|From:||Thomas Johnston <tmj44p@xxxxxxx>|
|Date:||Wed, 18 Mar 2015 07:17:41 -0700|
Could those of you who are involved in this thing vs. event (endurantism vs. perdurantism) exchange explain to me why, except as a bit of interesting metaphysical speculation, those of us building formal ontologies should be interested in it?
This is indeed an issue which has been revised in analytic Philosophy in the last decade or so. Personally, although my reading in this area has been light, I don't think there has been a better case made for the ontological primacy of events than Whitehead's process philosophy.
(BTW, for anyone wanting to learn a bit more about Whitehead's process philosophy, I recommend that they not start with Whitehead's magnum opus, Process and Reality. There is a remarkable presentation of these ideas -- remarkable in being accessible to non-specialists while not significantly simplifying the metaphysics, in the middle sections of Whitehead's Adventure of Ideas. But for those who want to dive into Process and Reality, I recommend you take along the following life preserver: A Key to Whitehead's Process and Reality, by Donald Sherburne.
Back to my inaugural question. I ask it because this debate is another example of what I call doing prescriptive metaphysics. As I've suggested earlier, if our job is to help software mediate across data stored in different databases, each of them with for the most part unarticulated ontologies, then why all this speculation? The upper level ontology we all in fact think with is, in fact, the Aristotelian ontology I have described before (with the addition of events). Why not concentrate on doing this: for each specific real-world database, generalize ontological categories to create an enterprise ontology covering them, and then work with the individual databases to remove any discrepancies with that enterprise ontology. Repeat the process to provide an industry-level ontological cover over participating enterprise ontologies. Identify important cross-industry ontological themes, e.g. people, places and things, important thematic roles (agent, patient, instrument) and make them ontologically explicit and then work with the industry-level ontologies to remove any discrepancies with that thematic level ontology. Integrate all this, finally, with the upper-level ontology which is in fact the one we all use -- Aristotle plus events. (Realizing, of course, that this actual work, although described as bottom-up integration, must also be, at the same time, top-down guidance.)
This is what I call building descriptive ontologies. Of course, at the upper levels, where ontological commitments tend to be implicit rather than explicit, some degree of speculative theory-building will be inevitable. But stick with Aristotle, I believe, and we are far less likely to get lost in the ontological woods (where we encounter both perdurants and endurants) than if we don't.
On Monday, March 16, 2015 5:43 PM, William Frank <williamf.frank@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
And Rich, I agree with what you say, too.
OTOH, because conceptual categorization is a human undertaking, not a given of nature, we should choose an effective number of categories, and allow thingies in one category to be recast in another, as the need arises. Common logic does this, I think. In doing so, it is just reflecting our own natural abilities. [Making everything ONE thing is not effective for human thought, though Turing machines can accomplish it, making everything two dozen kinds of things, (though I never bothered to count) like UML, especially if they even then restrict what you can say, is almost as bad. This is why I call everything a 'thingie', and suggest that thingies be cast as most useful, (as well as to put my baby thumb in the eye of the ponderous.) ]
Having a strong belief about what conceptual category something 'really is' seems to me to be Flatlandish. I did not realize the silliness of this invading engineering till a programmer told me that what he had learned on a project was that a position was not 'really' an object, it was a 'really' relation between an account and a security. I asked him if then a customer was 'really' an object. He said, of course.
People can and do take almost any conceptual category of being and re-cast it as any other one. We can recast occurrents as continuents, even give them names, as we do with Hurricanes, and as some even do with Maria. Other way around, too, as some of the languages of the Northwest are purported to do - who tend to say thinks like 'it is Williaming over there'. We can re-cast individuals as types, and reify types making new individuals. Just as we do with count nouns Hair in French and Spaghetti in Italian) and mass nouns (Hair and Spaghetti in English).
Pat,While you call your analysis an oversimplification, it fills in the background for what, in contrast to simplification, must be my simplistic view of this matter.
There is actually and excellent Dr. Seuss poem about this subject).
An application’s location is a common choice"
Maybe a nation, a gas station, or behind a Rolls Royce
But what if “location” is now the domain
Now it’s not about the application, it’s about what’s in Spain
On Mon, Mar 16, 2015 at 2:38 PM, Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx> wrote:
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