[Crm-sig] Issue: E89 Propositional Object and Symbolic Object, CRM compliant and museum doc.

Guenther Goerz guenther.goerz at gmail.com
Fri May 9 17:18:50 EEST 2008

Dear Martin and colleagues,

On 5/9/08, martin <martin at ics.forth.gr> wrote:
> Dear Guenther,
>  I believe that this view of how concepts can be defined is easy to
> understand but might be
>  overly optimistic and simplistic.

My idea was to give a few hints that basically matters are quite easy
to understand, and my intention was to keep it as simple as possible
and avoid unnecessary complications (vide Ockham).

>  Numbers may not be the best examples for everyday concepts. We can ask our
> biologists,

You are right, but I took it as a simple example where everybody
educated in simple math can see what the issue is and that we can deal
with the matter satisfactorily just on the logico-linguistic level.

>  who has so far been able to define the objective property set of at least a
> sparrow.
>  What worries me even more is, that the problem is pushed to the properties,
> as if they were
>  all obvious, objective and known. So, the approach does neither tell us how

No need to worry. I don't want to push the problem to the properties
(I didn't have a problem shift in mind), but I took it for granted and
self-evident, that first of all there is an agreement in a given
community about what properties are to be taken into account, how they
are defined and determined, including criteria for validity and
procedures for checking/determination/measurement, whatsoever.  Sorry,
but again numbers: The concept of prime number can be defined if there
is a consensus about the property of divisibility in advance. Somebody
else might find a likewise simple example in the physical world, e.g.
the property of shape...

> we get to properties,
>  nor how we can agree ("without secrets") on concepts once they are based on
> intuitive properties. Even the
>  concept of counting seems to me beyond true logical definition. See also

Well, I don't know what a "true logical definition" might be, but
counting can be introduced as we do with little children by using
fingers and counting signs.  Even without counting we can say what we
mean by "as many as", i.e. numeric equality: Take two collections and
then take out one individual from each at a time.  When you are done
there is nothing left in either heap, we say that they contained an
equal number of individuals.  So, first of all: pragmatics,
pragmatics, and pragmatics.

> David Wiggins, who claims
>  that some fundamental concepts exhibit cyclic dependencies in the
> discussion of identity, which is
>  a prerequisite of counting.

Identity is a different issue, equality can be done without, as outlined above.

>  I don't think that we can keep out cognitive psychology if we want to
> describe a reasonable set of
>  concepts (and properties) for cultural documentation. I prefer to regard

Yes, you are right, but we should distinguish two levels.  The first
one is documentation practice where we have a set of properties and
concepts on which a community has agreed and we have rules/procedures
how determine the values of these properties.  At this point, we need
not to reason about psychological issues; the agreement has to be
dicussed (and taught) as long as everybody understands it in terms of
doing the same thing --- take for example the bibliographic
description of books in a given library system.  This does not exclude
that some day somebody may come up with a problem due to
underspecification or ambiguity in common understanding --- in this
case the definitions have to be updated, and this is the way of normal
science.  If some disagreement exists, in a democratic setting we have
to discuss as long as we come up with an agreement --- or we document
the disagreement explicitly.  (Under authoritarian circumstances, we
might ask the pope instead...)

> concepts as an empirical fact,
>  in the sense that humans are capable to agree with a certain precision on
> concepts, however we come

Research in cognitive psychology or psycholinguistics may become
important on the second level, if we deal with the history of
epistemology (or historical epistemology) by, e.g. investigating
concept change, etc.  This would be an endeavor in history of science,
but only of indirect relevance for actual documentation practice
(eventually in cases where we take historical documentation into
account as biological classifications from the 17th century).

>  to their formation. As a practictioner, I do not need more than this
> ontological commitment.

Even simpler: I think the only commitment we need is what I said about
agreement above.


