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Pat vs. Chris on doctrine

From: Christopher Welty <welty@us.ibm.com>
Date: Mon, 8 Mar 2004 07:53:26 -0500
To: Pat Hayes <phayes@ihmc.us>
Cc: public-swbp-wg@w3.org, public-swbp-wg-request@w3.org, schreiber@cs.vu.nl
Message-ID: <OFA58E509A.21DEA86C-ON85256E4E.0062F32C-85256E51.0046CFF5@us.ibm.com>
[ Many people may not find this interesting. ]

Pat,

How many times do I have to win this argument?

<pat>
The idea that mereology is fundamental, as opposed to simply being a 
useful theory of parthood, is one example of a truly bad piece of 
ontological doctrine. (c.f , from http://esw.w3.org/topic/PartWhole :" The 
partOf relation is one of the basic structuring primitives of the 
universe"  Er...nonsense. The relation of PartOf cannot be used to 
"organize the universe", which is why mereology never made it as a serious 
rival to set theory, in spite of Nelson Goodman's strenuous efforts; and 
probably why it plays no role in any of the sciences (Is the magnetism 
part of the magnet?). It also is, arguably, not even a very good model of 
human common-sense intuition, eg people are still arguing about some of 
Plato's examples). 
</pat>

<chris>
I am perfectly happy to tone down the dogmatism in the PartWhole pattern 
description.  After all, *I* certainly do not find mereology to be a 
serious rival to set theory, I merely (heh) wanted to point out that some 
people do .  Still, it is a basic and domain-independent relation, and 
characterizing how to represent it (especially the common variants and the 
most frequent pitfalls) I consider to be a very widely useful exercise. 
But I would appreciate hearing a more constructive re-wording of the 
background section.  My goal was to point out that many people have 
thought about it for a long time, there are many carefully crafted 
axiomatizations (I find Achille's quite good), and then describe it in 
general.
</chris>

<pat>
Another is the pernicious idea that Clear Thinkers *must* make some kind 
of basic ontological division of the universe into two disjoint categories 
of enduring things and dynamic processes (cf 
ontology.buffalo.edu/smith/articles/SNAP_SPAN.pdf ), 
</pat>

<chris>
Whoa!  Hold on thar, Tex!
Although I personally find this basic division useful, I certainly would 
not and do not espouse preaching from on high (i.e. putting it on a "best 
practices" web page) that clear thinkers must or must not do anything. The 
purpose of the Ontology patterns I would like to construct (like the 
PartWhole one) and make available through this WG are to help get people 
up to speed on how to use OWL to represent some fairly common things. They 
are advisory, though their association with "best practices" does imply 
they should be fairly good.  Use them if they help.  Provide your own, 
Pat, if you have rivals.
</chris>

<Pat>
and another is the slightly barmy idea that modal reasoning is somehow 
connected with keeping your databases up-to-date.
</pat>

<chris>
I feel pretty strongly that modal logic should have no part in any of the 
documents we produce.  However, I see no problem in referencing a paper as 
background material that does, as long as it is relevant to the issue 
being described (or if I am one of the authors).

That said, however, and between you and me I suppose, I will continue to 
maintain that modal axioms (not modal reasoning, you keep missing the 
point) are necessary to characterize database change.  I thought at the 
last AAAI Spring Symposium you had finally understood the point, but you 
appear to have reverted to a previous state.  But again, we can take this 
discussion off the SWBP group.

Finally, I hope you will participate in the Ontology Patterns and 
Engineering task force of this working group.

</chris>



-Chris

Dr. Christopher A. Welty, Knowledge Structures Group
IBM Watson Research Center, 19 Skyline Dr., Hawthorne, NY  10532     USA   
 
Voice: +1 914.784.7055,  IBM T/L: 863.7055, Fax: +1 914.784.7455
Email: welty@watson.ibm.com, Web: 
http://www.research.ibm.com/people/w/welty/




Pat Hayes <phayes@ihmc.us>
Sent by: public-swbp-wg-request@w3.org
03/04/2004 01:37 PM
 
        To:     schreiber@cs.vu.nl, public-swbp-wg@w3.org
        cc: 
        Subject:        Re: Tech Plenary: agenda Best Practices


Sorry if this is too late for the Cannes discussion.

