I heard only today that Matthew West had died yesterday of a brief illness, thanks to a Medium post by Ian Bailey shared on LinkedIn.
Matthew’s contribution to my own interest in ontology is kinda baked-in to a lot of my thinking, in the same way that (say) Dennett and Pirsig are, with only a few direct references to his work. [In fact he and Ian Bailey are both name-checked in one of my earliest long (Pirsig) pieces here on Psybertron.]
Only yesterday, by an amazing coincidence, I made one of those baked-in unspoken references – “All models are wrong, [some are useful].” Something he and Ian Bailey and Julian Fowler would often remind us in my earliest encounters with ontological models back in the earliest days of “PISTEP” as far back as the very late 1980’s.
My most recent encounters, after his “Digital Built Britain” work for which he was awarded his OBE, where I was bringing his output to a couple of UK nuclear industry projects, were in recent months on the “Ontolog Forum”. Back in 2010 I’m proud to say he and I were both invited speakers at the Russian Systems Engineering Challenges (RuSEC) Worksop in Moscow, organised by Anatoly Levenchuk the chair of what was then the Russian chapter of INCOSE – the common point of contact with Ontolog and with Active Inference ever since.
As Ian notes, Matthew was a devout Christian, a lay preacher and even founder of his own church, but when it came to day to day engineering and business – and his so-called “high-quality data-modelling” of these – he was as humanly pragmatic as anyone. And helpful. I recall one problem I was struggling with here on Psybertron in the early-2000’s when despite my best efforts at remaining pragmatic, my epistemological researches were getting ever deeper into the metaphysics of existence itself. I found myself awkwardly starting a question along the lines of “I know you believe in God, but …”. He could not have been more helpful in separating the issues for me.
From my non-theist / humanist position, in the context of the 21st C post-9/11 “New Atheist” God vs Science wars, I often use the expression “I’m not anti-theist because theists and theologians are human too.” Matthew is in that thought. R.I.P