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Re: [ontac-forum] Semantics and Ontology

To: ONTAC-WG General Discussion <ontac-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 24 May 2006 02:13:17 -0400
Message-id: <4473F97D.9010600@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Azamat,    (01)

I'm glad that we agree on many points.    (02)

But I just want to emphasize that vagueness is
very different from ambiguity and equivocation,
both of which refer to a word, a phrase, or a
statement that may have more than one meaning.    (03)

A vague statement, however, can be unambiguous,
but without a clear specification of the boundaries.
For example, you could be walking through a crowded
plaza and tell your friend,    (04)

    Stay close to me so that we don't get separated.    (05)

That statement is vague because you don't specify
an exact distance.  But it is quite adequate
as stated.  It would be silly to say    (06)

    Stay 22.37 centimeters from me as we walk.    (07)

This statement might be more precise, but the precision
is irrelevant, and it would be practically impossible
to measure and maintain that distance at every step.    (08)

Vagueness is also inevitable at the beginning of any
project or planning stage.  And the ability to be
vague is an *advantage* of natural language, not
a defect.  Very often, you *require* the option of
being vague.    (09)

For example, if you want to buy a house, you need to
give the real estate agent some idea of what you'd
like to buy.  But it would be pointless to specify
all the details precisely before you even know what's
available.  You might say, "I'd like to have a good
view," but you have no idea what kinds of views the
houses in that area might have.    (010)

Therefore, you have to express a vague or rough idea
of the kind of house you would like, but you don't
want to eliminate many different variations that might
actually be better than you could imagine.    (011)

But in logic, it is impossible to be vague.  You are
forced to say something very precise, long before you
have a clear notion of what you're looking for.    (012)

Natural languages can cover the full range from a very
vague notion that could never be stated in logic to a
precise statement that could be mapped directly to logic.    (013)

John    (014)

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