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From: Lynn Andrea Stein <las@olin.edu>
Date: Sat, 18 Jan 2003 14:43:24 -0500
Cc: www-webont-wg@w3.org
To: "Peter F. Patel-Schneider" <pfps@research.bell-labs.com>
Message-Id: <1B33A7DD-2B1D-11D7-A3BA-0003935484F2@olin.edu>
From: Lynn Andrea Stein <las@olin.edu>
Date: Sat Jan 18, 2003  2:34:45  PM US/Eastern
To: "Peter F. Patel-Schneider" <pfps@research.bell-labs.com>
Cc: www-webont-wg@w3.org
Subject: Re: issues to be resolved before last call

I guess I'm sort-of wondering whether, by explicitly separating out the 
two senses of "meaning" (and maybe using a different term for at least 
one of them) we can find a succinct and satisfactory solution.  
Detailed comments at end.

> From: "Peter F. Patel-Schneider" <pfps@research.bell-labs.com>
> Date: Fri Jan 17, 2003  9:15:50  AM US/Eastern
> To: las@olin.edu
> Cc: www-webont-wg@w3.org
> Subject: Re: issues to be resolved before last call
>
> From: Lynn Andrea Stein <las@olin.edu>
> Subject: Re: issues to be resolved before last call
> Date: Fri, 17 Jan 2003 09:07:03 -0500
>
>> Thank you, Peter, for clarifying something that I have long known but
>> not been able to really wrap my head around:
>>
>>>
>>> Issues with RDF Concepts:
>>>
>>> 1/ The notion of social meaning has no place in the specification of 
>>> a
>>>    formal system.
>>>
>>>    PROPOSED RESOLUTION:  Social meaning, as defined in the RDF 
>>> Concepts
>>>    document, has no effect whatsoever on the meaning of OWL 
>>> ontologies.
>>>
>>>    NB:  I view this as an extremely serious issue.
>>>
>>>
>>
>> I believe that this is precisely the distinction between a formal
>> system and a social system.  In your proposed resolution, the word
>> "meaning" is used twice with two different senses.  By "the meaning of
>> OWL ontologies", I take it you intend something like denotational
>> semantics (though I don't mean to rule out an axiomatic encoding; I
>> just intend "what the term refers to").  But by "social meaning..." I
>> take RDF to intend something I'd call "effective semantics", i.e.,
>> "what work the term can do in the world".  So, for example, an 
>> ontology
>> may formally mean one thing but the courts may (in practice, perhaps
>> even incorrectly) use it as the basis for making a distinct legal
>> ruling.  The legal ruling may be at odds with the "meaning" in your
>> sense of the ontology, but it then becomes part of the "effective
>> semantics" or "social meaning" of the ontology.
>>
>> If, as I suspect may happen, the WebOnt WG goes with the formal notion
>> of "meaning", I think that it is important to clarify that this is the
>> kind of meaning we're talking about and that actual (if incorrect)
>> usage in the world is outside the scope of the formal specification.
>> (In fact, the formal specification is giving meaning to the notion of
>> "correct usage".  But "correct" is sometimes different from 
>> "effective"
>> in the philosophical and pragmatic senses.)
>>
>> This isn't necessarily the approach I'd take, but I think it's likely
>> to be the pragmatic solution to where we are.  I appreciate Peter's
>> phrasing it succinctly and, at least for me, really highlighting the
>> issue.  I'm fine with the proposed resolution *provided* the
>> distinction between meaning-in-Peter's-sense (and of course with a 
>> long
>> and glorious history!) and effectiveness/pragmatic utility is made.
>>
>> Lynn
>
> I would find it acceptable for the OWL documents to state that there 
> are
> social (or whatever they are called) meanings that are outside the 
> purview
> of the OWL specification, provided that it is also stated that there 
> can be
> multiple such meanings and that a single such meaning is almost 
> invariably
> impossible to achieve.
>
> I would prefer it if the OWL documents could be silent on this issue, 
> and
> let usage, convention, etc., determine social meaning, as they have 
> always
> done.  However, the RDF Concepts document normatively states that the
> entire social meaning of an RDF document is a part of the RDF meaning 
> of
> that document.  Therefore I believe that the OWL documents must 
> explicitly
> disavow this view.
>
> peter
>

If we separate the formal semantics of the document from its effective 
semantics, I *think* Peter's saying that social meaning (effective 
semantics) of OWL can be whatever external context makes it, but formal 
semantics should not be affected.  Since I also *think* that RDF 
Concepts is making social meaning part of the effective semantics of 
the document rather than its formal (denotational, etc.) semantics, I 
don't think there's any inconsistency.

I would find the solution suggested in Peter's first paragraph ("I 
would find it acceptable...") acceptable as well, but would also be OK 
in this sense with OWL's remaining silent as I *don't* understand there 
to be a conflict between RDF Concepts' and Peter's intentions, just 
ambiguity in the use of the term "meaning".

(In the below, the inner quotation is from Peter and the outer from Dan 
Connolly)
>
>>   Therefore I believe that the OWL documents must explicitly
>> disavow this view.
>
> That's unacceptable to me.
>
>> peter
>
> -- 
> Dan Connolly, W3C http://www.w3.org/People/Connolly/
>


I have high hopes that separating the two kinds of meaning will enable 
us to say something Peter finds acceptable that simultaneously 
satisfies Dan's (legitimate) concerns,

Lynn
Received on Saturday, 18 January 2003 14:43:30 GMT

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