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Re: [ontac-forum] Type vs. Class - last chance to vote.

To: ONTAC-WG General Discussion <ontac-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Smith, Barry" <phismith@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sun, 22 Jan 2006 21:17:23 +0100
Message-id: <>
At 07:13 PM 1/22/2006, you wrote:
>Although I prefer a realist position on the issue of
>whether at least some types existed before anyone invented
>a word for them, I also realize that there are a lot of
>nominalists in the world and even among our colleagues in
>this working group.  Therefore, I recommend a strategy and
>terminology that avoid debates of nominalism vs. realism.
> > Talk of types should thus not rely too much on talk of
> > definitions/intensions....
>I agree that it would be desirable to have a definition
>of type that did not depend on definitions stated in any
>language (formal or informal).  But I despair of reaching
>an agreement on that issue in this WG.  I would be happy
>just to get an acknowledgment that 'type' is better than
>'class' and that we can relate types to predicates.    (01)

We should be wary of relating types too closely to predicates. Types 
are designated (where they are captured in language) by nouns. 
Predicates perhaps do not designate at all, but in any case they do 
not designate types. Even a predicate like 'is a rabbit' does not 
designate rabbits, though it is of course true that, when applied to 
the name of a rabbit, it yields a truth.    (02)

>BS> Again, when biologists (e.g.) develop large ontologies
> > representing types, they do not do this by scanning their
> > minds for corresponding definitions, or intensions; they
> > look at the entities in reality, e.g. at patterns of DNA.
>Indeed.  They state *definitions* based on the theories they
>develop as a result of their observations.    (03)

The issue is which comes first: the (recognition, and subsequent 
designation, of the) type, or the formulation of the definition. I 
would argue that in biology it is almost always the type which comes 
first. And sometimes we never have the definition. (And in even more 
cases we do not have the correct definition.) Definitions are 
relatively superficial attempts on our part to grasp the types in 
reality. The types are there in any case, and were recognized for 
mating purposes by our simian ancestors.    (04)

>  As a realist,
>I believe that there exists something real behind those
>theories, but any guidelines or methodology we propose for
>ONTAC WG will have to be based on the definitions.    (05)

Again: even for an enterprise like ONTAC, we cannot formulate 
definitions FIRST, and then wait to see what the corresponding types 
and instances look like.    (06)

>In any case, I am happy with your statement of the conclusion:
>BS> I prefer: the distinction between type and instance, and
> > thus also between type and extension (= class of instances) is
> > fundamental to ontology, and I hope it will be taken as seriously
> > as it deserves to be taken. The word 'class' would hopelessly
> > confuse the issue.    (07)

BS     (08)

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