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Re: Social Meaning in Concepts and Abstract Syntax

From: Graham Klyne <GK@ninebynine.org>
Date: Tue, 25 Feb 2003 13:03:13 +0000
Message-Id: <5.1.0.14.2.20030225125834.04436b10@127.0.0.1>
To: Bijan Parsia <bparsia@isis.unc.edu>, Brian McBride <bwm@hplb.hpl.hp.com>
Cc: www-rdf-comments@w3.org

Bijan,

Thank you for your comments.  I think your preference here is clear enough, 
without paraphrasing:

[[
>Section 4 of Concepts and Abstract should be struck.
]]

This issue has already been raised, and is subject to some debate, and, 
without prejudicing the outcome of our debate, I'm pretty sure there will 
be some big changes.

Brian:  do we need to raise a separate issue for this, or can we tag it 
onto an existing one?  (Your call.)

#g
--

At 12:02 AM 2/22/03 -0500, Bijan Parsia wrote:

>Section 4 of Concepts and Abstract should be struck.
>
>I have a general argument for this, as well as some specific ones.
>
>The general one is that specifying the interaction between "social" and 
>formal meaning, heck, just specifying much of anything about social 
>meaning is an INCREDIBLY hard task. So either this section is vacuous 
>(i.e., it doesn't really specify anything and thus can be ignored) or it's 
>dangerously underthought and underspecified.
>
>This is aside from the fact that the W3C is probably, by ordinary social 
>conventions, the wrong authority to be specifying "social" meaning. For 
>example:
>         """Human publishers of RDF content commit themselves to the 
> mechanically-inferred social obligations."""
>
>Does this mean, "Hey there, by the laws of the US and most countries of 
>the world, if you publish RDF on your website, then you're committed to 
>the mechanically-inferred social obligations"? If so, it's merely 
>informative (and, in fact, probably false). If it's intended to *make it 
>so*, then where do you get this authority?
>
>Goodness, have any lawyers looked at this?
>
>I mean, the fact that you have written "mechanically-inferred" is *itself* 
>scarily sloppy. After all, that's reasonably interpreted as *any inference 
>drawn by a program*, regardless of whether its using RDF(S) entailment or not!
>
>-------
>Detailed comments:
>
>***Section 4:
>"""There are two aspects to the meaning of an RDF graph. There is the 
>formal meaning as determined by the RDF semantics [RDF-SEMANTICS]. This 
>determines, with mathematical precision, the conclusions that can 
>logically be drawn from an RDF graph."""
>
>Do you mean that only RDF(S) entailments can be logically drawn from an 
>RDF graph? That's wrong, as with an OWL reasoner I can draw more 
>conclusions. And, if we interpret logically strongly, e.g., as 
>"reasonable" (distinct from formal) then I can logically draw *all sorts* 
>of conclusions from an RDF graph that aren't sanctioned by the Semantics.
>
>"""There is also the social meaning of the graph. It is the social meaning 
>that affects what it means to people and how it interacts with human 
>social institutions such as our systems of law."""
>
>To the exclusion of the formal meaning? Yet 4.4 explicitly connects them. 
>Indeed, if correct, 4.4 establishes a certain social meaning of an RDF 
>graph (which includes the social meaning of the formal implications of the 
>*formal* meaning of the RDF graph).
>
>***Section 4.1:
>"""RDF/XML expressions, i.e. encodings of RDF graphs, can be used to make 
>claims or assertions about the 'real' world. Such expressions are said to 
>be asserted."""
>
>I'm scared that you use scare quotes for 'real'. I just don't know how to 
>interpret that. Further more, this section doesn't say HOW one asserts 
>with RDF expression. Also, it's reasonable to say that only RDF/XML 
>expression can be used to make claims or assertions. But presumably the 
>*graphs* are the primary carriers of meaning?
>
>The second paragraph makes more claims about unasserted graphs with no 
>specification of when graphs are asserted and *how one fixes the meaning 
>of the asserted graph*. I mean *fix* it, to a *specific* grounded 
>interepretation.
>
>***Section 4.2:
>
>"""When an RDF graph is asserted in the Web, its publisher is saying 
>something about their view of the world. """
>
>Again, how do I assert a graph (or *not* assert) a graph "in" the Web? 
>Also, in general if *I* assert something, I'm typically saying something 
>about *the world*, not my view of it. Also, a publisher may not be, and 
>may *typically* not be the asserter. Indeed, what is it to be the 
>*publisher*, in this context? The ISP? The web hosting company? The author 
>of the document?
>
>"""Such an assertion should be understood to carry the same social import 
>and responsibilities as an assertion in any other format. """
>
>Well, with HTML, I'm not committed to the mechanically-inferred 
>conclusions of the HTML dom tree. So....?
>
>2.3
>"RDF has a formal semantics which provides a dependable basis for 
>reasoning about the meaning of an RDF expression. In particular, it 
>supports rigorously defined notions of entailment which provide a basis 
>for defining reliable rules of inference in RDF data."
>
>Hmm. A formal semantics does make it easier to reason about the *formal* 
>meaning of an RDF expression. It also makes it easier to reason *with* 
>that expression (which I take the second sentence to express). It doesn't 
>help with social meaning, though, contrary to 4.4:
>
>"""The meaning of an RDF document includes the social meaning, the formal 
>meaning, and the social meaning of the formal entailments. The assertion 
