Natural Hazard

It wouldn't be the road to hell if it wasn't paved in good intentions

Ontologies Are Programming Languages for Concepts

(I Was getting bored and losing motivation writing this, so I switched to a more brutalist writing style to get it out. This was prompted by a convo with @snav the other week)

Ontologies are sort like programming languages for concepts, but with a lot more cultural baggage.

Ontologies aren't true or false in the same way that programming languages aren't true or false. They just aren't propositions.

Any ontology that passes a meager threshold of complexity can be used to simulate any other ontology, just like how any programming language that's Turing Complete can simulate any other language.

This doesn't mean that your choice of ontology doesn't matter. You can tell me choice of programming language doesn't matter after you write an operating system in brainfuck. Different ontologies can express different ideas more readily. If this inclines you to go on a quest for "the most powerful/expressive ontology", watch yourself and read gwern's take on this.

The affordances of a programming language are governed by the particulars of how you think, and the reality of the compiler. The affordances of an ontology are governed by the particulars of how you think, and all the cultural baggage/association/implicit-cruft.

One reason I don't find a Cartesian dualist ontology useful is it obscures to me the way that the mind and body interact. It's harder to see why working out might help with your depression. It's harder to see how internal conflict can sap you of physical strength. You could make it do that, but it's not the direction that the learned associations push you.

Sometimes I hear materialism or physicalism brought out in opposition to things like souls, spirits, psychics, etc. And yet the literal face value version of either ontology doesn't forbid such things. You could have a soul made of matter. James Randi did some really great stuff promoting. Was he ever building evidence in favor of the materialist ontology? No.

If you were to catalogue every last assumption and association that's active in someone's mind when they reason with and talk about the material ontology... what you'd have would be something much more than an ontology.

A trick that I really enjoy is the way that both consequentialism and deontology can simulate the other. You do it in a way that completely violates the "spirit" of either. You really have to clarify your concepts and articulate your assumptions before you make two things which can't simulate the other.

That task is fun and righteous work. Over the summer I had my eye on the difference between reductionist and hollist "the whole is great than the sum of its parts" ontologies. Might have a post on that later.