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Re: [ontolog-forum] Spatial Extent of Abstract Entities?

To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: John F Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 24 May 2013 10:14:35 -0400
Message-id: <519F75CB.2000701@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Dear Matthew and Rob,    (01)

> I am not trying to say that there are no abstract objects, just no abstract
> individuals, i.e. objects that have a temporal extent but no spatial extent.    (02)

I'm happy with that statement.  As I say below in response to Rob's
note, I consider the laws that govern the universe as fundamental.
It is meaningless to ask "Where are the laws?"    (03)

> What is the difference between "existence" and "real existence"?
> What laws  govern the universe?  How is F=ma not one of them?    (04)

I was only using the word "real" for emphasis -- some people use
the term "really real" to mean as real as anything you can see,
hear, touch, taste, or smell.    (05)

I would say that F=ma is an excellent approximation to the laws that
govern the universe.  (When I fly in an airplane or drive a car, I bet
my life that it's true.)  But as modern physics has shown, Newtonian
mechanics fails at the atomic scale and very high speeds.    (06)

> The question is what do [the laws] apply to. If they are universal
> then they apply to all spatio-temporal extents in this universe
> and at least all possible worlds...    (07)

The laws we know are approximations that have proved to be useful
for whatever subset of the universe we have tested them on.  But
possible worlds are figments of our imagination.  We can, if we wish,
use or make up any laws we please for any possible worlds we choose.    (08)

As a foundation for modal logic, I prefer Dunn's semantics, which
defines Kripke's possible worlds in terms of the choice of laws.
For a brief summary of Dunn's version, its relationship to Kripke's,
and some further discussion, see    (09)

    Worlds, Models, and Descriptions    (010)

> This [traffic laws] is about social construction. The rules are
> still classes of activity, but there is a social agreement about
> what they apply to.    (011)

I agree.  But I also believe that habits and social agreements are
real (i.e., I'm happy to use existential quantifiers to refer to them).
Peirce observed that the ultimate test of your belief is "whatever you
are prepared to act upon."    (012)

Whenever you drive your car, you bet your life on the belief that the
other drivers will be consistent in staying on their side of the road --
especially when they see you coming.  For all practical purposes, any
social law that you are willing to bet your life on really does exist.    (013)

> the question of universals is often an ontological one (whether they
> exist mind-externally and in what manner). An abstraction, however, can
> be characterized as a mental entity, as a mental object created by an
> abstraction (thought/cognitive) process(es).    (014)

That is true.  What I consider ontologically fundamental are the laws
of physics.  Some philosophers, e.g. Mach, considered the laws as
"summaries of data".    (015)

But nearly all scientists believe that the laws are as real as anything
directly observable.  In fact, they would say the observables are the
results of the operation of the laws.  But they would also admit that
any human statement of the laws is fallible.    (016)

A predicate in predicate calculus is ontologically neutral.  Nominalists
and realists can use them in the same kinds of statements, independent
of their philosophy.  But I regard the fundamental types as implications
of the laws -- for example, types that represent "natural kinds" or
anything that people might claim to be "essential".    (017)

> Since I believe that the laws of physics are real, I classify
> those laws as propositions, and I happily refer to them by
> quantified variables.    (018)

> Are you saying that you consider realism of relations to consist
> of quantifying over n-adic properties/propositions?    (019)

I am just using Quine's dictum as a test for whatever entities are
considered real in any statement of an ontology.  Of course, you
can make hypothetical statements about unicorns.  In that context,
you are treating unicorns *as if* they were real.    (020)

> So in this case the type is the meaning of the tokens    (021)

The type label is a sign.  That sign leads you to a definition or
to other related information about the token.  That information is
what you can call the meaning of your classification of that mark
as a token of that type.  But the same mark could be classified as
a token of many other types in various contexts for various reasons.    (022)

John    (023)

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