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Re: [ontolog-forum] On Ontologies, Times, and Persons (was second attemp

To: "'Thomas Johnston'" <tmj44p@xxxxxxx>, "'[ontolog-forum] '" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Matthew West" <dr.matthew.west@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 18 May 2015 06:35:02 +0100
Message-id: <00c401d0912c$63e78450$2bb68cf0$@gmail.com>

Dear Tom,

I don’t think you would be able to find any discussions related to ISO 15926. These were generally face-to-face, and only the results recorded in the standards themselves. The parts related to your interest were not considered core or controversial. Obviously ISO 15926-2 is available from ISO or your local national standards body. The data model itself has limited documentation, is available free and can be found here:


If you click on the schema name, and then on entities, you will get a list of the entity types in the data model. If you click on the graphic next to an entity type name you get the diagram (in EXPRESS-G), click on the text to get the lexical EXPRESS and the definition. Here is the EXPRESS for thing, the top level entity type which all others are a subtype of.



A <thing> is anything that is or may be thought about or perceived, including material and non-material objects, ideas, and actions. 
Every <thing> is either a <possible_individual>, or an <abstract_object>.
NOTE 1 Every <thing> is identifiable within a system. System identifiers created by other systems and received as part of a data exchange may be stored for future reference as an identification, referring to the originating organisation or system.
NOTE 2 Every example provided for other entity data types declared in this schema is also an example of <thing>.

EXPRESS specification:

ENTITY thing











OPTIONAL representation_of_Gregorian_date_and_UTC_time;




OPTIONAL representation_of_Gregorian_date_and_UTC_time;




OPTIONAL possible_individual;




OPTIONAL representation_of_Gregorian_date_and_UTC_time;




OPTIONAL class_of_information_representation;









Attribute definitions:



An identifier of the <thing> for the purposes of record management within a system.



The date and time when this copy of the record was created in the current system. This attribute shall have a value only when the current system is not the originating system.



The date and time on which this record was first created in its originating system.



The person or system that first created this record in the originating system.



The date and time that this record was logically deleted.



The reason why the record was logically deleted.

NOTE: Logical deletion means that whilst the record is still available in the system as a matter of historical record, it is no longer considered a valid statement. That is to say it is considered that it was never true.


One thing we considered, but did not implement, was having two identifiers on each record, one for the thing represented by the record, and the other for the record itself. This would have meant we could have used the same semantics to record things like “created_by” for both the record and what it represented. We opted instead for a single identifier, and relations or attributes that were distinguished between which they referred to in the name, with those related to the record starting “record_...”. Less flexible, but adequate for our requirements.


We also made an attempt to cater for what I think you mean by propositional attitudes with class_of_assertion:


A <class_of_assertion> is a <class_of_relationship> that describes the assertive nature of the member relations.
EXAMPLE Asserting, denying, and probabilistic can be represented by instances of <class_of_assertion>.

EXPRESS specification:

ENTITY class_of_assertion







The use of this though is not in my view entirely unproblematic.




Matthew West                           

Information  Junction

Mobile: +44 750 3385279

Skype: dr.matthew.west




This email originates from Information Junction Ltd. Registered in England and Wales No. 6632177.

Registered office: 8 Ennismore Close, Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire, SG6 2SU.




Hi Matthew.


Provenance, and the metadata that supports it, seems to be an increasingly prominent topic in academic and applied computer science. In my post, I suggested that there is a provenance of inscriptions, distinct from but related to a provenance of the statements expressed in those inscriptions. Also that there is a provenance of statements, distinct from but related to the propositions expressed by those statements. Also that there is a provenance of propositional attitudes, held by different people at different times, distinct from but related to those propositions. (A first-cut description of which is, as I've mentioned before, in Part 1 and Chapter 19 of BDTP.)


If I could find discussions of the inscription/statement/proposition/propositional attitude distinctions, and their time-variance, I'd really appreciate any such references. If that's contained in the work of yours which you referenced, I'd appreciate any links to it you can provide.






(May be out of touch for a week, working for my current client.)



