At the risk of putting my oar into already treacherous waters…
As a practicing knowledge engineer, I build ontologies to solve some identified problems. There are situations in which the Quine approach (static worlds)
is adequate, and others in which the 3D approach is most convenient, and still others (more rare) in which the 4D approach is necessary. Like John, I don’t find apostolic promulgation of any of those philosophies to be useful. (It is a fine philosopher’s
thing, but that is not my concern.)
I can agree with Pat that CLIF allows me to express any of these approaches conveniently, but I disagree that the distinction is just a ‘difference in the choice
of syntax’. The underlying theory/philosophy definitely enters into the choice and use of the syntax. The elements of the universe of discourse have ‘problem-specific meaning’; they are not just mathematical objects. (I think Matthew said that.)
Another of my pet peeves is the insistence of certain persons that any reference to future states requires some kind of modality, or ‘branching time’. There
are situations in which you want to examine possibilia, yes. But for much knowledge engineering, I prefer the view that there is a world you take to be ‘actual’ and if there is time in that world, then there is, and some of that time can be in the future.
From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx]
On Behalf Of rrovetto@xxxxxxxxxxx
Sent: Sunday, March 15, 2015 8:56 PM
Subject: [ontolog-forum] Endurantism and Perdurantism - Re: Some Comments on Descriptive vs. Prescriptive Ontologies
You wrote: [MW>] The problem with combining endurantism with a process (or purdurantist) approach is that endurantism insists that physical objects wholly exist at each point
in time and pass through time, which means that in particular that they do not have temporal parts. On the other hand a process/purdurantist ontology has physical objects extended in time (like processes) and hence they have temporal parts. Overcoming that
contradiction is non-trivial without actually changing sides, and the choice between them is one of the core commitments one has to make.
You've described traditional views of perdurantism, and also what is often presented as a contradiction. The idea is to develop other more accurate conceptions of perdurantism/endurantism or some amalgam of the two seemingly opposing views. I
doubt there is reason to make the distinction dogma, and from my experience it seems it's been accepted as such.
Now, in philosophy, some have questioned the wholly-present aspect, leading to a view according to which processes are persisting, wholly-present yet ongoing or unfolding (in no temporally-extended sense) entities (See Rowland Stout). In the applied side, as
Galton et al. (Waterfall paper) have said "objects are points of stability" in virtue of processes they or their parts participate in. In my view, these are some steps to a more accurate ontological description of existents.
I believe traditional endurantism and perdurantism are too rigid and narrow in themselves, each picking out aspects of the world, but are at least two sides to the same coin in describing existents. If some are interested in collaborating on a paper--ideally
funded as it is important in my circumstances--on these topics, contact me privately. As I said, I have one, but the area needs more work.
FYI: I've added 'Endurantism and Perdurantism' to the subject-line of this thread, and including the comment by Rich below (because I seem to be getting separate emails). For those responding further, I encourage responding with that addition
in the subject for reference and consistency with the topic.
It seems to me that combining the two - object properties and process properties - would be more
realistic than separating them. It has been common practice to separate them for so long we should at least review the reasons why we don't, in practice, put them together.
In games, the objects go through state changes and also appear to perform actions. Those would certainly
be natural examples we could discuss it that way. Starships, Klingons, Martians, ray weapons, shields, sick bay, Captain Kirk, Scotty, the whole cast, the Conn, and all those objects could be used as examples.
But isn't the idea to construct "Scriptive" ontologies, i.e., task schedules, as stored or calculated,
for each object? One purpose of the historic separation was for partitioning the program, from the data tables, so that the software could be generalized for use in wider application domains. But that separation changes the design to ensure that an API for
the scheduler would be distinct from an API to the script tables manager - SQL or NoSQL. Separating the two subsystems over the years has gradually made each subsystem more general, more efficient at its subtask, and more complete in its treatment of the
combined System, both software and tables.
HTML is an example of scripted layout, and there is an ontology of objects and operations that can
be extracted from the various verbs and nouns in HTML pages. HTML also separates out the verb parts from the declarative parts, and the latest version is syntactically closed, so it's hierarchical and very easy to parse. Yet it still maintains the separation
of objects from processes. Why is that the choice made instead of putting them together? What would be gained or lost by integrating them?
On Sun, Mar 15, 2015 at 1:28 PM, Matthew West <dr.matthew.west@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
There is actually a problem here.
Just a quick note on a passage in this helpful thread (not intended to deviate from the topic at hand, but important all the same)...
MW: "The problem I have with this insistence that activities/processes/events are disjoint from physical objects is that it requires two objects for (amongst
other things) me, one for me as the physical object, and another for the activity of my life. I’m with John S. (and some others) who take a process approach, seeing physical objects as (relatively) slowly changing processes."
