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Re: [ontolog-forum] Defining everything in terms of relations (was Charl

To: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Barkmeyer, Edward J" <edward.barkmeyer@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 25 Feb 2014 18:37:56 +0000
Message-id: <d67bf098e1e347b897df9b1cb56e384f@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>

I intended to add this to my previous email.


William wrote:

> Nothing wrong with the word 'attribute', or the way CHEN and now
> everyone uses it.
> EXCEPT FOR Tthe BIG MISTAKE of thinking that a certain kind of  thingie
> (say blue) IS an attribute, just because it **can play that role.**

Right!  This is even worse than the problem of making the role a subtype of its ‘range’:  the things that can play the role.  This makes the range type a subtype of ‘role’, which is properly not a ‘type’ at all. 


I think the origin of this error is the specific distinction in Chen’s model between ‘attributes’, as relationships to ‘values’ (computational representations), and ‘relationships’ as relationships to ‘entities’.  If you view the ‘value’ as JUST the computational entity – an integer, a real number, a character string -- then the ‘role’ actually gives it useful semantics.  It is not that ‘blue’ IS an attribute of things, but rather that the string “blue” AS an attribute refers to a color of things. 


In Sjir Nijssen’s approach, by comparison, Color is a ‘non-lexical object type’ and Blue is an instance of that type, but, when converting that model to a database schema, we may decide that the “NOLOT” Color can be represented by a ‘lexical object type  (LOT)’ that is said to be a subtype of String.  This sorts out the distinction between the semantic Blue and the string “blue”.  In a similar way, the ISO 11179 metadata model distinguishes between the ‘conceptual value’ Blue and the ‘data element value’ “blue”. 


But we can think of this as a progression of understanding – Chen (1976), Nijssen (1982), ISO 11179 (1998).




From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of William Frank
Sent: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 9:38 AM
To: [ontolog-forum]
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Defining everything in terms of relations (was Charles Fillmore...)



On Mon, Feb 24, 2014 at 11:10 PM, John F Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

Ed, Pat C, William,



> Nothing wrong with the word 'attribute', or the way CHEN and now
> everyone uses it.
> EXCEPT FOR Tthe BIG MISTAKE of thinking that a certain kind of  thingie
> (say blue) IS an attribute, just because it **can play that role.**

I agree.  I would use a dyadic relation named HasAttr to relate
an entity to something called an attribute of that entity.

An attribute of something is only an attribute when it is viewed
in the role of the second argument of a relation named 'HasAttr'.


Right, I have been saying the following on this forum for almost two years: 

being an attribute is, in human language, not a fixed feature of a word or a concept, except for some of the words in some minority of languages.  In others, 'beauty' and 'beautiful' and 'is beautiful' are expressed with exactly the same word, and the role in the sentence is market either by word position (in a positional language) or a particle that shows this (in a tagged language).  

In a very mongrel language like English, things are very complex, because multiple patterns are in play at the same time, on a word-by-word basis. For example, some words, like 'German', and the same as nouns and adjectives.  He is German, He is A German, while others that occupy the same semantic space, like English and Scottish, are not the same, but have to turn into English Person and Scot. 

 psycholinquists are examining how various language-related disabilities are manifested by speakers of different languages, and thus finding more about what is the same and different about the fundamental samenesses and differences between thinking and speaking in different languages.    They don't use entities, attributes, and relationships as their foundation, nor parts of speech like nouns and verbs.  They tend to use theta roles.


Given this, why would one want to insist that the fundamental organization of thought or a universal simple way to express propositions is based on entities, their attributes, and their relationships?



> In another attibutive relation, the same thingie, blue, can play
> the role of attributed to, such as in 'blue is a color.'

This raises the question about instances of blueness.  We'd like to say
the blue of your coat is darker than the blue of the sky.  So we need
to include instances of blueness in the ontology:  the HasAttr relation
relates a coat x to an instance of blueness y, which we can relate to
another instance of blueness z of the sky.


Yes, this is yet another role that 'blue' can plan.  It can be the name for a particular repeatable experience of blueness.

The blue of my coat is, if I understand correctly, what some metaphysicians are calling 'tropes' these days.

According to trope theory, the world consists (wholly or partly) of ontologically unstructured (simple) abstract particulars or, as they are normally called, tropes.  " Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

That is, it is a particular but repeatable experience of blue.   And, in fact, if I understand, in this thought, 'my coat' is there just to locate the blue experience using a shared identifier, becasue the experience of that blueness, along with many other cues, is in fact one of the things that underlies constructing the coat in question out of our fundamental experiences.   Personally, I like this direction for metaphysics, in that it brings it closer to psychophysics and social psychology.   


> Did you ever have clients who had trouble seeing that 'customer'
> was a role, and that so was 'vendor,' so that the vendor and customer
> might be the same company?

Good old Aristotle was quite clear about those issues.  He
distinguished the "substance" -- such as HumanBeing -- from the
"accidents" such as being blue or being a customer, vendor, etc.
For an Aristotelian description of George Washington, see slide 6
of http://www.jfsowa.com/talks/aristo.pdf


Yes, and this goes back to some previous discussions here about natural types, with which I also agree. 

But I have found it harder to sell that idea right off the bat than selling the understanding that some words used to describe things are actually describing roles of the things (customer, scoutmaster) , and others are not (person).

Thanks for this, John




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