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Re: [ontolog-forum] metaphysical context

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Gregg Reynolds <dev@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 10 Apr 2014 08:20:15 -0500
Message-id: <CAO40Mik2g8LMkqz+fy=Bap7r=utGb6PMtEZAa0CwkpUV7xoXNQ@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
On Thu, Apr 10, 2014 at 2:58 AM, doug foxvog <doug@xxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

And propositions that are not about the "real world" are neither "physical context propositions
nor "real things".
Many ontologies and computer systems deal with conceptual things - employees,
bank accounts, purchases, specifications, laws, contracts, etc.  Why separate
information about conceptual things from those about physical objects?

Huw Price (a Real Philosopher) has written quite a bit about just this.  Well, so have lots of other Real Philosophers, but Price is one of the more prominent ones, and he writes from the pragmatist perspective, so what he has to say might be surprising to those not familiar with contemporary pragmatism.  (NB: pragmatism, not pragmatics).  Very briefly, he recommends we jettison the concept of representation in toto on grounds that it does no heavy lifting.  Instead we should explain our vocabularies (descriptive, moral, modal, etc.) in terms of the roles they play in our lives.  At the same time he recommends global expressivism - the idea that all of our vocabulary, including descriptive (scientific, "physical") vocabulary, is to be explained in terms of its expressive role rather than representational relations.  One consequence is metaphysical (but not philosophical) quietism, which I take to be an attitude of indifference to various traditional dichotomies like realism v. antirealism, on grounds that they only seem to be (philosophically) weighty.  Another is a commitment to a fundamental pluralism, even in science, which is better viewed as a collection of vocabs (languages) rather than a single unified vocab.

So to get back to your original point, we have descriptive vocabs that (purport to) describe facts-in-the-world (e.g. "electron", the language of the physical sciences generally), and we have various other vocabs (morality, modality, probability, etc.) that do not seem to describe such facts or aspects.  Price's approach (as I understand it) is to ask a different question - "How do these vocabularies function in our copings with the world and each other" rather than "What do theses vocabs describe (denote, etc.)?"

Since discussions of ontology technologies tend to presuppose some form of representationalism, Price's work offers a refreshing alternative perspective.

You can find a lot of his work online at http://prce.hu/w/publications.html.  I especially recommend the introduction to "Naturalism Without Mirrors", "Naturalism Without Representationalism" and "Expressivism for Two Voices".  "Expressivism, Pragmatism, and Representationalism" is very good, but not available online, alas.

A very good overview of contemporary pragmatism is "Pragmatism: An Introduction" by Michael Bacon.


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