On Sunday, May 17, 2015 3:56 PM, Thomas Johnston <tmj44p@xxxxxxx> wrote:




From the bookstore, we have:


 simplify archaic, chaotic organisational structures by explaining how to analyse and design effective systems much needed in current government, business, industry, education, and other institutions of contemporary life



Well! On my current consulting engagement, that's one of the things I am doing for my client. One aspect of the task is that due to "multiple sources of the truth", there isn't, on record, a single organizational structure. Due to the same thing, there are, on record, organizational structures which aren't hierarchical, i.e. in which one organization is shown as reporting to two parent organizations -- a situation which is not an unusual structure, according to the client, but rather just a mistake.


The aspect of organizational structures changing over time seems to me quite straightforward. It is easy to bind to physical data structures a generic hierarchy in which there can be, over time, not just the usual prune and graft transformations, but differing numbers of discriminated layers. It is equally easy to bind this unitemporal model to a bitemporal representation (as I've explained in this forum previously.) With appropriately generalized relationships bound to physical structures, any organization, with any number of levels, can be represented -- including organizations which are network-structured, i.e. many-to-many. And the physical structures never have to change in order to record a new or extended set of organizations with their possibly discriminated levels.


So my task is to support the client's data governance effort by (i) representing the current multiple versions of their organizations and structures, in such a way that the client can smoothly evolve towards the desired end state, which is a single representation to which sufficient quality control standards are applied that it becomes and remains a reliable "single source of the truth".


I'm not sure from the blurb for the book, or from what you say: is this what you're talking about? I find it hard to relate the blurb and what you said to a discussion of inscriptions vs. statements vs. propositions vs. propositional attitudes as representations of time- and person- and attitude-relative ontological commitments.


(Afraid I can't afford the book right now.)


Best wishes,








On Sunday, May 17, 2015 2:33 PM, joseph simpson <jjs0sbw@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:




The web site at:



Has a book section, if click on the book, "The Mathematics of Structure," you are taken to a second page:



On this page if you click on "Book Store," a red link at the bottom of the page, you are taken to the book store where you can order copies of some of John Warfield's books.


I believe that they are still available.


I suggest "A Science of Generic Design," if it is available.


Societal Systems: Planning, Policy and Complexity is available used at Amazon for $62.52.





A Science of Generic Design is available at Amazon for $82.10






Warfield augmented Boolean algebra by adding two operators:


The 'greater than' operator: 1 > 0

The 'less than' operator: 0 < 1


We have expanded Warfield's work to include the following concepts:


>From empirical data: (standard Boolean semantics)

  0 = known false

  1 = known true


We have added:

  0 = unknown

  1 = inferred true


We use different colored backgrounds to indicate the semantic differences.


In machine processing other metadata could be used to represent the semantic differences.


We will be delivering some papers on our work at the University of Washington Bothell Campus on Wednesday, June 17th.  Please see the draft event notice at:



Take care, be good to yourself and have fun,













On Sun, May 17, 2015 at 10:52 AM, John F Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

Tom and Joe,

I changed the subject line to the title of Tom's .doc file (which I
copied below as plain text).

> Is anyone doing any work on this topic?

Brief answer:  Yes, many people in many scattered locations with
many similar, but independently developed methods.  Some of them are
included among the 100+ documents I cited in the web page on "Semantics
for Interoperable Systems":  http://www.jfsowa.com/ikl

> We are expanding the work of John N. Warfield and others to include
> some of the features

Do you have any articles or slides about that work?  Amazon has a book
by Warfield for $102.  But it seems to have a lot of overlap with the
following "Handbook of Interactive Management", which you can download
for free:

> a distinction common in logic, the distinction between statements
> and propositions. A proposition is the semantic content of a set
> of synonymous statements.

One of the articles cited on that page defines a proposition as
an equivalence class of sentences that are related by a "meaning
preserving translation" (MPT).  That definition was adopted for
the definition of 'proposition' in the IKL logic.  See

> I think it must be the case that different ontologies, as sets
> of different statements, can express the same ontology, as a
> set of propositions.

Yes.  Any ontology can be considered a single sentence, namely
the conjunction of all the sentences in it.  Therefore, two
ontologies can be considered "the same" iff there is an MPT
that groups them in the same equivalence class.

In principle, that "solves" the problem.  But in practice, that
is just the beginning of a very hard problem.

There is much more to be said on all these issues.  The documents
cited in IKL cover many of the issues, and I'm always happy to add


On Ontologies, Times and Persons

by Tom Johnston, May 17, 2015

As many of you know, I'm interested in managing temporal data in
commercial databases, and have recently developed an ontology which
I think is common to all such databases.