see you on Monday,
-- Guenther

>  Martin
>  Guenther Goerz wrote:
> > Dear Christian-Emil,
> >
> > I think there is no need to be worried.  Basically, things are quite
> > easy to understand and no set theory and no higher order logic are
> > required, although the proposed scope note for E89 seems to me rather
> > myterious and not very helpful. I think, the essentials can be
> > explained in a rather simple way which everybody will be able to
> > understand.
> >
> > So let's start with a basic everyday scenario: Given a material object
> > we can point to --- common agreement about that simple fact assumed
> > ---, we could use
> > a) a proper noun to address it (like "Emil"), or
> > b) a common noun or a definite description (as "man")
> > to refer to it.  The second case explains the use of the term "man" by
> > pointing to examples (and counterexamples).  In this way, we can only
> > address or refer to individuals, but not concepts: you can point to
> > the sign "IIIIIII" or "VII" or --- taken the cultural history of
> > number writng systems for granted --- the sign "7" , but not to the
> > concept of "number 7" oder just the concept of "number".  Predication,
> > of course, is not a definition.  If we want to define the concept of
> > "man" or "number", we need some more linguistic expressivity.
> >
> > How do we get to concepts?  Frege says, by abstraction, in the
> > following way: Under a given goal or purpose, we name explicitly and
> > positively certain properties, and we collect individuals which have
> > the same properties in a class, e.g. we collect all objects
> > representing the same number of counting signs in a class.
> > Mathematically spoken, this is an equivalence class partition, but
> > this can be handled by practicioners without understanding equivalence
> > relations at all.  The decisive point is that we make a
> > linguistic/logical transition (only, no psychological operation etc.
> > --- keep in mind that Frege's abstraction was introduced at the time
> > where psychologism in mathematics was heavily criticzed) in that we
> > now speak about "abstract objects", but those are nothing else than
> > equivalence classes where any element may be used as a representative:
> > take seven strokes at the wall or seven nodes in a quipu or seven eggs
> > in a basket... No secret at all behind the concept of "number". So,
> > abstraction is a methodological "facon de parler", we speak about the
> > same individual objects in a new fashion: Abstracta are
> > linguistic/logical constructs, i.e. objects of language, and nothing
> > mental (as the tradition from Aristotle through Ockham --- yes, also
> > the Nominalists were mentalists --- to Descartes claimed).
> >
> > If we build sentences which contain a defined concept as, e.g.,
> > "number", we speak "about" it, e.g. "The number 7 is a prime number"
> > (given the definition of prime numbers in advance).
> >
> > This should be sufficient to demystify the Dahlberg diagram (although
> > I don't agree with everything she claims): We have an object, item of
> > reference, we use a linguistic sign to refer to it and we build
> > abstractions ("synthesis") by explicitly naming relevant properties.
> > Furthermore, we can construct sentences which say something "about" an
> > item of reference, i.e. by subsuming it under a given class, talk
> > about values of its properties, etc. So, I think, quite simple, no
> > artificial popularization level required, and no reason to worry.
> >
> > The object-centered perspective comes in if we arrange concepts in a
> > hierarchy, i.e. if we describe prime numbers as a special kind of
> > numbers, etc., given by a terminological rule "if n is a prime number
> > then n is a number", etc.  Assuming  appropriate definitions, then
> > prime numbers "inherit" all general properties any number has... a
> > rather obvious idea.  As for granularity, there is no general
> > recommendation except the fact that the degree of detail of a
> > description depends on the what you want to do with it; even as a
> > physicist you will not describe a piece of wood in quantum mechanical
> > terms if you want to build a table, but if you are planning some a
> > material science experiment you might want to extend your description
> > to the atomic level for obvious reasons.
> >
> > Would you think that I left out something VERY important??
> >
> > Hope this helps,
> > best wishes,
> > -- Guenther Goerz
> >
> > On 4/29/08, Christian-Emil Ore <c.e.s.ore at edd.uio.no> wrote:
> >
> > > Dear all,
> > >  I follow the interesting discussion about E89 Propositional Object and
> > >  Symbolic Object, 'refer to' and 'is about'. This is a non trivial topic
> > >  and  specially interesting for people with background in formal
> > >  philosophy or logic. That is ok for me since I have this background
> (set
> > >  theoretical models for higher order type theory).
> > >
> > >  The introduction of  higher level philosophical concepts in the model
> > >  may make the model harder to understand for persons without special
> > >  training in and/or interest in formal logic. This worries me.
> > >
> > >  One of the major advantages of CRM is the possibility to use the object
> > >  oriented formalism to choose levels of granularity.
> > >
> > >  It may be so that it could be an idea to have a granularity dimension
> > >  also on the philosophical complexity, that is, a kind of popularisation
> > >  axis (without throwing out the nicely and concise defined baby with the
> > >  water)? This may also make it easier to formulate an operational
> > >  compatibility requirement. It may also make CRM easier to understand
> for
> > >  a larger number of museum/cultural heritage persons form whom it was
> > >  originally intended (I at least believe).
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > >  Regards
> > >
> > >  hristian-Emil
> > >
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> > >
> > >
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>  --
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>   Dr. Martin Doerr              |  Vox:+30(2810)391625        |
>   Principle Researcher          |  Fax:+30(2810)391638        |
>                                |  Email: martin at ics.forth.gr |
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