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RE: SUO: Re: Ballot Comment - 3D versus 4D.


I entirely agree - but I reckon the point I am making is orthogonal to
I am claiming (or repeating the claims put forward by others) that when we
build our picture of the world we do this on the basis of metaphysical
assumptions - which are not really amenable to empirical verification. There
are some areas where we know that there are metaphysical choices - 3D and 4D
is an example - and once we have made the choice this infects our whole

I am merely suggesting that it makes sense to document the choice we make
and try and apply it consistently. I suspect that if we try and have our
cake and eat it (stuff both 3D and 4D into the same - monolithic - ontology)
that we will get a mess. This is an engineering problem - not rocket
science. Though if you want rocket science, you can use it in developing
either the 3D or the 4D view.


-----Original Message-----
From: []
Sent: 28 August 2001 03:34
Cc: 'John F. Sowa'; Chris Partridge; Adam Pease; West, Matthew R
SITI-GREA-UK; 'pat hayes'
Subject: RE: SUO: Re: Ballot Comment - 3D versus 4D.

Dear all,
        .         Let me suggest a conceptual approach for looking at this,
and many other problematic areas in development of practical ontologies for
everyday use.

        .       The fact is, of course, that the world is quite complicated.
Naturally there are issues like the longevity of items (3D vs 4D), when
all physical objects transform over time, not to mention issues like
timespace etc.  Also, there are issues of purity, corrosion, deformation
form the ideal shape and so forth. And I haven't even touched on more
esoteric areas like reasoning and motives, etc.

        .       The nature of human endeavour is evidently that mankind
makes hypothetical models about the universe that seem to explain
observations and facilitate planning, etc. We then modify these, generally
to more complicated models, as shortcomings are found in the earlier ones.
Of course some, such as Phlogiston being replaced by Oxygen, are abandoned
as erroneous. Others, such as the geological principles of vulcanism,
sedimentarianism and metamorphism, are incorporated side by side, once
recognised as portions of an overarching system rather than the competing
alternatives they were originally seen to be.

        .       Furthermore, the earlier and simpler models often provide
convenient approximations that suit many purposes. Newtonian physics is a
classic example used by most engineers, even though we know the truer model
is Einsteinian. Classical chemistry vs nuclear physics vs quantum physics is

        .       So, I suggest that the ontology, to be practically useful,
will need to accommodate approximation.

        .       I suggest the above little word picture as an initial
suggestion for a basis for this. I would be happy for it to be modified,
corrected, etc, by what the group feels makes it more accurate and/or

        .       Again, at the risk of attracting the vehement ire of some
participants, what do others think?

Cheers                                  Graham Horn
National Data Standards Unit
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
Phone:          02.6244.1094
Fax:            02.6244.1199
Email: <>

-----Original Message-----
From:   John F. Sowa []
Sent:   Tuesday, 28 August 2001 9:43
To:     Chris Partridge
Cc:     Adam Pease;; West, Matthew R
SITI-GREA-UK; 'pat hayes'
Subject:        Re: SUO: Re: Ballot Comment - 3D versus 4D.

Chris and Adam,

This is another of the very many reasons why the goal of a monolithic
ontology is hopeless:

> I never suggested - or hoped I did not - that there was a simple single
> answer to this question. Philosophers will be arguing about this for
> decades - they have a vested interest in doing so - and one of the
> arguments will be that the distinction is misguided. My point is that the
> issue is well enough understood to recognize some of its important
> features - one of which is that there are serious problems in having a
> single consistent way of talking about 3D and 4D - along with a variety of
> other metaphysical positions. And that deciding on these points is a
> particularly important aspect of any top ontology.

I believe that there are strong arguments for both sides (and maybe
there are even more than just 2 options on this and many related
issues).  The lattice of all theories very nicely accommodates
all of these views; it can show exactly what axioms are common
to both, and what axioms are contradictory.

All the effort spent in arguing over these issues could have been
much more profitably spent in making a clean division of the
axioms for both approaches and giving developers a choice.

John Sowa