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Re: Stipulative Ontologies

From: Bijan Parsia <bparsia@isr.umd.edu>
Date: Mon, 5 Apr 2004 21:02:12 -0400
Message-Id: <09C45CCA-8766-11D8-8425-0003939E0B44@isr.umd.edu>
Cc: <public-sw-meaning@w3c.org>
To: "John Black" <JohnBlack@deltek.com>

On Apr 5, 2004, at 8:24 PM, John Black wrote:

> A consideration, relevant to these discussions, is the degree of
> control desired by the author over the meaning of a semantic web 
> document.

And the degree of control possible.

Plus, the degree of control *other* people have over *my* document, if 
I use "their" URIs.

> It seems to me desirable to add a feature, or to create an application
> that allows an author to publish how much of an ontology should be 
> treated
> as stipulative and how much as lexical or descriptive.

All of an OWL ontology is, save for comments, stipulative. I'm not sure 
what you mean by lexical.

> I believe the lack of this is at the heart of some of the debate on 
> this list.
> I think that some users of RDF assumed that by default most ontologies 
> would
> be taken as stipulative definitions of terms (URIs) owned by the 
> author.

Of terms, sure. Owned by the author, no. At least, if you take that 
literally, it's not only not done, but highly undesirable.

You couldn't use *anyone* else's URIs in your ontology!

> Others

Methodological point: Who are these "users"? If you are referring to 
debates on the list, it would help to point to threads or mention 

> saw that much of natural language was based on uses that could only
> later be formalized into descriptive definitions instead.  They were 
> afraid
> that we were headed down a road requiring software to treat all 
> ontologies as
> stipulative, and thus missing the chance to create terms that could 
> evolve
> naturally.

Not me. Stipulations can evolve.

> Stipulative definitions are used quite often in statutory law, 
> contracts,
> programming languages, and standards documents.  They are used, it 
> seems,
> wherever the advantages of reduction of ambiguity and increased
> precision are desired.  They have disadvantages as well, and certainly
> need not be used everywhere.

One thing I've held out for is the propriety of is a document author 
being allowed to stipulate the meaning of *all* the URIs in her 
ontology (well, at least ones that aren't part of the syntax of OWL or 

> I believe we can formalize and thus automate the specification of the 
> degree
> of stipulation we desire over our ontologies and thus meet the needs 
> of both
> those who think that the author/owner of URIs should be able to 
> stipulate
> the meaning intended by publication of those URIs in certain contexts 
> and
> those who think the meaning of URIs should be free in all contexts to 
> evolve
> naturally towards whatever future they may have.
> Having the explicit facility to do this will not inhibit either goal.

It will inhibit me disagreeing with your stipulations, or overriding 
your (from my perspective) erroneous stipulations.

I don't think you've hit on the key to any debate on this list that I 
am aware of. Again, perhaps a pointer or some names of players would 
help clarify?

Bijan Parsia.
Received on Monday, 5 April 2004 21:02:21 UTC

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