One of the topics I still have a lot of work to do on is that of the
temporalization, and other relativizations, of formal ontologies themselves.

At one level, a formal ontology is expressed in a set of data structures
and instances of those structures. Let's call this the "inscriptional
level". If a formal ontology, call it Ont-X, exists on one computer and
then is copied to another computer, there then exists a second
inscription of that ontology. A branching process can lead to a tree of
inscriptions of Ont-X.

And as in biological evolution, or in the copying of manuscripts, errors
can be introduced in the copying process. Sometimes it might be
important to track down a particular error, and so it would be useful to
keep track of the provenance of those inscriptions of Ont-X.

Is anyone doing any work on this topic?

But this is just the issue of the temporalization of inscriptions of the
same ontology. What about the evolution of that ontology itself -- that
ontology as the semantics common to all those inscriptions? I consider
this distinction to be precisely the distinction between a statement and
the possibly many inscriptions of that statement.

So, as a semantic object, Ont-X may evolve over time. At times t1 and
t2, the ontological commitments expressed in Ont-X may differ. (Let's
assume that Ont-X remained semantically stable between t1 and t2).

Call the two ontologies Ont-X1 and Ont-X2. So there is a semantic
provenance also, in this case that the same ontology was originally
Ont-X1, and later became Ont-X2.

Now note the apparent inconsistency (intentional). I referred in the
same sentence to "two ontologies" and to "the same ontology". The
inconsistency is a simple terminological matter, I think. Because X1 and
X2 express different ontological commitments, it seems most natural to
call them different ontologies. But because X2 was created from X1, by
making some changes to X1, it is also possible to think of an ontology
-- Ont-X -- as an enduring semantic object that has changed over time,
that X1 is an earlier state of X and X2 a later successor state.

It seems to me that this, too, is something worth keeping track of.
Is anyone doing work on this topic?

Now consider two ontologies -- Ont-X and Ont-Y. Suppose that by means of
some intuitively natural translations, we find that X and Y, at the same
point in time, express the same ontology. What, in this context, does
"same ontology" mean?

Again, I analyze this by means of a distinction common in logic, the
distinction between statements and propositions. A proposition is the
semantic content of a set of synonymous statements. We now have a
many-to-one relationship between inscriptions and statements, and next a
many-to-one relationship between statements and propositions.

This is a harder problem than the first one. But just as we know that
"John loves Mary" and "Mary is loved by John" are two statements that
express the same proposition, I think it must be the case that different
ontologies, as sets of different statements, can express the same
ontology, as a set of propositions.

Of course, this is indeed a very hard problem. And because of my lack of
familiarity with the work done by ontology engineers, I can ask a third
question: is anyone doing work on this topic?

Now a final question. Just as there is a distinction between a statement
and an assertion by one or more persons, at a time t, that the statement
is (or is not) true, and also between a proposition and an assertion by
one or more persons, at a time t, that the proposition is (or is not)
true, there must be a distinction between an ontology as a set of
statements, or even as a set of propositions, and an assertion by one or
more persons that the ontology does or does not express their own
ontological commitments.

(A redundancy here: to assert that a statement is true is to assert that
the proposition expressed by the statement is true. But no matter, I
think, for this discussion.)

And here the provenance to be tracked is an evolving set of ontological
commitments, by a specific person or group of persons, at a point in
time or over a period of time. As the _expression_ of a set of ontological
commitments, then, an ontology is in fact relativized to a time t and a
person p. And just as a "language" is derivative from its component
dialects, and a dialect from its component idiolects, and an idiolect as
something that varies, for the person whose idiolect it is, over time, a
formal ontology, as the _expression_ of a set of ontological commitments,
is too.

People can make assertions and later withdraw them. They can express
other propositional attitudes, as well, such as doubt, approbation or
disapprobation, and so forth. And since the same person can change
propositional attitude towards the same propositions, and since the same
proposition can be asserted by one person at time t and denied by
another person at time t, there is an at least two-dimensional space in
which formal ontologies, as expressions of ontological commitments, can
exist and move about.

(If we represent specific propositional attitudes as a dimension, then
we have a three-dimensional space.)

Once more, is anyone working on this topic?

Regards to all.
Tom Johnston

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Joe Simpson

“Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. 

Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. 

All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people.”

George Bernard Shaw




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