macro-level concept that is very difficult to impose on that level.    (022)

As we build up the many levels of science and engineering, we may
notice that they all use the = sign of mathematics.  But nearly
every theory relates that symbol to very different methods of
observation for many different purposes.  To lump every way of
using the = sign under the blanket term 'identity' won't give us
a dependable foundation for ontology.    (023)

>> Fundamental principle:  All the options are important and can be useful
>> for various applications.  But they belong in an open-ended family of
>> *microtheories*.  None of them belong in an upper level ontology.    (024)

> Here i beg to disagree.  Since the options are important and can be
> useful, it *is* useful to define them in an upper level ontology.    (025)

I'll agree that the word (or symbol) for identity belongs in whatever
logic or mathematics is used to represent ontology.  And it's OK
to use the highly polysemous word 'identity' for all those uses.    (026)

But the details of how that symbol is related to the world will be
different for nearly every application in every branch of science,
engineering, business, etc.    (027)

John    (028)

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