>of an RDF graph G, when G logically entails G', includes the implicit 
>assertion of G'. The implied assertion of G' should be interpreted using 
>the same social conventions that are reasonably used to interpret the 
>assertion of G."""
>
>My reaction to this is, "Wow, that's *CRAZY*!!!!" I do not exaggerate. 
>There's also a bunch of inconsistency in that section, for example:
>
>4.2: """Such an assertion should be understood to carry the same social 
>import and responsibilities as an assertion in any other format."""
>
>But the normal social import and responsibilities of an assertion in HTML 
>is *not* the social import and responsibilities of the *formal* 
>entailments (especially not the FOL entailments of an RDF regimentation 
>of) that HTML. (For one, I'd rather be committed to the relevant 
>implications of my statments.) Plus, consider the common social meaning of 
>Moore's paradox: "I don't believe it's raining".
>
>""""A combination of social (e.g. legal) and technical machinery 
>(protocols, file formats, publication frameworks) provide the contexts 
>that fix the intended meanings of the vocabulary of some piece of RDF, and 
>which distinguish assertions from other uses (e.g. citations, denials or 
>illustrations)."""
>
>Well, in a *normative specification*, I would expect this combination to 
>be spelt out. It isn't.
>
>Plus, *intended* meanings, by their nature *ALWAYS* can come unstuck from 
>the conventions and formal/techincal structures of the meaning carrying 
>expression. How does speaker's meaning (vs. sentence meaning) come into 
>play. If I *intended* to refer to John when I say Mary, what have I done 
>from the RDF point of view?
>
>There's a large philosophical literature on this. At best, you can hope to 
>fix the *sentence* meaning.
>
>"""The social machinery includes the form of publication: publishing some 
>unqualified statements on one's World Wide Web home page would generally 
>be taken as an assertion of those statements. """
>
>Generally. And if not so taken? Is it *correct* to so take? On what 
>ground? In which juristiction? How is this normative?
>
>"""But publishing the same statements with a qualification, such as "here 
>are some common myths", or as part of a rebuttal, would likely not be 
>construed as an assertion of the truth of those statements. Similar 
>considerations apply to the publication of assertions expressed in RDF."""
>
>Be construed. By whom? Speaking as someone who's *often* misread (e.g., as 
>asserting things I explicitly deny), what other people *construe* of what 
>I assert is very far from determinative of what I assert.
>
>"""An RDF graph may contain "defining information" that is opaque to 
>logical reasoners. This information may be used by human interpreters of 
>RDF information, or programmers writing software to perform specialized 
>forms of deduction in the Semantic Web."""
>
>Again with the scare quotes. Scare quotes are used to indicate that the 
>enclose words are not being used in their normal sense. But there's no 
>vague, much less precise, definition of "defining information". And I'm a 
>logical reasoner, will this information be opaque to me? (Well, if in 
>German, yes, but *all* human reasoners?)
>
>***4.3:
>
>""The social conventions surrounding use of RDF assume that any RDF URI 
>reference gains its meaning from some defining individual, organization or 
>context. This applies most notably to RDF predicate URI references."""
>
>Actually I presume that people do the presuming. And are these social 
>conventions true in all societies? Are you reporting, or specifying?
>
>""""Thus, the choice of terms used in published RDF is significant in 
>determining its meaning, through reference to definitions asserted by the 
>defining authorities for those terms."""
>
>How does this fit in with my ability to use any URI in my ontology, making 
>any defining assertions I like about it?
>
>""""However, even when a URI reference can be dereferenced as an RDF/XML 
>document, it's use within an asserted RDF graph does not implicitly assert 
>the contents of the referenced document.""""
>
>So it's formal meaning isn't fixed IN ANY WAY by the "authority"? And the 
>social meaning?
>
>***4.4
>
>"""Human publishers of RDF content commit themselves to the 
>mechanically-inferred social obligations.""""
>
>I discussed this above. It's also unclear what the mechanically-inferred 
>*social obligations* are (as opposed to the mechanically inferred *formal 
>entailments*).
>
>"""The meaning of an RDF document includes the social meaning, the formal 
>meaning, and the social meaning of the formal entailments. The assertion 
>of an RDF graph G, when G logically entails G', includes the implicit 
>assertion of G'. The implied assertion of G' should be interpreted using 
>the same social conventions that are reasonably used to interpret the 
>assertion of G."""
>
>Oh, this might fix it. But what if the social meaning of the set of 
>explicit assertions is different from the set of those of the set of 
>implicit assertion? heck, if people general work with a relevance logic 
>(more likely than RDF entailment), then you *explicitly* don't always 
>endorse/believe P & ~P even if you assert/believe each conjunct separately.
>
>Finally, if I assert a contradiction (which I can do, *even in rdf*), am I 
>thereby commmited to the social meaning of EVERYTHING?
>
>Oops, out of time.
>
>Cheers,
>Bijan Parsia.

-------------------
Graham Klyne
<GK@NineByNine.org>
Received on Tuesday, 25 February 2003 12:19:45 GMT

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