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Re: How does RDF/OWL formalism relate to meanings?

From: Dan Brickley <danbri@w3.org>
Date: Thu, 8 Apr 2004 20:07:28 -0400
To: Dan Connolly <connolly@w3.org>
Cc: Pat Hayes <phayes@ihmc.us>, John Black <JohnBlack@deltek.com>, public-sw-meaning@w3c.org
Message-ID: <20040409000728.GB29099@homer.w3.org>

* Dan Connolly <connolly@w3.org> [2004-04-08 16:42-0500]

> > In fact, naming is complicated, and in broader human society is 
> > surrounded by legally defined protocols and rituals and prohibitions. 
> > Like I said at the Boston plenary, there is no notion of baptism on 
> > the Web; and until we get one, there really aren't any names on the 
> > Web.
> 
> Doesn't the section on uri ownership cover this, if somewhat
> briefly?
> 
> Are you using 'baptism' in some technical sense? or just the
> conventional sense of "A ceremony, trial, or experience by which one is
> initiated, purified, or given a name."
> 
> http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=baptism&r=67

Can't speak for Pat, but I took this as a nod towards Hilary Putnam and
other's "causal theory of reference" approach, which attempt to
demystify the word/world relationship by couching it in terms of a
socially grounded cause/effect chain beginning with some initial
"dubbing" or baptism event, at which a  name is assigned to a thing.
After that event, given that it produces sufficient changes in the
world, the name denotes the thing. (hence my concern during the RDFCore 
MT discussions about risk associated with notion of non-denoting terms).

<Person>
 <name>Hilary Putnam</name>
 <page rdf:resource="http://spazioinwind.libero.it/albgaz/putnam/puteng.html"/>
 <page rdf:resource="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hilary_Putnam"/>
</Person>

The causal theory is related to so-called externalist accounts of
meaning, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twin_Earth_thought_experiment 
Also see Gareth Evans on the causal theory, 
http://mind.ucsd.edu/syllabi/95-97/strawson-evans/ctn1.html 

Backing up a bit, I think the concern here is that often we say "URIs
are just like names, they work the same way". However, when you actually 
try (as philosophers have for some time been trying) to pick apart the 
logical machinery of how naming actually works in human communication, 
it melts away. Nobody has ever managed to give a good account of the
referential aspects of meaning. Ever. The fear here is that this is not
through lack of trying, failure of theory etc., but because the core
concepts are social fictions, no more amenable to an
engineering-friendly formalisation than beauty, love or [flamebait] justice.

Dan
Received on Thursday, 8 April 2004 20:07:28 GMT

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