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Re: [ontac-forum] Follow up question on Ontology, knowledge, language co

To: ONTAC-WG General Discussion <ontac-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 07 Oct 2005 16:18:18 -0700
Message-id: <4347023A.1060208@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Leo,    (01)

I mostly agree with most of your points, but I'd like
to add a few qualifications:    (02)

  1. The first is a follow-up to my comment at the meeting
     on October 5 about the problems with Cyc (and all other
     formal ontologies developed or proposed so far).  The
     points I raised are discussed in the following paper:    (03)

     The Challenge of Knowledge Soup    (04)

  2. I agree that in principle ontology is more fundamental
     than epistemology, but I also believe that the
     compartmentalization of ontology, epistemology, and
     philosophy of science into distinct subfields has had
     a detrimental effect on current work in cognitive science.
     Three logicians who cut through those fields -- Peirce,
     Whitehead, and the later Wittgenstein -- have contributed
     some seminal ideas for a more fundamental and fruitful
     reintegration of those subfields.   I wrote another paper
     on that topic, which I am now in the process of revising
     and extending:    (05)

     Signs, Processes, and Language Games    (06)

  3. The following point should be extensively qualified:
     "Most semanticists in natural language use what's called
     'model-theoretic semantics'...  The correction I would
     make is "All formal semanticists use model-theoretic
     semantics, but the formal semanticists are a tiny fraction
     of all NL semanticists."  See the quotation below by
     Barbara Partee, who is one of the pioneers in promoting
     Montague's approach.  She married a lexical semanticist
     a few years ago, and she recognizes the limitations of
     model theory -- which by itself does *nothing* but prove
     that a set of axioms is consistent.  That is certainly
     important, but there's much more to meaning than just
     consistency.    (07)

Following the quotation by Barbara P., I added the poem
by Henry Kautz, who has been working on formalisms, but
recognizes their limitations.  Those limitations are the
issues, I address in my papers on knowledge soup and
on signs, processes, and language games.    (08)

________________________________________________________________    (09)

Source: http://people.umass.edu/partee/RGGU_2005/RGGU054.pdf    (010)

In Montague’s formal semantics the simple predicates of the
language of intensional logic (IL), like love, like, kiss,
see, etc., are regarded as symbols (similar to the “labels”
of [predicate calculus]) which could have many possible
interpretations in many different models, their “real meanings”
being regarded as their interpretations in the “intended model”.
Formal semantics does not pretend to give a complete characterization
of this “intended model”, neither in terms of the model structure
representing the “worlds” nor in terms of the assignments of
interpretations to the lexical constants. The present formalizations
of model-theoretic semantics are undoubtedly still rather primitive
compared to what is needed to capture many important semantic
properties of natural languages, including for example spatial
and other perceptual representations which play an important role
in many aspects of linguistic structure. The logical structure
of language is a real and important part of natural language
and we have fairly well-developed tools for describing it. There
are other approaches to semantics that are concerned with other
aspects of natural language, perhaps even cognitively “deeper”
in some sense, but which we presently lack the tools to adequately
formalize. It is to be hoped that these different approaches can
be seen as complementary and not necessarily antagonistic.
____________________________________________________________    (011)

    If your thesis is utterly vacuous,
    Use first-order predicate calculus.
       With sufficient formality,
       The sheerest banality
    Will be hailed by all as miraculous.    (012)

    If your thesis is quite indefensible,
    Reach for semantics intensional.
       Over Montague grammar,
       Your committee will stammer,
    Not admitting it's incomprehensible!    (013)

by Henry Kautz    (014)

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