I agree with not being entirely fond of the traditional object-process distinction as such. To me it does not seem to capture the fluid (so to speak), processual-yet-persisting
aspect of the world. However, one does not necessarily have to chose either the process-ontology approach or endurantism. One can think outside of the box and combine qualities of each. The task would then be to solve whatever philosophical (or other) problems
that arise in doing so. This has been attempted, at least in philosophy. In fact describing physical objects as slowly changing process is moving toward that attempt. Anyway, one need not feel confined to the traditional distinction as if there were no alternatives.
One certainly not feel as if we could not create (or discover) alternatives!
[MW>] The problem with combining endurantism with a process (or purdurantist)
approach is that endurantism insists that physical objects wholly exist at each point in time and pass through time, which means that in particular that they do not have temporal parts. On the other hand a process/purdurantist ontology has physical objects
extended in time (like processes) and hence they have temporal parts. Overcoming that contradiction is non-trivial without actually changing sides, and the choice between them is one of the core commitments one has to make.
On Sun, Mar 15, 2015 at 10:17 AM, Matthew West <dr.matthew.west@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
To: Ontolog Discussion Group
From: Tom Johnston (new member)
I would like to comment on the current discussion about SMEs and ontologies.
(note: in the upper-level ontology I developed in my recent book “Bitemporal Data: Theory and Practice” (Morgan-Kaufmann, 2014), objects and events divide the world between them; they
are exhaustive of what there is, and nothing is both an object and an event. Objects come into existence, cease to exist and, while they exist, change from one state to a successive state by participating in events. I consider this the formalization of an
upper-level folk ontology which is the ontology common to all relational databases.
[MW>] That is not true, relational technology is neutral in ontological commitments, except that it requires that tables cannot themselves be instances of other
tables. However, I accept many relational databases adopt this commitment. The problem I have with this insistence that activities/processes/events are disjoint from physical objects is that it requires two objects for (amongst other things) me, one for me
as the physical object, and another for the activity of my life. I’m with John S. (and some others) who take a process approach, seeing physical objects as (relatively) slowly changing processes.
During the JAD sessions (see below), the initial statement of requirements will be transformed into a different set of requirements that are not simply the initial requirements stated
in greater detail. The initial set of objects, events and transformations will be similarly transformed as the BA helps the SMEs realize (a) ambiguities inherent in their original statement, (b) generalizations of their requirements that will do what they
require but also additional useful things; (c) restrictions on their requirements because the current state of technology at the enterprise would make their satisfaction unacceptably expensive; and (d) a sorting of initial requirements into do-now and do-later
categories, based on dependencies among the requirements, and on the need to keep the project on-time and under budget (so both the BA and the SMEs, whose names are most directly attached to the project, will look good to their bosses when the whole thing
eventually moves into production status).
[MW>] The challenge I find is in validating the requirements (providing evidence to support them).
JAD: joint application development (a somewhat outdated term).
[MW>] I think SCRUM is the current incarnation of this.
It is this: SMEs generally do not know what they are talking about. To repeat: SMEs generally do not know what they are talking about.
[MW>] John made a similar point, and I agree. I was too polite in my earlier post. In particular they generally don’t know what they don’t know.
For anyone familiar with Plato's Socratic dialogues (early and middle period dialogues), I can make my point like this: SMEs (Gorgias, Meno, Protagoras, etc.) are the protagonists of
Socrates (the BA) in those dialogues. Those SMEs are the ones who profess to know something – about knowledge, justice, courage, etc. Socrates engages each of them in a dialog which always ends with Socrates demonstrating, usually by eliciting a contradiction
from his protagonist, that the SME actually doesn't know what he claims to know.
But there is one difference between Socrates and today's BAs. Socrates is content (pleased, in fact, his protestations to the contrary) to show that his protagonists don't know what
they claim to know. Today's BAs, however, cannot afford that luxury. Today's BAs must somehow guide her SMEs from ignorance to knowledge, from vague, ambiguous, incomplete or otherwise inchoate initial statements of what they want to a final statement which
will mediate between them and the developers who will implement their requirements.
One conclusion from all this is that the (ontologically-adept) BA must take a very active role in eliciting and clarifying definitions of the objects and events of concern to the enterprise.
Her role must not be tidying up around the edges of what the SMEs initial come up with as a requirements statement. She must not use a light touch. She must challenge her SMEs as aggressively as Socrates challenged the self-proclaimed experts he engaged with.
[MW>] I agree.
Is there any additional guidance I can suggest, other than these very general comments?
