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RE: Terms and statements (was: consensus and ownership)

From: pat hayes <phayes@ihmc.us>
Date: Thu, 16 Oct 2003 15:44:53 -0500
Message-Id: <p06001f07bbb4abf537f8@[192.168.0.38]>
To: "Lynn, James (Software Services)" <james.lynn@hp.com>
Cc: public-sw-meaning@w3.org

>  > -----Original Message-----
>>  From: Bijan Parsia [mailto:bparsia@isr.umd.edu]
>>  Sent: Thursday, October 16, 2003 1:48 PM
>>  To: Graham Klyne
>>  Cc: Thomas B. Passin; public-sw-meaning@w3.org
>  > Subject: Re: Terms and statements (was: consensus and ownership)
>>
>
>  > Of course, this is in tension (surface tension, at least) with the
>>  compositional theory of meaning, i.e., for truth functional
>>  logic that the
>>  truth of the statement is a function of the truth of its components.
>
>I'm a little confused about the connection between truth and 
>meaning, at least as it pertains to terms, by themselves or as 
>components of a statement; or maybe this is your point. As a simple, 
>perhaps trivial example in first order logic, consider a constant c 
>which refers to some object.

Refers to some object *in which interpretation* ?? This nicely 
illustrates Quine's point. Terms in logic don't refer to things all 
by themselves, by virtue of their syntactic form. They only refer in 
a particular interpretation. They really aren't names: there is no 
such thing as logical baptism, no way in any logical semantics to 
rigidly attach a constant to a single referent.

Now, which interpretation should I (the listener) use when trying to 
figure out what you (the speaker) mean when you use that term? The 
best I can possibly do is to assume that we are talking about some 
interpretation which makes what you are saying (plus whatever else we 
are presuming to be commonly held beliefs, the current contextual 
facts of which we are aware, and so on) true. If assuming all that 
enables me to figure out what is being referred to in the actual 
world, then I know what you are talking about when you use 'c'. If 
not, it doesn't.

>What is the meaning of c?

The question is meaningless.  Now, if c really was a name, that would 
be a good question, and the answer would be: whatever it is the name 
of.

>Is the meaning of c ambiguous?
>How is a URI different from a constant?

For these discussions, not a lot. RFC 2396 insists that any URI 
"identifies" a unique resource, but it provides no way for a resource 
to be baptized by a URI, and a name that isn't attached to any 
referent is hardly distinguishable from a constant symbol that isn't 
a name.

>What is the truth value of c?

Eh?

>
>In my way of thinking, the truth doesn't become a consideration for 
>c until the application of a relation to c. Meaning, on the other 
>hand, can be said to be the witnessing of an object by c. Does this 
>make sense or have I missed the point here?

The key point is that all the listener actually has is the syntax. 
The intended semantics needs to be figured out somehow; and since 
things like c don't carry their intended referents on their sleeves, 
the best the listener can do is to use the publicly known semantics 
of the *language* and the general assumptions of conversations - 
people are asserting things they believe to be true, etc. - to figure 
out a narrow enough set of interpretations that the intended meanings 
can be figured out from the remaining ambiguity.

Pat Hayes

>Thanks,
>James
>
>
>>  However, I think this is a blushing herring. Holism and
>>  consensus focus are
>>  somewhat distinct.
>>
>>  So, while I agree that consensus based meaning, in some
>>  sense, is present
>>  in some of Quine's work, I don't agree that his Holism (or
>>  *just* holism)
>>  requires consensus or perhaps even uses consensus. (For example,
>>  sentences telling me that I'm wrong in my use of a term
>>  needn't have my
>>  assent, or even lack of opposistion.)
>>
>>  [snip]
>>
>>  Cheers,
>>  Bijan Parsia.
>>
>>


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Received on Thursday, 16 October 2003 16:44:02 GMT

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