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Re: No universal things Re: comparing XML and RDF data models

From: Bernard Vatant <bernard.vatant@mondeca.com>
Date: Thu, 03 Jul 2008 14:59:46 +0200
Message-ID: <486CCD42.30403@mondeca.com>
To: Azamat <abdoul@cytanet.com.cy>
Cc: 'SW-forum' <semantic-web@w3.org>, ansell.peter@gmail.com


Azamat a écrit :
> Thursday, July 03, 2008 12:52 PM, Bernard wrote:
>> Peter, sorry to be as harsh on that as Bijan has been, but I consider 
>> this viewpoint as not sustainable, and dangerously naive. I for one 
>> assume very strongly indeed that 'the description of the thing causes 
>> the thing to exist'...
>
> Nothing tragical if someone indulges in  voicing senseless statements 
> publicly. 
Indeed.
> A tragic thing if the same one publicly passes judgment on other 
> people, trying to seek meaningful things.
No tragedy here I hope. I don't think I 'pass public judgment' on people 
by expressing opinions, which can be as debatable as yours when you say 
my statement is senseless.
But granted, I can be harsh in opinions *about what is said*. I like to 
start from a vehemently asserted disagreement, which makes a good basis 
for debate. Seems to me that taking the time to answer Peter is a mark 
of respect towards what he writes, which deserves discussion. Otherwise 
I would not have even taken the time to reply (the same applies to you, 
BTW). If I think and write that a viewpoint is "dangerously naive", it's 
not a judgment passed on people asserting the viewpoint, but on the 
viewpoint itself. I did not write "Peter, you are dangerously naive". 
That would have been "tragic" indeed. Hope you catch the difference, as 
hopefully Peter did (but let him answer to that himself).

Best regards.

Bernard

PS: If you think my statement is senseless, feel free to explain why, as 
Alan took the time to do. (Can be privately, I think we're wandering off 
this list's scope here).

>
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Bernard Vatant" 
> <bernard.vatant@mondeca.com>
> To: "Peter Ansell" <ansell.peter@gmail.com>
> Cc: "Bijan Parsia" <bparsia@cs.man.ac.uk>; "Semantic Web" 
> <semantic-web@w3.org>
> Sent: Thursday, July 03, 2008 12:52 PM
> Subject: No universal things Re: comparing XML and RDF data models
>
>
>
>
>>> [Bijan] I don't know what a universal thing (is).
>>>
>>
>> [Peter] Sorry, I thought that would be obvious. In my realist view 
>> there are
>> things that people are trying to describe using RDF and those things
>> have identities, which we are labelling with names, or describing
>> through identifying properties. These are universal things. If you
>> want to establish equality you are likely to be doing it at this
>> level, unless you assume that markup is everything and a thing is only
>> in existence because there is a description of it, and the description
>> of the thing causes the thing to exist.
>>
> Peter, sorry to be as harsh on that as Bijan has been, but I consider
> this viewpoint as not sustainable, and dangerously naive.
>
> I for one assume very strongly indeed that 'the description of the thing
> causes the thing to exist', and my hunch is that Bijan will follow me on
> this (at least I hope so). What we deal with in our information systems
> are only descriptions (signs). A 'thing' exists insofar as we have made
> a description which somehow cuts out the world representation in some
> arbitrary way between 'this thing' and the rest. The world is a
> continuum, it's not naturally divided into things which would be given,
> and  which we could describe as accurately as possible. Things emerge
> from descriptions, conversation about descriptions, and so do identity
> and difference. We might at some level of granularity agree we are
> describing the 'same' thing, based on the mutual logical consistency of
> descriptions, and a mutual agreement on which set of property/value
> pairs we consider as "identifying". Then further down the road, drilling
> down more precisely our respective descriptions, we can come to a point
> were those descriptions are no more consistent, and we then agree we
> were speaking about different things indeed. This should not be an
> issue, but the basis of day-to-day practice.
> I had this viewpoint even before beginning to work in those
> technologies, and was quite happy to find out that ten years or so of
> work in very various industries and projects had brought me a huge pile
> of examples to illustrate and confort it. Not only I don't know what a
> universal thing is, but I'm pretty much convinced that this is a void
> and useless concept. It's been counter-productive in science for
> centuries. Physics had to go over the notion of universal thing to
> understand that light is neither a wave, nor a particle. Biology to go
> over the notion of taxa as rigid concepts based on phenotypes to
> understand genetics etc. Many examples can be found in all science 
> domains.
> My day-to-day experience in ontology building, listening to domain
> experts, is indeed not that 'there are things that people are trying to
> describe', but that 'there are descriptions people take for granted they
> represent things before you ask, but really don't know exactly what
> those things are when you make them look closely'. When you play the
> game, simply asking questions such as "in which way X is different of
> Y", or "what does this mean exactly", you always bring domain experts to
> acknowledge this. And all our job is not to figure out 'what the domain
> things really are' and 'describe them properly', but to bring people to
> acknowledge the arbitrary nature of their descriptions, the fundamental
> impossibility to capture their referent in an exhaustive way, hence the
> necessity of consensus at a certain level of complexity and granularity,
> on which to build systems that work. The world does not need to be
> consistent and logically organized, but our systems need to be.
>
> Bernard
>

-- 

*Bernard Vatant
*Knowledge Engineering
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*Mondeca**
*3, cité Nollez 75018 Paris France
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Mail:     bernard.vatant@mondeca.com <mailto:bernard.vatant@mondeca.com>
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Received on Thursday, 3 July 2008 13:00:32 UTC

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