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

From: Thomas B. Passin <tpassin@comcast.net>
Date: Fri, 09 Apr 2004 12:16:46 -0400
Message-ID: <4076CC6E.4050709@comcast.net>
To: public-sw-meaning@w3c.org

John Black wrote:

>> From: Thomas B. Passin From rfc 2396 -
>> "A Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) is a compact string of
>> characters for identifying an abstract or physical resource."
>> RDF does not change this.  Now an abstract resource could be a 
>> "concept", and so a URI can be used to identify a concept.
> So now I have a URI that can (does? to whom? when?) identify my 
> concept.  But what I wanted was to be able to use that URI to signify
>  the concept to me and to those interpreters of my communications
> that I send it to.  I checked in two different web dictionaries and
> there is no overlap in the sense of these two words.  It seems that
> to identify and to signify are different.

It's just turtles all the way down, right?

According to Wordnet, one sense of the word "signify" is

"to make known with a word or signal".

I think I could argue that one can use URI identifiers in that sense.
Note that this still does not ground the symbol, word, or signal.  Go to
Turkey and use a Japanese word, and the recipient may not know what it
is intended to signify.

> So are you (and the Web Architecture document) saying that the web
> allows me to identify concepts with URIs, but its up to me to do
> something else to signify with those same URIs? 

They are just equivalent to globally unique (we hope) names.  They don't 
have any intrinsic "meaning" in and of themselves.

 > I create a URI on my web site and
> decide that it will identify for me the concept I want to work with,
> say 'strength'.  Now I want to use it to identify my concept to the
> recipients I am communicating with.  How do I do that?  Don't I have
> to tell them before hand that when they get my new URI, they should
> interpret it to mean 'strength' to them.  

Well, **I** don't know what you mean by it, and especially I don't know 
what you mean by it in connection with human - to - machine 
communications.  Wordnet has nine senses for "strength", and I doubt 
that your notion quite matches any of them.

> How can my URI identify
> something to someone unless I tell them what it identifies?

It can't, but how you tell them depends on who they are and what they 
already know, and how much of the sense of the concept you need to 
convey.  If you take a 1-month old baby, you probably can't communicate 
what you mean by "Strength".  That does not mean there is anything wrong 
with using words to communicate, right?

> I'm tired of this throwing up of hands whenever ideas about meaning 
> are brought up.  

Well, I'm tired of your trolling tactics.  You have not once brought any 
precision to what the devil you are talking about, so what else can you 
expect but generalities?  Get specific.  Take "strength", which you keep 
bringing up.  What do you want to do here that involves that word?  What 
do you expect a computer to do with it?  What is this human - to - 
computer and computer - to - computer communication supposed to accomplish?

If you think that you are going to send a single RDF statement that 
includes a predicate identified by 
"http://www.example.com/definitions/Strength", and then expect the 
receiving computer to teach a college level course about the etymology 
of the word "Strength", well, you are just going to be out of luck.

If that is not the kind of thing you are thinking of, well, don't keep 
it a secret any more.

Anyway, it's not as if all the answers to these hard questions are 
completely known.  We're all just trying to move forward and work out a 
practical, open, scalable system that is useful.


Tom P
Received on Friday, 9 April 2004 12:13:21 UTC

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