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Re: [ontac-forum] Neutrality Principle

To: ONTAC-WG General Discussion <ontac-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 29 Nov 2005 01:53:27 -0500
Message-id: <438BFAE7.2000002@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Folks,    (01)

I've been tied up with several things today, but I'd
like to make some comments about contexts.    (02)

First, I agree with Barry that the issues involving
contexts are complex:    (03)

BS> ... in addition to building the ontology (or ontologies),
 > which is hard, we would need to build also a theory (or
 > theories) of contexts on a level on top of that, which is
 > even harder...    (04)

In an earlier reply to Cory, I briefly mentioned a couple
of different informal notions of context, but rather than
continue to use the overworked term "context", it would be
better to avoid that word altogether unless we reach a
consensus about what we mean by the word "context".    (05)

In my KR book and in a later article, I developed a theory
of context, which builds on some writings by the logicians
C. S. Peirce, Michael Dunn, and John McCarthy:    (06)

    Laws, Facts, and Contexts    (07)

In a different forum, I participated in some discussions about
this use of the word "context", and McCarthy emphasized the
point that the whole field is an important research area, but
one that is still too much in flux to be standardized.  I very
much agree with him.    (08)

On the other hand, I disagree with the second half of the
following point that Barry made in the same note:    (09)

BS> Certainly, the ontology of ordinary speech acts is itself
 > a good candidate (low-hanging fruit) for what might be included
 > in a ground-level ontology; but not, please, an ontology of
 > those speech acts which are used by a certain very small and
 > very specialized community when it talks about ontologies.    (010)

I doubt that a detailed specification of all the kinds of speech
acts is really low-hanging fruit, but what I disagree with is the
claim that there's a "very small and very specialized community"
that "talks about ontologies."  Whether they use the word or not,
the database administrators who choose labels for the tables and
columns of a relational database are making "ontological commitments"
(as Quine used to say).  In fact, anybody who chooses labels for
the columns of a spreadsheet is making an ontological commitment.    (011)

A major task for this group is to establish guidelines for making
those commitments in a principled way and to propose methods for
relating the commitments by one group to those by another.    (012)

But that's a topic for another day.    (013)

John Sowa    (014)

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