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Re: [ontolog-forum] Watch out Watson: Here comes Amazon Machine Learning

To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: John F Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sat, 25 Apr 2015 09:08:16 -0400
Message-id: <553B91C0.1020704@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Tom, Ravi, and Leo,    (01)

TJ
> it is the push for theoretical unification that drives science.    (02)

The only point I would add is that "theoretical unification" is
a fancy buzzword for the pursuit of knowledge of any and every
kind at every level and age from infancy to the grave.  It includes
every branch of knowledge from cooking to sewing to bridge building
to physics to chess to gardening to mountain climbing to....    (03)

RS
> whatever (practical) real things we are after, can logic, math and
> ontology help us define it so that there is a common agreeable
> understanding among participants.    (04)

It's a continuum.  I used the example of Copernicus, Tycho Brahe,
Kepler, Galileo, and Newton.  They used math to analyze phenomena,
develop mathematical models, make predictions, and test them against
new phenomena that were independent of the original data.  There was
a lot of math in the debates among the professionals during the 17th
century, but diagrams and words can make the conclusions intelligible
to anyone.    (05)

TJ
> the mathematics of quantum theory is used extensively, without any
> "special-case approximations" needed.    (06)

That's a philosopher's fantasy of physics.  It's true that the
math looks very precise, and it is precise when the theoretical
physicists use it to analyze their Gedanken experiments.    (07)

But the experimental physicists have to pour blood, sweat, tears,
-- and billions of dollars of grants into forcing some tiny part
of the world into a rough approximation of what the theoreticians
gedacht haben.  And *every* measurement is an approximation.    (08)

TJ
> Down at the engineering, "Let's get something built" level,
> we usually do not use the higher level    (09)

It's impossible to separate science and engineering.  Without
experimental physics, theoretical physics is an intellectual
pastime with no more relevance than chess or science fiction.
And experimental physics is indistinguishable from engineering.    (010)

Just look at the design of the Large Hadron collider.  99.999%
of the work in building that thing, running it, designing the
experiments that use it, and evaluating results is engineering.
But without it, the theory is just the mind flapping in the breeze.    (011)

Leo
> you can quantify over notions that you donít really think exist,
> ever or even potentially    (012)

TJ
> Quine's principle will often suggest ontological commitments that
> we would want to repudiate. I think Quine himself, in his example
> about Pegasus and Pegasizing (I forget the details, but can get
> the quote if anyone is interested), made the same point.    (013)

Quine's dictum, "To be is to be the value of a quantified variable",
can't tell us whether or not something exists, but it is a very good
test for digging out the implicit assumptions in any description.    (014)

As for fictions and abstractions, there is nothing wrong with putting
them in your ontology.  If you want to build an airplane, you have to
talk about things that don't yet exist.  Since most designs go through
many versions, most of the things will never be built.    (015)

Quine did try to eliminate abstract entities, but fortunately, he
was very unsuccessful.  He did quantify over sets.  Once you start
doing that, you get sets of sets, relations, relations of relations, 
etc.  That gives you enough structure to formalize anything and
everything that anyone ever would or could conceive.    (016)

Alonzo Church was highly critical of Quines's attempts to get rid
of abstract entities.  I love the talk he presented on Quine's
"home turf" at Harvard:    (017)

    http://www.jfsowa.com/ontology/church.htm
    The ontological status of women and abstract entities    (018)

Contrary to thing-oriented ontologies, Peirce's semiotics,
Whitehead's process ontology, and Wittgenstein's language games
are far more compatible with both physics and language:    (019)

    http://www.jfsowa.com/pubs/signproc.htm
    Signs, processes, and language games: Foundations for Ontology    (020)

John    (021)

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