[Top] [All Lists]

Re: [ontolog-forum] Is Philosophy Useful in Software Engineering Ontolog

To: "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Edward Barkmeyer <ebarkmeyer@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 6 Jul 2015 18:09:34 +0000
Message-id: <CO2PR11MB0005983F5BACB45D80CF040ABC930@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>

You have, as usual, put your finger on the underlying issue.  All of the four 
points below come down to this:
We observe our universe and we construct theories as to its nature and 
behavior.  We accept a theory as valid, and call it "knowledge", when its 
predictions are confirmed by perception/observation/measurement, whatever your 
favorite notion of "confirmation" is.  The value of the theories each of us 
possesses as his/her "knowledge" is their ability to predict things that are of 
consequence to us, directly or indirectly.  And, except for deliberate denial, 
we recognize the limitations of our theories when our perceptions (from 
whatever source) don't match the predictions.

When someone uses a term like "objective reality" in a discussion of "ontology" 
in the knowledge engineering sense, however, I cringe.  One can model a theory 
that predicts useful behaviors of a specific universe of discourse and is 
somehow "confirmed" by experience.  But if "scientifically confirmed properties 
of the universe" is what is meant by "objective reality", the term is 
ill-chosen -- the intent is "scientific consensus".  The theory is consistent 
with the universe as many specialists have been able to perceive it, and in 
scientific circles, one may speak of that as "objective".  But in metaphysics, 
that term suggests absolute truths about the universe, and that is precisely 
the kind of thinking I want to exclude from our (knowledge engineering) 
discipline.  We need to capture *theories* that are useful in solving 
particular sets of problems, by predicting effects that are confirmed by our 
(later) perceptions. The search for "truth" and "objective reality" is an 
entirely different discipline.  It is the "weh" ("that which IS") in the Hebrew 
name for the Divinity, and that is not my field.


-----Original Message-----
From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 
[mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of John F Sowa
Sent: Friday, July 3, 2015 11:18 AM
To: [ontolog-forum]
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Is Philosophy Useful in Software Engineering 

I have been tied up with some work that has prevented me from responding to the 
many complex issues in this thread.

I'd just like to comment on the two following points and include an offline 
note (copy below) to three people I'll call X1, X2, and X3.

> It is my personal philosophy that “objective reality” is unknowable 

> and therefore cannot be modeled.  It is possible to model theories of 

> reality, but we have to accept that they are theories. What most of us 

> model is “commonly perceived reality”, and the only question is which 

> stakeholders are involved in determining what is “common perception”.

> Yet if we don't all "see the same world", then we're locked in our 

> solipsistic private universes.

I sympathize with both Ed and Tom.  My preferred way of reconciling them (and 
many other views proposed in this thread) is based on Peirce's pragmatism and 
fallibilism.  Summary:

  1. All animals, including humans, that are able to perceive, act
     upon, survive, and thrive in the world do so because they have
     a fairly accurate understanding of those aspects of the world
     that are important for their daily lives.

  2. Science has enabled humans to get far more detailed and accurate
     control over a much broader range of experience than informal
     methods of observation and description.

  3. But all scientific theories are fallible.  They are reliable
     on those aspects of the world for which they have consistently
     made predictions that have been tested and verified.

  4. Nothing in the universe that has any causal interactions that can
     be detected by any of our instruments is inherently unknowable.
     Examples:  black holes, neutrinos, and dark matter were considered
     inherently unknowable at one time or another.  There is still a
     lot that's unknown, but scientists are gradually getting better
     evidence for them and about them.

In the following note, I replied to an offline discussion about fuzzy logic and 
fuzzy set theory.  X1 is a very strong proponent.
X2 and I are sympathetic about the general subject, but recognize that much 
more work needs to be done.  X3 has published a great deal on the subject.


-------- Forwarded Message --------
Subject: Re: Is X2 really brainwashed by science?
From: John F Sowa
To: X1, X2, X3

Before commenting on the points by X1 and X2, I'd like to summarize my own 
views on these issues and add a couple of URLs of articles by Joseph Goguen and 

The three philosophers who have had the strongest influence on my way of 
thinking are Charles Sanders Peirce, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Alfred North 

All three of them had a solid background in physics, mathematics, and logic.  
And they also understood the complex issues of relating natural language to 
logic and relating science to everyday life.

I have also studied eastern philosophies, especially Zen Buddhism, I've done 
some Zen-style meditation, I visited some Zen temples in Japan, and I bought a 
bronze Buddha in Kyoto.  I realize that some people see contradictions among 
those views.  But I believe that it's essential to integrate *all* of them -- 
*not* reject any of them.  Instead of post science, I prefer to search for a 
version of *post fragmentation*.

Joseph Goguen was an excellent mathematician and logician who was more deeply 
involved with Zen that I have been.  He also wrote his PhD dissertation on 
fuzzy set theory with Lotfi as his thesis adviser.
I strongly recommend his personal reflections on how all those views are 
related to each other and to his career in computer science.

See "Tossing algebraic flowers down the great divide" in which Goguen also 
talks about fragmentation as one of the most serious problems:

I stated my views about fuzzy logic and fuzzy systems in my article for the 
book _On Fuzziness. An Homage to Lotfi A. Zadeh_:

In that article I quote remarks by Peirce and Wittgenstein about vagueness and 
the issues of relating natural language to logic.
In particular, Peirce said "Logicians have too much neglected the study of 
vagueness, not suspecting the important part it plays in mathematical thought."

> Very few people can judge the post-science claim that reason, logic, 

> and mathematics cannot change anything, except providing different 

> perspectives on the same problem.  Reading over your articles, I 

> believe that you [John] are on the verge of switching to our side, 

> which believes that reason, logic, and mathematics are really useless, 

> except that mathematics is social science and logic is life science.

First of all, I believe that science, logic, and mathematics are fundamental to 
a deep analysis of any subject of any kind.

But I agree that many scientists, logicians, and mathematicians have been 
blinded by their own success in analyzing narrow topics.
The result is that they have failed to integrate their views on the details 
with the broader issues of life.

The following article, which I wrote in 2001, summarizes my views about how the 
three scientists, mathematicians, and logicians Peirce, Whitehead, and 
Wittgenstein were able to integrate the narrow subjects with the issues of 
relating language and life:

As for post-science, I don't believe that there will ever be or should ever be 
an era of post-science.  But I hope that we might get to an era of 
post-fragmentation by emphasizing the continuum among the infinitely many 
possible ways of thinking.

> Some detail in John's postings may not be shared by everybody, as I am 

> sure a portion of detail appearing in my postings are not embraced by 

> everybody, but the same goes basically for all postings to any mailing 

> list.

I agree.  I don't believe that X2 has been brainwashed by science.
I think his work is solid, but I also think that it's important to put more 
emphasis on the continuum.


Message Archives: http://ontolog.cim3.net/forum/ontolog-forum/
Config Subscr: http://ontolog.cim3.net/mailman/listinfo/ontolog-forum/
Unsubscribe: mailto:ontolog-forum-leave@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Shared Files: http://ontolog.cim3.net/file/ Community Wiki: 
http://ontolog.cim3.net/wiki/ To join: 

Message Archives: http://ontolog.cim3.net/forum/ontolog-forum/  
Config Subscr: http://ontolog.cim3.net/mailman/listinfo/ontolog-forum/  
Unsubscribe: mailto:ontolog-forum-leave@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Shared Files: http://ontolog.cim3.net/file/
Community Wiki: http://ontolog.cim3.net/wiki/ 
To join: http://ontolog.cim3.net/cgi-bin/wiki.pl?WikiHomePage#nid1J    (035)

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>