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[ontac-forum] Ontology change 'on the fly'

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From: "Catherine Legg" <clegg@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 19 May 2006 18:43:37 +1200
Message-id: <9F7EB7E74D368A44B531F39501357F325189BA@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>

First of all, apologies to all for the unfortunate header on my previous message – I’m a bit out of practice posting to lists like these, and I’m receiving this list in digest form (which actually I’m finding a bit confusing, I might change that).


Thanks, Chris, for the reminder about CL, with which I’m familiar. Following Leo – yes, what was concerning me was issues of inference engine design qua changeable arities. It just sounded to me like a recipe for chaos (just imagining the kind of backchaining that might result….!!!) The suggestion was made that Bundy was envisaging a system involving a metalevel of reasoning whereby changes to the formalism itself would be applied at that level following some independent set of heuristics. I wouldn’t want to rule that out in principle but would love to hear some actual details of rules which might be applied at that level.


There was a post by Barry Smith which I would’ve liked to read but it got scrubbed in my digest due (I think) to being in HTML – I don’t suppose it could be re-posted?


John I was interested to read your description of your evolution away from advocating axiom-rich ontologising towards recommending something much closer to Wordnet, indeed a system where (if I have it right) the only assertions in the ontology are purely definitional, concerning the meanings of terms, and no empirical claims are made. This sounds prima facie plausible. However, can a sharp distinction be made between these two categories of claim? I don’t think so. I think that is one of the lessons of Peirce’s pragmatism. Consider for instance, “Electrons have a negative charge”. This was an empirical claim at some early stage of atomic theory yet is now analytically true. “Cats have whiskers” – empirical or definitional?


Also, when you say that assertions in any upper ontology are “much less important” than assertions in lower-middle and domain ontologies I think that this statement equivocates dangerously on 2 different meanings of “Much less important”:

i) Much fewer ontologist working hours are spent on this part of the ontology (true)

ii)  Removing or changing these assertions breaks or changes less (false!!)


I can remember quite a few times when I was working at Cycorp that relatively minor changes made at the upper level had (rather fascinatingly) unintended consequences for folks working on specific projects. (To give just one example, ‘person’ (the legal – social entity) was separated out from ‘human being’ (the species) and various inferences which depended on those two concepts being munged together then broke….)







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