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Re: [ontac-forum] Re: The world may fundamentally be inexplicable

To: ONTAC-WG General Discussion <ontac-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Cc: guarino@xxxxxxxxxx, CG <cg@xxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 13 Jan 2006 09:59:22 -0500
Message-id: <43C7C04A.1020405@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Dear Matthew and Barry,    (01)

I'll combine my responses to both of your notes, since
that conveniently puts me in the middle between them:    (02)

MW> I was reflecting on what you had been saying and
 > wondering "Why would there even need to be ONE core?"    (03)

That's an important question that must be addressed.    (04)

MW> It strikes me that we should be able to allow what turns
 > out to be common to float to the top, rather than have to
 > decide what it is at the outset. At lower levels this will
 > even be an important capability for a lattice of theories.
 > So I support a minimalist start.    (05)

I agree.  The only question is how minimal.  Zero is certainly
a good place to start, but that gives us very little to work
with.  Another possibility is to start with just those features
that are common to every proposal, including any and every
reasonable system in the published literature.    (06)

JS> The decisions should be based on fundamental principles
 > of logic, linguistics, physics, and philosophy together with
 > considerations of the accumulated wisdom by the software
 > development community over the past fifty years.    (07)

BS> But these decisions are your decisions. Each of us can point
 > to similar stacks of accumulated wisdom.    (08)

I should have emphasized the word *community*.  All of us have
our own pet theories, which should be accommodated as optional
modules.  As Matthew said, "what turns out to be common" should
"float to the top" as more and more members of the community
choose to use them and demonstrate by their choices which ones
are the most useful.    (09)

BS> It is thus probably a good idea if we henceforth all avoid
 > disparaging others because they want 'to put their own pet
 > theories into the core'.    (010)

In my exchange with Michael Gruninger, I was not disparaging him
or his work.  I have known Michael for many years, and I have the
highest regard for his talents and his work.  But I very strongly
object to putting *any* module into the core when there are other
reasonable options that are incompatible with it.    (011)

And I want to emphasize that putting something into an optional
module does not in any way disparage it.  I would put all of
Newtonian mechanics, Einsteinian relativity, and quantum
mechanics into optional modules -- for the simple reason that
all of them are reasonable choices for some problems, but their
conjunction is inconsistent.    (012)

BS> And my proposal is to find the highest common factor in all
 > of the sensible solutions, and to put that in the core.    (013)

If your term "highest common factor" means the supremum of all
the "sensible solutions" in the lattice -- i.e., the most
specific common generalization -- then I think we agree.    (014)

JS>> Therefore, I would suggest, "When in doubt, leave it out."    (015)

BS> No axioms at all?  Or when in doubt leave out?    (016)

The axiom that there exists something is not in doubt.  Any
others that are present in all reasonable proposals should
likewise be considered good candidates -- unless somebody
raises serious doubts, usually by demonstrating reasonable
and incompatible alternatives.    (017)

JS>> I realize that BFO uses modal logic...    (018)

BS> It does not.    (019)

Then I misunderstood your earlier point about the use of modal
logic in the bioinformatics project.  Not having modal logic in
the ontology itself simplifies things, and it leaves open the
option of using modal logic for any application that requires it.    (020)

BS> It uses FOL, with a restricted range of predicates (all of them
 > are formal, like identity, part_of, instantiates, and so forth)
 > and uses variables ranging over both universals and particulars.    (021)

Those points should not be a problem.    (022)

BS> It has the standard axioms for identity, part_of, instantiates,
 > etc., and is consistent with both 3Dimensionalist and 4Dimensionalist
 > and 3+4Dimensionalist doctrines as to the nature of dogs, etc.    (023)

At this level of description, it doesn't sound like a problem, but
we have run into disagreements about the nature of objects and
processes and the axioms that characterize them.    (024)

As you know, I am very sympathetic to Whitehead's ontology, but
I would never attempt to put much, if any of it into the core.
However, I would definitely object to any axiom proposed for
the core that would be inconsistent with a process-oriented
ontology -- which would include quantum mechanics and even the
more classical fluid mechanics and electromagnetic theory.    (025)

John    (026)

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