Spent a large part of this week arguing about conductance and how to model it ontologically, with Pierre Grenon one of the authors of BFO. The basic scenario is a membrane — is conductance a property of the ions travelling through it or the membrane?

I won’t repeat the argument here, but I had a blinding flash of light last night and realised what the solution was, which I shall post tommorrow. I even know how I would represent the solution in an OWL ontology. How this maps to BFO, I have no idea, and I’ll be interested to find out how it works.

It’s been an interesting discussion; I am still rather sceptical about BFO, largely on the grounds of its supposed "realism". I don’t understand this. Claiming to be representing reality appears to me to be rather arrogant and, essentially, faith based. Worse, I can’t see clear criteria for determining whether something is real or not. Is a the notion of a dimension real or not? Or does it depend on whether they are representing space and time or something else? I can’t see it. More over, if you insist of representing "universals" rather than concepts, I don’t think that you are can represent multiple (potentially contradictory) descriptions of the same observations; in short, you deny the possibility of an extra layer of abstraction, which I think that you need.

Having said all of this, I’ve enjoyed the discusson with Pierre. It’s been hard at times, and we’ve worked through the example slowly. He’s seems to be a nice chap. This seems like a good thing to me. I’d like to understand the realist position better than I do, and it’s nice to find someone who I can talk with discursively, even when I am rather dubious about their technical position.

Originally published on my old blog site.