My 'top 3' would be:

1. Tell people how to put RDF/RDFS/OWL onto (or attach it to) a web page 
so that it has some relevance to what is on their web page already (which 
is almost certainly largely HTML). Or at least give them an inkling of an 
idea how to do that and why it might be worth doing. In other words, take 
on the task of the public-rdf-in-xhtml-tf effort and get it done.

2. Get across the idea that the SW will work best when people use one 
another's concepts rather than invent their own, and tell people how to do 
that. The point of having a topic in a Web ontology is to make 
communication easier for agents. We should be thinking of ways to make 
this easier to do: right now there is very little support. Obviously there 
should be ways to find existing concepts and check them out (to find out 
if they are close you the intended meaning one has in mind, or can be 
tweaked so as to be) but we need also to deal with trust issues: like, to 
what extent am I making my ontology hostage to J's ontology if I use J's 
person-concept? Maybe (??) we need to think about a notion of 'meaning 
stability' analogous to the best-practices rules for keeping URIs stable.

3. (Hendler's #2 - explain the mess)

-----------

4. Finally, this is a negative suggestion, but I would oppose any attempt 
to tell the world how best to write ontologies; or if we cannot avoid 
doing that, then let the advice be severely pragmatic and free from 
philosophical punditry. There is a lingering (festering?) tendency among 
some folk to want to give instruction from on high to the great unwashed 
on how they should best think and express themselves. Unfortunately this 
advice is similar to most religious doctrine: most of the energy is spent 
in endless debates between rival doctrines, you can find some of it 
somewhere to justify almost any action you want to take anyway, and when 
the rubber meets the road most of it isn't really directly applicable in 
any case without an expert there to interpret it for you.

The idea that mereology is fundamental, as opposed to simply being a 
useful theory of parthood, is one example of a truly bad piece of 
ontological doctrine. (c.f , from http://esw.w3.org/topic/PartWhole :" The 
partOf relation is one of the basic structuring primitives of the 
universe"  Er...nonsense. The relation of PartOf cannot be used to 
"organize the universe", which is why mereology never made it as a serious 
rival to set theory, in spite of Nelson Goodman's strenuous efforts; and 
probably why it plays no role in any of the sciences (Is the magnetism 
part of the magnet?). It also is, arguably, not even a very good model of 
human common-sense intuition, eg people are still arguing about some of 
Plato's examples). Another is the pernicious idea that Clear Thinkers 
*must* make some kind of basic ontological division of the universe into 
two disjoint categories of enduring things and dynamic processes (cf 
ontology.buffalo.edu/smith/articles/SNAP_SPAN.pdf ), and another is the 
slightly barmy idea that modal reasoning is somehow connected with keeping 
your databases up-to-date.

(By the way, it may be of interest to note that the first two of these 
both have their intellectual roots in the same strand of Polish philosophy 
from the late 1800s in Warsaw, for some reason. It is salutary to try 
reading what the founder, Brentano, actually said. But just because 
Brentano (
http://ontology.buffalo.edu/smith/articles/brentano/
http://www3.baylor.edu/~Scott_Moore/Contemp_Philosophy/Brentano.html
http://grimpeur.tamu.edu/~colin/Phil251/lect2-brentano.html)
was confused, there is no reason why the rest of us need to be, a century 
later)

Most of our philosophical ontological ideas have never been seriously 
tested in the real world, and there are almost certainly real, 
hard-to-solve problems out there that we have never thought of before. If 
anything, now that we are asking the planet to do ontology, it might 
behoove us to listen and learn, rather than have the hubris to think we 
can instruct.

Pat
-- 

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