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Re: [ontolog-forum] Laws: physical and social

To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: John F Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 04 Jun 2013 16:20:27 -0400
Message-id: <51AE4C0B.4010408@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Ed,    (01)

> We seem to be miscommunicating.    (02)

That is certainly true.    (03)

I admit that I made the mistake of plunging into some very thorny
issues without sufficient preparation to explain where I'm coming
from or hoping to get to.    (04)

Larger problem:  None of the currently popular ontologies and
methodologies have an adequate background for defining and
reasoning about "social reality" to use the title of a book
by Searle, which led to a debate by Searle and Barry Smith.    (05)

Not surprisingly, that debate also led to miscommunication,
as Searle admitted:
> I think in the end he [Barry Smith] makes many useful points,
> but I also believe that he misunderstands me in certain very
> profound ways. I believe his misunderstandings derive from the
> fact that he approaches this topic with a set of concerns that
> are fundamentally different from mine, and in consequence, he
> tends to take my views as attempts to answer his questions
> rather than attempts to answer my questions.    (06)

In my case, the underlying notion that I was trying to express is
what Peirce called Thirdness.  That term includes concepts that
require triadic relations (or nominalizations with at least
three participants).  Among them are laws of nature as well
as the habits and intentionality of animate beings.    (07)

Peirce made the point that there is no sharp boundary between
the rigid laws and the looser habits.  They are of the same
nature, but their range of applicability and the methods of
reasoning with and about them differ in degree rather than kind.    (08)

> The important difference is this:  If I encode the 'laws of physics'
> in my ontology, I will doubtless encode them as axioms of the first kind
> -- statements that certain things do or do not happen in nature.    (09)

A law like F=ma appears to be that definite.  But there are very few
applications, even of F=ma, where the all the required values are
known or knowable.  Just consider the difficulty of determining
the forces on each raindrop or cubic centimeter of air in a tornado.    (010)

Engineering and applied physics consist of a hodge-podge of different
kinds of approximations for every imaginable kind of problem.  Usually
the "same" problem will require different approximations with mutually
inconsistent assumptions for different regions of the spatial and
temporal extents.    (011)

> If I encode the 'laws of the land' in my ontology, however, I will be
> well advised to encode them as axioms of the second kind -- statements
> that certain propositions describe situations that are violations of
> the law, but may nonetheless be observed and recorded in the KB.    (012)

Violations are actually the simpler cases.  They are anticipated
by the so-called "deontic" modalities of permission and obligation.
The simple cases are almost always settled "out of court".  But
the ones that go to trial involve all the complexities of any
engineering problem.    (013)

And when you get to complex systems (the weather for physical systems
or any kind of biological systems) you can use logic and math to state
the problems, but there are no precise answers.  I mentioned Axelrod's
books in my earlier note.  But note the range of disciplines (from
math & physics to political science) in the members of the group:    (014)

    http://www.lsa.umich.edu/cscs/aboutus/bachgroup    (015)

> If you don't think 'disposition' is the best choice of ontological model
> for reasoning about the state of the real world, you should not suggest
> that encoding mathematical methods in formal logic is an appropriate means
> for reasoning about the state of the real world, either.    (016)

Wait a minute.  There is a *huge* difference between methods of
representation and methods of reasoning.  For the foundations
of mathematics, logicians emphasized deduction.  But AI has always
emphasized that there is an open-ended number of ways of reasoning
-- formal, informal, statistical, fuzzy, or heuristic -- with and
about any particular statement.    (017)

Second, I said that I have no objection to using dispositions as
a useful heuristic or shorthand.  But I was just pointing out that
every disposition *depends on* some underlying law or laws of nature
-- some of which might be unknown or too difficult to compute.    (018)

I was not suggesting that anybody should stop talking about or using
the notion of disposition where appropriate.  But dispositions are
useful for heuristics, but not as the foundations.    (019)

For example, a thick aluminum wire is an excellent conductor
of electricity -- especially in terms of amperes per kilogram.
But thin aluminum wires in a computer chip have a "disposition"
for cracks to develop and break the circuit.  That's one of several
reasons why aluminum was replaced by copper as circuits got smaller.    (020)

John    (021)

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