W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-semweb-lifesci@w3.org > June 2007

Re: Evidence

From: Pat Hayes <phayes@ihmc.us>
Date: Wed, 20 Jun 2007 15:58:13 -0500
Message-Id: <p06230915c29f417b626a@[10.100.0.39]>
To: Alan Ruttenberg <alanruttenberg@gmail.com>
Cc: <public-semweb-lifesci@w3.org>

>On Jun 20, 2007, at 12:06 PM, Mark Montgomery wrote:
>
>>Alan,
>
>Hi Mark,
>
>>Rather than using the public community for just debate, perhaps it 
>>would be best used as an educational tool.
>
>Ouch :)  (though I do think that debate is a useful tool in 
>education, and a survey of my posts would demonstrate that I've used 
>the list for a number of purposes)
>
>>For example, what is your definition of a construct within the 
>>context of knowledge systems design in life sciences?
>
>First, let me note that I did not originate the use of the term in 
>this discussion
>
>Constructs occur at many levels. In this conversation the issue that 
>is being raised is the utility of distinction between continuant and 
>occurrent, or roughly, thing versus process (stuff that happens to 
>things), as the distinction is made in BFO and many other ontologies.
>
>The counterproposals are not entirely clear to me, but in the case 
>of Patrick I believed that the alternative is to abandon this 
>distinction and consider everything a process, which may work 
>equally well - I don't have enough experience to know.

Just for the record, and not wanting to re-open an old debate or take 
up too much time here, the proposal is not exactly to abandon this 
distinction, and certainly not to disallow it when it is useful, but 
to weaken its role in the formal ontology, so that it becomes legal 
to use 'process' talk when referring to things (and vice versa). One 
can view this as rooted in a philosophical (Whiteheadian) claim that 
every thing is ultimately a process, but one can also view it purely 
pragmatically as a way to simplify ontologies by removing the 
distinction between a thing and its 'lifespan'. The main practical 
effects are that the thing/process distinction is made into a matter 
largely of convenience rather than a strict taxonomic division into 
fundamentally different ontological categories, so that it is no 
longer necessary to decide a priori whether something "is" a 
continuant or not; some formalizations are simplified; and a uniform 
treatment of time and change is made possible. The downside is that a 
certain degree of sloppiness is thereby permitted, which can lead to 
a failure to reconcile divergent points of view; and that some 
people, apparently (I am not one of them) find it confusing or 
unintuitive to apply process terminology to things.

I promise not to raise this issue again on this list unless invited 
to do so. The debate is raging on other lists in any case.

Pat Hayes


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Received on Wednesday, 20 June 2007 20:58:27 GMT

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