W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > uri@w3.org > April 2003

Re: resources, stuffs and individuation

From: pat hayes <phayes@ai.uwf.edu>
Date: Wed, 23 Apr 2003 00:52:18 -0500
Message-Id: <p05111b0dbacbd365f32c@[]>
To: "Roy T. Fielding" <fielding@apache.org>
Cc: uri@w3c.org

>>>If you have suggested wording to change, then please suggest it.
>>I believe I have already pointed out wording which I feel needs 
>>changing. I cannot suggest a correction because I do not know what 
>>the words are intended to convey; that is precisely my point.
>Here is my problem: 100 philosophers are in a room talking about the
>nature of resources.

Just an aside, but I doubt if any philosopher has ever argued about 
that. The term 'resource' as used in W3C circles is a private term of 
art in the W3C, and not used in this sense by any other community as 
far as I know.

>Some subset of them disagree on the definition
>of "identity", which causes some commotion even though the technology
>doesn't change regardless of which definition is used to replace the
>word in the sentence defining Resource.

The technology will change if we restrict "resource" to only refer to 
things that are in some sense 'identified' by a URI. That has 
immediate technological consequences for a whole range of 
applications, or else we will have to rewrite several draft W3C specs.

>Nevertheless, because this
>bone of contention is the current focus of debate, that subset of
>philosophers desires that the word "identity" be removed from the
>definition so that they can stop arguing about it.
>That would be a fine solution, if it weren't for the fact that those
>people are only a subset of the philosophers in the room.  There are,
>in fact, larger subsets that are busy arguing about "anything", and
>others who will only surface once "identity" is removed (because any
>other word used in its place will topple their favorite apple cart).

I sympathise with your frustration with philosophy; I share it myself 
to a large extent. But I have found that the best way to handle it is 
actually to learn some philosophy, oddly enough, if one insists on 
making philosophical pronouncements; and this sentence seems to be 

>I have already gone through this process twice -- once in 1997 and
>again on the TAG list last year.  I am not going to go through it
>again until all of the philosophers reach consensus on new wording
>for the definition that takes into account the entire scope of 2396
>in its role of defining URIs for all Internet protocols.
>The existing definition is the only one that reached rough consensus
>before, and I don't think it can be improved without artificially
>constraining the technology.
>   A resource can be anything that has identity.
>It means exactly what it says in English.

My problem with it is precisely that in the English I speak and read, 
it means "A resource can be anything." However, the extra words, and 
your insistence upon them, seem to indicate that this isn't what you 
intend it to mean. Hence, I am left unsure about what it does mean, 
as I have been ever since I first read it; and I don't think I am 

>If you can come up with
>a better definition and can get rough consensus that it doesn't exclude
>things that others consider to be resources, then I'll put that in the

I would prefer to not exclude anything. What's wrong with. "A 
resource can be anything."  I can't see any reason so far to impose 
any kind of restriction on what can count as one.

>>>If you don't, then this is a redundant discussion
>>It is not redundant. You may feel it is unimportant, but neither 
>>you nor anyone else, as far as I know, has answered the questions.
>Of course I consider it to be important.  I don't argue about
>unimportant changes to the specification.  However, I am not going
>to spend time word-crafting definitions for others when I think
>their opinion is in the minority.  This task is hard enough already.
>And yes, I have already answered this question many times -- here is
>a link to the most recent:

Thanks for the pointer, but Im afraid that only makes things worse 
for me. I have no idea what you are talking about in this message. 
What for example is a 'system of identification'? What is 'sameness 
of essential character'?  Does it differ from inessential character, 
for example? Citing Webster isnt good enough, sorry: we are trying to 
get these ideas tied down well enough so that we can use mathematics 
on them. (BTW, if this is not a philosophical discussion, I must be 
dreaming.)  What do you mean by an 'identification mechanism'? 

Your example of the clock I find particularly confusing. Why would it 
be a different resource if it gives me UTC time rather than local 
time? The criteria for what counts as a resource seem to be getting 
murkier with every sentence in your explanation, rather than clearer. 
(BTW, can the time itself be a resource?)

Im not trying to be difficult, honestly. I am just totally confused. 
None of what you say about resources enables me to get a clear 
picture of what you mean by the term.

Let me ask: why do we need to attempt to define or limit the term? 
What is wrong with just saying, a resource can be anything?

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Received on Wednesday, 23 April 2003 01:52:21 GMT

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