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Re: [ontac-forum] Rule Interchange Format group

To: ONTAC-WG General Discussion <ontac-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Chris Menzel <cmenzel@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Sat, 17 Dec 2005 15:40:25 -0600
Message-id: <20051217214025.GA57447@xxxxxxxx>
On Sat, Dec 17, 2005 at 12:22:44PM -0700, Paul S Prueitt wrote:
> One point of the previous discussion is that one wanted a
> specification of concepts without the first order logic.
> Your ranking of best practices, in line with the Industries that are
> dedicated to obtaining contracts with the government for IT services,
> is to rank Topic Maps at the bottom because it does not make the
> mistake of entangling complicated and often non-sensical "logic" into
> the ontology.    (01)

A revealing comment, to be sure.  Evidently, you interpreted the ranking
in question along the lines of someone's "Top Ten" list, as if it were a
subjective assessment of KR languages according some arbitrary list of
qualitative, unscientific, and untestable criteria.  Quite to the
contrary, as Rick noted, the list was determined relative to a wholly
objective set of logical and semantic features, and the ranking was
determined by the extent to which a KR framework possessed those
features.**  The result was an objective, verifiable, and scientifically
meaningful ranking that an ontological engineer could use in assessing
the propriety of the KR languages in the list relative to a certain KR
task -- a nice, simple example of the power of logic in ontological
engineering.  Without such "complicated entanglements", one's choice of
a KR language for the task in question could only be grounded in
hearsay, hearty recommendations, intuition, and cultural lore -- the
stuff of good anthropology perhaps, but hardly a foundation for a
nascent engineering science.    (02)

More generally (and, beware, even more soapboxy ;-) -- Ontological
engineering, like cognitive science, is an amalgam of a number of
disciplines, but knowledge representation lies at its core, and the core
of KR is logic.  Anyone who endeavors to be involved in ontology
development at almost any level but who has not mastered the
fundamentals of mathematical logic is simply out of his or her depth,
and is no more prepared to engage in the activity than someone who
endeavors to build a suspension bridge or a rocket ship with no
knowledge of Newtonian physics and the calculus.  The field will
flounder aimlessly until knowledge of logic is as fundamental to its
practitioners as the calculus is to aerospace engineers.  Until then it
will be caught up in a morass of pseudo-problems and distracted by
endless, irrelevant philosophical windbaggery.    (03)

> This is like saying, well I am no expert on Buddhism, but the guy that
> founded it must have been off his rocker.    (04)

It's hard to tell, but I guess you are referring to my admission that I
am no expert on Topic Maps.  That is true, my somewhat limited study of
the area would not qualify me as an expert, but because I do understand
logic and set theory, I am able to read and understand the technical
documents that describe the logical and semantic foundations of Topic
Maps and get a good sense of their connections to other KR frameworks.
This is a skill that anyone working on KR frameworks should possess.
Without it, the practice of ontology amounts to little more than
subjective and unscientific philosophical chatter.    (05)

Chris Menzel    (06)

**Technical note: As it happens, the set of criteria used to assess what
they call expressiveness there is an amalgam of expressiveness in the
purely logical sense -- which, very roughly put, is used to situate
where a given logic stands vis-a-vis first-order logic -- and also what
might be called "built-in" expressiveness, which has to do with the
semantic primitives that a KR framework includes, e.g., classes, or
numbers, and how much one can say about them in that framework.  Both
types of expressiveness can be measured in rigorous and well-understood
ways using the tools of modern mathematical logic.    (07)

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