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

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Ali H <asaegyn@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 24 May 2013 18:34:53 -0400
Message-id: <CADr70E28xz-cuxgGo-EHA_PV_aC2G+TGGiCOg0WjN0U88v5rPA@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
If I might belatedly wade in an attempt to clear up some of my own confusion wrt this thread...

On Fri, May 24, 2013 at 3:44 PM, Hans Polzer <hpolzer@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
Artifacts such as ID cards,
RF ID, bar codes,  etc., are all measures taken to make portions of social
reality detectable in physical space, precisely because it is not detectable
otherwise. We have interoperability problems among systems representing
organizations in part because how to represent the spatial extent of said
organizations is contextual, and establishing agreements usually specify
spatial extent in only a few context dimensions at best.

In attempting to understand the discrepancy between the two viewpoints, here's an attempt at reconcile what Matthew is perhaps saying (hopefully he will correct me if I err).

Especially for social constructs, we all agree(?) that it is exactly the physical representations which keep the social construct "alive" or "accessible". Without these physical markings (ID badges, contract), and some mental representation in people's heads, or bits on a computer, the organization ceases to exist. If no physical thing contains a trace of said organization, then it doesn't really exist, does it? The fact that my colleagues and I can discuss the organization is at least predicated on a physical representation of said organization in our brains, and perhaps complemented by a variety of other markers. 

Those representations may have gained genesis via some contract that we signed (also physical), yet their social existence and acceptance rests on the physical representations of such an agreement, whether internally in the heads of the people who recognize the existence of the organization, or some external representation. 

Similarly, regarding an electronic bank account - if the bits located on a server somewhere are somehow deleted, then it is only the representation in my head that I actually had $X in some bank account, which is my evidence of possession. And perhaps a trace of physical events (i.e. a glitch in the server, a hacker attack etc.) which can then verify my claim. Without either of those physical extents, my claim to a bank account would not even exist(!) or be verifiable.

With regard to other ostensibly "abstract" entities, such as the laws of the universe, I interpret Matthew's statement that the entire Universe is the extent, as meaning that each and every moment of the universe realizes and validates those laws. Our knowledge of it is a social construct (and relies on internal/external representations - or tokens in the guise of neural connections and marks on paper, perhaps via F=ma), and if humanity and all its artifacts were to disappear, our knowledge would disappear as well. Though the laws would continue to exist, since the physical universe would continue to obey its own laws, as manifested by its continued spatio-temporal existence.

The question of how accessible the representations of what others might call "abstract" entities then seems secondary to me. So in Matthew's view, it is exactly such physical manifestations which account for the "reality" of something like an "organization" or "my bank account" or "laws of physics". Hans would argue that these are simply identifiers, not part of the thing(?), and the abstract thing (continues to exist?) even if all such physical aspects were to be destroyed/removed, correct? Though I can't fathom how this would hold for social constructs in any possible world. 

Would it be correct to suggest that in Matthew's view, not only are these representations Parts of the abstract thing, but perhaps "essential parts", while in Hans view, these are simply incidental to the abstract thing? In either case, we agree that these physical things are essential for accessibility to the ostensibly abstract thing, right? Without some physical manifestation, access to the abstract thing is moot, and might we then possibly say that its practical existence is also moot? (Why not?) Similarly, with regard to Peirce's triad, the Type relies on the Marks and Tokens to be sensed and then interpreted. If there were no marks or tokens of some particular organization anywhere (even as localized bits of people's brains), how would we reconstruct its existence? At least for natural phenomena, we can observe spatio-temporal reality and re-discover the laws of physics or number theory, hence restoring access to its existence.

Am I missing something? Can someone elucidate me on what? Why might the fact that our external representations / tokens of some "abstract" entity are limited, support the existence of a category of abstract entities? Especially for social constructs (and knowledge for natural constructs), the lack of any physical representation/extent would render them at least invisible, if not non-existent, no? 


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