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Re: [ontolog-forum] Formal or functional specifications

To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: John F Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 22 Apr 2014 11:39:05 -0400
Message-id: <53568D19.8080709@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Bruce,    (01)

My earlier response to your recommendation of Ashby's book,
_Design for a Brain_, was so short that it could be considered
a dismissal.  But I want to emphasize that it was a good book
for its day (1960).  The basic idea that any model we construct
is a system of variables is true, and it should be emphasized.    (02)

But I'd also like to quote some caveats:    (03)

Irving John Good
> I think that when we are speculating about very complicated
> adaptive systems, such as the human brain and social systems,
> we should especially beware of oversimplification -- I call
> such oversimplification "Ockham's lobotomy".    (04)

Albert Einstein
> It is theory that decides what can be observed.    (05)

Albert Einstein
> Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness
> that created them.    (06)

Alfred North Whitehead
> Seek simplicity but distrust it.    (07)

Charles Sanders Peirce
> It is easy to speak with precision upon a general theme.  Only, one
> must commonly surrender all ambition to be certain.  It is equally
> easy to be certain.  One has only to be sufficiently vague.  It is
> not so difficult to be pretty precise and fairly certain at once
> about a very narrow subject.    (08)

Summary:  For any system as complex as the human brain, no model
(i.e., system of variables) can be an adequate approximation.
But such models are necessary for precise, detailed reasoning.    (09)

The best compromise is to build models that are "pretty precise
and fairly certain" for any particular problem we need to solve.
But a model that is adequate for one problem may be hopelessly
inadequate for another.  We need a "sufficiently vague" framework
that enables us to talk about them and relate them to one another.    (010)

The great power of natural language is the option of using the same
vocabulary and syntax for seamlessly moving from the vague to the
precise -- and the option of talking about what level of precision
or vagueness we are assuming at any point along the way.    (011)

John    (012)

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