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Re: Meaning of URIRefs (No Ancient Philosophical Disputes!)

From: Dan Brickley <danbri@w3.org>
Date: Fri, 25 Oct 2002 17:25:35 -0400 (EDT)
To: Sandro Hawke <sandro@w3.org>
cc: "Peter F. Patel-Schneider" <pfps@research.bell-labs.com>, <phayes@ai.uwf.edu>, <www-rdf-interest@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.30.0210251720040.22343-100000@tux.w3.org>

On Fri, 25 Oct 2002, Sandro Hawke wrote:

> >
> > On Fri, 25 Oct 2002, Peter F. Patel-Schneider wrote:
> > > It also is extraordinarily difficult to make a distinction between
> > > definitional and non-definitional information.  For example, it is
> > > definitional that tigers are mammals?  It is definitional that tigers come
> > > from India?  It is definitional that tigers are an endangered species?  It
> > > is definitional that tigers are a symbol of royalty?  Is it definitional
> > > that tigers are to be revered?  Is it definitional that Tigger is a tiger?
> >
> > I agree wholeheartedly. There's a huge literature in philosophy and the
> > cognitive sciences on Natural Kind definitions, categories etc. We really
> > really don't want to go there. Maybe in version 4.0, if any of us are
> > still going... ;-) Nah, even then, trying to say of a category which of
> > its characteristics are considered 'defining' vs 'descriptive' is a recipe
> > for building brittle systems, since subsequently realising that some
> > characteristic of a class was incidental rather than essential would
> > undermine all uses of that class. Some topics are too murky and social to
> > be worth formalising...
> I seem to recall from Materials (back when I thought I might be an
> engineer) that in general if you want something to be stronger, you
> have to accept that it will be more brittle.  It seems to me you're
> advocating soup.
> My definition of "definition" does *not* require settling any
> philosophical disputes.  I'm just saying that when someone makes up a
> name for something, they get the chance to make certain assertions
> about that thing.  The choice to use a name involves accepting the
> truth of those assertions.

That makes disagreement difficult. If I can't use your terms without the
baggage that comes with them, I'll find it hard to use RDF to express the
detail of certain kinds of disagreement.

A minimal consequence of this is that it suggests RDF reification is
broken, since I can't even "scare quote" something you say without using
your term and (on your reading) endorsing the package of assertions it was
introduced to the Web with.

> This is in spirit of what the editor's draft of the Concepts document
> already says -- I'm just trying to make sure people understand the
> complete ramificiations of this view and trying to find engineering
> ways of making those ramifications acceptable.  One of the most
> unfortunate ramifications is that term-reusers have to accept all the
> assertions in the "definition" whether they are "definitional" or not,
> because we can't really distinguish between the two.  This recent
> thread is about whether that consequence is fatal or not.  I'm arguing
> it's not all that bad.

If the RDF Concepts doc really says this, it's broken and needs fixing.
URIs shouldn't carry secret baggage. Consider a bookmark system that
mentions lots of URIs, or something like DMoz / Open Directory. If I
wanted to protect my URIs from being 'talked about' by others, I could
just define them with lots of libellous (or racist, sexist or otherwise
offensive) claims such that nobody else would ever dare to mention them.
That doesn't seem optimal...

Received on Friday, 25 October 2002 17:25:37 UTC

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