There is. I would like to suggest that before we begin eliciting ontological commitments from SMEs, we should clarify (a) what we are defining, and (b) what a definition is.
(3) What are we defining when we ask SMEs for definitions?
Let's take Customer as an example. In any enterprise, in any JAD session, with any group of SMEs, when we ask “What is a customer?” (the same “What is X?” question form as Aristotle's
most basic ontological question, ti esti?), surely we must be asking for something besides a dictionary definition.
We don't need SMEs to formulate general definitions, whether they are do-it-yourself dictionary definitions, or definitions defining nodes in a taxonomy whose linearly parent nodes,
up to the root node, have already been defined. We are asking our SMEs what a customer
of our enterprise is, that is, what a customer of our enterprise in fact is, not what the SMEs think a customer of our enterprise ideally should be.
[MW>] Yes. When I was talking about an evidence based approach in my response to John, this is the kind of thing I was meaning.
In any relationship of a set and its immediate superset, the immediate superset defines a universe of discourse from which the members of the set are chosen by means of that rule. For
example, the set Customer will have (whether represented as such in a database or not) as an immediate superset the set Party, which we can think of as being the set of all those individuals or organizations with which our organization engages in some way.
This immediately excludes from the universe of discourse for Customer such things as dogs, cars, and also any persons or groups not able to enter into a legal agreement (which a customer
relationship is). Now, to define what a customer of our enterprise is, all we need to do is to state the rule which picks out a subset from that universe of discourse.
To accept a person or organization as a customer is to add a row to the enterprise's Customer table representing that person or organization.
[MW>] I was once given as a definition of “Customer” “One who is recorded in on the Customer table”. Accurate, but not actually useful
…a customer of our enterprise is – a subtype of a Party with whom we have entered into a customer
relationship, a relationship subject to conditions stated in our policy manuals and implemented in our code.
Finding these definitions – which clearly can be done – is doing something a lot more concrete than talking to a group of SMEs with the objective of obtaining consensus definitions
of such key terms as “customer”.
So we have steered away from the dragon of Wittgensteinian definitions, and reached the safe fortress of Aristotelian definitions. To wit: the category Customer (of enterprise X) is
represented by a relational table (hopefully named Customer, or something like it). A relational table is a set. A set is a collection of set members drawn from a universe of discourse such that the members of the set satisfy a specific set membership criterion.
That membership criterion is expressed in policy manuals, and in the rules expressed in code that determine whether or not someone will be added to the Customer table.
Prescriptive ontologies come into play, on my view, when our objective is to construct higher-level ontologies, for example industry-level ontologies. For these higher-level ontologies
to play the role of facilitating semantic interoperability across those industries, each enterprise subscribing to the industry-level ontology must realize that their responsibility is not to simply play lip service to the industry ontology. It is to begin
the difficult work of adjusting their de facto ontologies, including the set membership rules for the sets represented as tables in their databases, so that those lower-level ontological categories – the ones corresponding one-to-one with their database tables,
are consistent extensions of those higher-level ontologies.
[MW>] I’ve developed this kind of ontology. It is not really quite as you describe. Generally industry ontologies are about supply chain integration, so they do not cover all
of an enterprises data. What becomes most important is to identify the subset of the industry model that is relevant to your slot in the supply chain, and to be sure that you can map your enterprise model into and out of those parts of the industry model.
That has more flexibility than a simple subset, your mappings may be from multiple tables, or a subset of one of your tables. The other key is to be able to incorporate into your data key industry level master data such as product categories and their specifications.
This is the basic, boots-on-the-ground work that is required to make prescriptive ontologies a reality. But the foundation from which we must begin is what ontological commitments are
in fact, right now, in place in individual databases. The prescriptive work of integrating these de facto low-level ontologies, however, is not simply a bottom-up process of supertyping the types we begin with. It is a process of working with a well-developed
upper-level ontology as well as a set of de facto low-level ontologies, combining top-down guidance towards an ideal goal with real-world realizations of ontological categories that have been proven, over time, to actually work.
[MW>] Yes, but when you look at the commitments/rules imposed by a database, you should also be questioning whether these are not imposed as an implementation convenience (changing
what are really many-to-many relationships to one-to-many for example).
Perhaps this is something of a Manifesto – a description of a research and a development program of work guided by strong theoretical commitments and also a commitment to objects and
processes that are time-tested in the real world. I don't like the term “Manifesto”, simply because of its creaky 19th century feel. But I am proposing that we clearly distinguish descriptive from prescriptive ontologies, clearly recognize the importance
of descriptive ontologies, and begin to formalize them in the manner described above.
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