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[ontac-forum] Re: can an ontology be merely a set of well defined concep

To: psp <psp@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: Tim Berners-Lee <timbl@xxxxxx>, ONTAC-WG General Discussion <ontac-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, Tim Finin <finin@xxxxxxxxxxx>, Robert O'Harrow <oharrowr@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sun, 20 Nov 2005 09:23:35 -0500
Message-id: <438086E7.5070402@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Paul,    (01)

That may be a true statement, but it is irrelevant
to the problems that the ONTAC project is trying
to address:    (02)

> I have a different viewpoint, and that is that inference
> and logic has failed to be applied to any formalism
> sufficient to address the types of process questions
> that come up in real life in every day situations.
> (Prueitt, 1995)    (03)

The point is that *every* program that has ever been
or ever will be implemented on a digital computer is
absolutely precise down to the last bit.  There is
not the slightest possibility of having a vague or
incompletely defined program.    (04)

However -- and this is a very big *HOWEVER* -- there
is an enormous gap between what a program does and
what the programmer intended it to do.  The goal of
any standards project, including ONTAC, is not to
*discover* how everything works, but to *legislate*
a particular way that computer things shall work.    (05)

Ontology has a very long history of trying to analyze
existence and to categorize the things that exist.  It
has many points of contact with the physical sciences
and with psychology.  The questions of what things exist
and how they behave have become the province of science,
and the questions of how people think about what exists
have become the province of psychology and sociology.    (06)

Formal ontology is a development of the 20th century.
On the one hand, it can be used to clarify the underlying
issues of the broader field of ontology, including those
aspects that have already become the province of science.    (07)

On the other hand -- which is the hand holding the money
that funds projects like ONTAC -- formal ontology can be
applied to the task of *legislating* how various computer
programs are specified to handle the much narrower, much
more specialized, and very much more precise categories
that are implemented in computer systems that are
required to interoperate.    (08)

> I have the opinion that logic and mathematics fail to
> provide the formalism required to model complex systems
> (as in living biology or social systems).  At a minimum,
> there is nothing as yet that succeeds for living systems
> in the way that logic and mathematics was successful in
> the engineering sciences.    (09)

That may be true.  But ONTAC is very much an engineering
project.  The goal of ONTAC is *not* to understand how
people think or how they should think.  It is to legislate
how computer systems that are required to interoperate shall
interpret a given set of labels in various data streams.    (010)

And those labels are *not* English words, even when they
may look like English words.  Trying to understand how
people use natural languages is a different project
altogether.  It is without question a very important
project, but it is not the ONTAC project.    (011)

John Sowa    (012)

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