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Re: New version of URI Declarations [Usage scenarios]

From: John Cowan <cowan@ccil.org>
Date: Fri, 14 Mar 2008 15:33:22 -0400
To: Pat Hayes <phayes@ihmc.us>
Cc: John Cowan <cowan@ccil.org>, "Booth, David (HP Software - Boston)" <dbooth@hp.com>, "www-tag@w3.org" <www-tag@w3.org>
Message-ID: <20080314193322.GF15842@mercury.ccil.org>

Pat Hayes scripsit:

> But this isn't how people in fact use names. They use them to refer, 
> and if they say wrong things about the referents using the names, 
> they correct those things rather than invent a new name. I very much 
> doubt if people will change these deeply held habits to suit some 
> proclamation from on high about declarations, nor indeed should they.

Quite right so far as natural proper names embedded in natural languages
are concerned.  But for formal, artificial names like URIs, meant to be
embedded into formal, non-natural languages, the case is quite otherwise.

> >> OK, then it follows that YOU are using your own name incorrectly,
> >> right?
> >
> >Sorry, this is unintelligible to me.
> 
> I don't believe you. Its perfectly intelligible, even to you.  

Let's not get carried away with assertions of malice here.  I (quite
naturally, I think) interpreted your phrase "your own name" in a posting
addressed to me to mean the name "John Cowan", which left me bewildered.

> I'll give you an example. Suppose that you were to declare jc:moon in 
> the way you described, and then another natural earth satellite is 
> discovered (perhaps extremely small and dark, which is why it was not 
> noticed before, but spectral analysis shows that it is a genuine 
> piece of moon-type rock, formed at the same approximate time and in 
> the same event as the moon was formed.) Now, your declaration of 
> jc:moon no longer identifies the big moon. But I bet that, just like 
> everyone else, you will will think of the URI as still denoting the 
> big moon, and would prefer to correct your definition rather than 
> invent a new name for the very same thing. 

If you are referring to me personally, I would much rather invent
new artificial names jc:moon-1 (the moon anciently known of old) and
jc:moon-2, and then copy over most or all of the assertions about jc:moon
to create novel assertions about jc:moon-1.  Remember that "jc:moon"
in this context is an artificial name too, an abbreviation for some URI,
not the English-language name "the Moon".

Let us take a more realistic example.  Until recently, the registrar
of ISO 639-3 promulgated a URI which we may abbreviate as 639-3:ccy,
referring to a purported language called "Southern Zhuang" in English.
In 2006, they concluded that there were in fact five distinct languages
formerly lumped as "Southern Zhuang".  Rather than worrying about which,
if any, of these might be the true Southern Zhuang, or if all were,
they simply deprecated 639-3:ccy and introduced five new URIs.

> That is precisely what I want to avoid. Note however that it 
> certainly can be "Im not sure exactly what this denotes, but it 
> doesn't matter; because if you agree with what I say about it, we can 
> communicate on that basis", which does not require any kind of 
> declaration at all.

Well, there you are: with which parts am I bound to agree on pain of
talking about something else altogether, and which may I freely
contradict, when speaking in a formal language?

> I agree its not circular, but I also don't think it is is useless. In 
> fact, there is good reason to suppose that most communication between 
> human beings has exactly this character. None of us know exactly what 
> others are referring to, and it almost never matters.

What do you mean by "exactly"?  When I refer to Gell-Mann, I know who
he is and that he is distinct from Feynman, even though I cannot give
necessary and sufficient conditions for him just at present.  But if
I wanted to, I could, at least in principle, and that in all possible
worlds.

-- 
John Cowan <cowan@ccil.org>             http://www.ccil.org/~cowan
It's like if you meet an really old, really rich guy covered in liver
spots and breathing with an oxygen tank, and you say, "I want to be
rich, too, so I'm going to start walking with a cane and I'm going to
act crotchety and I'm going to get liver disease. --Wil Shipley
Received on Friday, 14 March 2008 19:34:05 GMT

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