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

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "doug foxvog" <doug@xxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sat, 18 May 2013 16:47:22 -0400
Message-id: <cea89d04ae9af3e513509e4408d4aca0.squirrel@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
On Sat, May 18, 2013 04:53, rrovetto@xxxxxxxxxxx wrote:
> Comments inline after RR:
> On Sat, May 18, 2013 at 1:28 AM, doug foxvog <doug@xxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
>> On Fri, May 17, 2013 00:14, John F Sowa wrote:
>> > GBC
>> >> Examples are Semantic Theories of:
>> >>   parts & wholes,
>> >>   essence & identity,
>> >>   composition and constituency.    (01)

>> > 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.    (02)

>> 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.    (03)

> RR: Doug, fellow Terp here. Ireland and photography are two of my
> favorites as well.    (04)

Hi, Terp!    (05)

> RR: 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.    (06)

As long as you don't get too specific, yes.  General concepts of identity
work for macroscopic objects for various purposes.  And depending upon
the purpose, different senses of identity are used.  What is part and what
is not part of an object depend upon the purpose.  And depending upon
the purpose, different identity criteria are used.  Think Theseus's ship,
a double-trunk tree whose underground connection between the two
trunks are disconnected, when a human being starts, ....    (07)

> Reality affords minds to distinguish,
> and so some reality outside of minds grounds these unities.    (08)

Agreed.    (09)

>> 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.    (010)

>> RR: This reflects one reductive view of the world.    (011)

I didn't say there are ONLY elementary particles.  I refer to patterned
groups of them (which include at various scales atoms, molecules, rocks
life forms, buildings, planets, ...) which have some stability.   It is these
patterned groups that have the slippery sort of identity that we are
discussing.    (012)

> Whether it's true is another question.
> What's important is that "interesting" does not mean "arbitrary",    (013)

Of course not.    (014)

> but whether (some of) the "interesting" properties/patterns
> mark the so-called natural kinds, lead to formulations and discoveries of
> general scientific principles, and ideally result in some practical and
> beneficial use or manipulation of what's being studied.    (015)

Certainly they do.    (016)

>> The meaning of "identity" seems clear.  As one Supreme Court
>> justice said about pornography:
>> "I know what it is when i see it."    (017)

>> However, identity turns out to be extremely context and viewer
>> dependent.  Even identity of subatomic particles can be assured
>> only by following them (i.e., constantly interacting with each
>> thereby changing its properties).    (018)

> RR: 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?    (019)

As John said in a later post, many.    (020)

> One about describing what the justice was trying to identify,
> the other about individuating (particles).
> Generally speaking, when including social
> matters, like this and a child-to-adult, things become much more
> complicated and, perhaps less likely to have a mind-independent answer
> (assuming you're trying to find one rather than simply prescribe). For the
> social-related or social-type of identity questions it might be best to
> appeal to normative considerations: is it *good* to define identity in
> this way, what good will it do?    (021)

This seems to agree with my initial comment:
>> the problem is that
>> identity for some spatio-temporal entity
>> is human defined and human created.    (022)

>> Unless one can define "identity" in a reasonable way, one can't
>> define non-instantaneous types of parthood, essence, composition,
>> and constituency reasonably.    (023)

>> > JS: For parts & wholes, the following is a classic:...
>> > But look at the following list of 16 more recent books on
>> > mereology: ...    (024)

>> > For essence, the situation is even more hopeless.  Plato and Aristotle
>> > couldn't agree on how to define essence, how to recognize it, or how
>> > to reason about it.  Today, all the debates between P & A are just as
>> > hot as ever.  There's much more detail, much more debate, and even
>> > less agreement.  There are also skeptics from Sextus Empiricus to
>> > Quine who debunk the very idea.
>> > Identity is another swamp.  The = sign in logic and mathematics looks
>> > very clear and simple, but outside of mathematics identity is *never*
>> > fundamental.  You can observe similarity, but identity is *always*
>> > a context-dependent inference for a particular purpose.
>> Exactly.
>> > ... And how can you recognize identity?  By a continuous
>> > trajectory in space-time?  Perhaps in theory, but certainly not
>> > in practice.  ...
>> > 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.    (025)

>> 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.
>> HOWEVER, such properties should not belong to classes of spatio-
>> temporal things in a mid level ontology.  [I suggest only the broadest
>> s-tclasses belong in an upper level ontology.]
>>  So i agree with John that relating such properties
>> >>   parts & wholes,
>> >>   essence & identity,
>> >>   composition and constituency
>> to spatio-temporal things belong in specific theory microtheories.
>> -- doug f
>> > ...
>> > John    (026)

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