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[ontolog-forum] Ockham's razor should not be used as a butcher knife

To: [ontolog-forum] <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: Paula <paulan@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: John F Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 23 Jul 2015 09:23:13 -0400
Message-id: <55B0EAC1.4080308@xxxxxxxxxxx>
The recent debates about ontology and Ockham's razor for shaving
"bloated" ontologies, as Quine called them, led me to reread some
of the references.    (01)

I often cite Church's 1958 lecture on "The ontological status of women
and abstract entities":  http://www.jfsowa.com/ontology/church.htm    (02)

Everybody enjoys that one, but I dug up some of the references that
preceded it and cited them in the intro.  The first is an article
by Nelson Goodman and Willard Van Orman Quine in 1947:    (03)

    Steps toward a constructive nominalism
    http://www.ditext.com/quine/stcn-con.html    (04)

Opening paragraph:
> We do not believe in abstract entities. No one supposes that abstract
> entities -- classes, relations, properties, etc. -- exist in space-
> time; but we mean more than this. We renounce them altogether. We
> shall not forego all use of predicates and other words that are often
> taken to name abstract objects. We may still write "x is a dog", or
> "x is between y and z"; for here "is a dog" and "is between ... and"
> can be construed as syncategorematic: significant in context but
> naming nothing. But we cannot use variables that call for abstract
> objects as values.    (05)

If you take away the option of variables for "classes, relations,
properties, etc.", you eliminate a huge amount of ontology used
in AI, computational linguistics, and the Semantic Web.    (06)

As a response, Church (1951) published "The need for abstract
entities":  http://www.jfsowa.com/ontology/church51.htm    (07)

Church's summary of the goals
> Let us take it as our purpose to provide an abstract theory of the
> actual use of language for human communication -- not a factual or
> historical report of what has been observed to take place, but a
> norm to which we may regard everyday linguistic behavior as an
> imprecise approximation...We must demand of such a theory that it
> have a place for all observably informative kinds of communication
> -- including such notoriously troublesome cases as belief statements,
> modal statements, conditions contrary to fact...    (08)

For many years, Church was the "Grand Old Logician" (GOL) at UCLA.
Richard Montague earned his PhD with another GOL (Alfred Tarski)
at UC Berkeley.  Then he went to teach at UCLA.    (09)

After reading the above paragraph, I suspect that Church may have
had some influence on Montague's project of developing a model-
theoretic semantics for natural languages.  Later, Barbara Partee,
who had just earned her PhD with Chomsky, joined the UCLA faculty.
And Hans Kamp began working for his PhD with Montague.  Both of them
became evangelists for preaching the gospel of formal semantics.    (010)

I'd also like to relate this observation to the end of my earlier
note to Ontolog Forum (copy below).    (011)

Note the observation that Aristotle's ontology, Roget's Thesaurus,
and WordNet are three very widely used resources.  And all of them
have a direct mapping to NLs.  Of the more recent developments,
Schema.org has the most direct mapping to NLs, and it is also
widely used.    (012)

In particular, note slide 10 on intentionality.  That is a topic
that the razor gang tries to eliminate.  They say that intentions
are "not objective" or "anthropomorphic".    (013)

But people are anthropoids.  Everything they say or do has some
purpose or intention.  If your system can't understand intentions,
it can't understand language.  Every aspect of human society is
fundamentally *intentional* -- if you eliminate them, you eliminate
any hope of understanding language or any social interactions.    (014)

_________________________________________________________________    (015)

> All 5 Patologs take one through successive development of logic    (016)

The one that's most relevant to these discussions is patolog4,
http://www.jfsowa.com/talks/patolog4.pdf .    (017)

For the issues about semiotics, start with slide 21 of patolog4.pdf.
Slide 29 mentions Peirce.  For more, follow the URL at the bottom.
Note slide 30, which combines Peirce and Wilkins.    (018)

> In all, it took about ten years to systematize things.    (019)

The patolog4.pdf slides might suggest some developments.
Slide 2 summarizes ontology projects from Aristotle to the
present.  The three most successful -- in terms of widespread
adoption -- are Aristotle's, Roget's, and WordNet.    (020)

Are there any lessons to be learned from that history?    (021)

(By the way, if anyone had clicked on the URL for patolog4.pdf,
I apologize for the misspelling, which I corrected in this copy.)    (022)

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