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

Re: resources, stuffs and individuation

From: Roy T. Fielding <fielding@apache.org>
Date: Wed, 23 Apr 2003 03:11:56 -0700
Cc: uri@w3.org
To: pat hayes <phayes@ai.uwf.edu>
Message-Id: <035A1319-7574-11D7-8BF6-000393753936@apache.org>

>> 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.

You sound as if the term philosopher has some private meaning.
I can assure you that there are well over 100 philosophers in the W3C
and IETF, and a good many of them even have Ph.D.s.  I can further 
you that many of them argue about "resource" far too frequently, as 
by the size of my saved mailbox.  Whether or not they are qualified to
be called "philosophers" is yet another ontological debate that is
better avoided.

>> 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.

Which is, of course, why the current definition does not do that.

>> 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 alone.
>> 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
>> specification.
> 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.

Anything includes those things that cannot be identified, and those 
are not resources.

>> http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-tag/2002Jul/0128.html
> 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.)

Heh, that's amusing.  I'd cite the OED or some more definitive source,
but they don't have a convenient website.

Mathematics is a tool, not an answer.  If you can't do the translation,
then maybe you are using the wrong tool.  What good is having a 
model if that model fails to correspond to what is supposed to be 
Maybe the wrong type of mathematics is being applied.

> What do you mean by an 'identification mechanism'? (mechanism??)

A system of identification that has been mechanized.

> 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?)

What is time?  Please don't tell me it is an absolute quantity 
of any frame of reference.

> 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.

I think you need to slow down and spend more time thinking about it.
It's not as if this is a new subject, and I don't see any reason why
you need to completely understand it in an day's study.

> 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?

Because a resource must be identifiable.

Received on Wednesday, 23 April 2003 14:03:39 UTC

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