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Re: [ontolog-forum] Types of Formal (logical) Definitions in ontology

To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: John F Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 24 Jun 2014 01:38:15 -0400
Message-id: <53A90EC7.7000609@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Ed,    (01)

The basic point I was trying to make is that metalanguage is a major
source of confusion.  Each metalevel term should be specified by
a construct in some version of logic.    (02)

>> Any term, such as 'primitive concept' or 'description' that is
>> not specified in terms of logic does not belong in a standard
>> -- except as an informal (non-normative) comment.    (03)

> I reject this outright!  Try defining 'time interval' or 'duration'
> rigorously.  You can axiomatize them into the ground, and still be
> unable to tell time from length, without appealing to some other
> undefinable term.    (04)

First, by "such as" I was talking about metalevel terms.  But I admit
that I should have clarified that statement by explicitly saying
"any metalevel term such as 'primitive concept' or 'description'".    (05)

For example, people keep kicking around words like 'feature',
'property', 'attribute', and 'characteristic'.  In FOL, all of them
get translated to predicates.  I have never met anyone who could
clearly state the differences between them.    (06)

> AFAIK, only in mathematics can one define a body of knowledge entirely
> in terms of axiomatic characterizations.  Every natural and social
> science starts with some concepts taken to be primitive.    (07)

I agree with everything in those two sentences except the words
'concept' and 'primitive'.  Those are pseudo-technical terms that
create more confusion that they can possibly clarify.    (08)

Observation:  The so-called "symbol grounding problem" for linking
symbols in the computer to anything in the world is just as critical
for humans.  Every branch of science, engineering, business, and
the law has established practices for linking their technical terms
to their subject matter.  Specifying all of them would go far beyond
the scope of any reasonable standards project.    (09)

My recommendation is to say that a standard should begin with a list
of "terms of art" that are used with the accepted definitions in the
field.  Then it can use formal methods to define other terms, which
may be terms of art that are being standardized.    (010)

John    (011)

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