Re: HTTP 1.1 document terminology.

[Warning... Philosophy flame comming]

Summary of note, this is not the time to open up this can of worms. The wording 
in the spec may appear broken but its best not to change it this close to the 

>A network data object or service that can be identified by a URI
>(section 7.2). A "resource" is a concept (a little like a
>Platonic ideal).  When represented electronically, a resource may be
>of the kind which corresponds to only one possible bit stream
>representation.  An example is the text version of an Internet
>RFC. That never changes. It will always has the same checksum.

If you wish to use a Platonic grounding then the principle of ideals
is best read as being a primitive grasp of the "abstraction" principle.
The "ideals" which Plato describes are universal exemplars. That is 
very much counter to what the Web is about. 

The first problem with stating that resources are "a little" like Platonic 
ideals is that this is precisely the opposite of what they are. The second is 
that by definition _everything_ is "a bit like" a Platonic ideal, i.e. 

Quote from MIT philosophy grad student:-
[Far better to be quoting from Hegel, (section 5 philosophy of right
idea = concept and actuation, without actuation concept is meaningless.
(and if you can quote from Hegel to clarify something you have problems]

>generic resource
>On the other hand, a resource may be generic in that as a concept it
>is well specified but not so specifically specified that it can only
>be represented by a single bit stream.  In this case, other URIs may
>exist which identify a resource more specifically. These other URIs
>identify resources too, and there is a relationship of genericity
>between the generic and the relatively specific resource.  As an
>example, successively specific resources might be

I think that this is serving to cloud the issue rather than clarify 
it. There are two possible groundings for the Web. One is in logical
positivism, the other is in Hermeneutics. The philosophy of the Web
BOF I held did not have anyone supporting the Logical Positivist
approach, not even myself and I wrote a thesis on the basis of such
a grounding. 

I think that the attempt to separate "resource" from "generic resource"
tries to make clear a point which the Web has profitably left fuzzy.
The problem is that there is no "Universal" ideal. All perceptions are
mediated by the observer, through the sensory apparatus, belief system
etc. One of the reasons why Logical Positivism collapsed as a metaphysical
project was that quantum mechanics and the Goedel incompleteness
proof demonstrated that logic alone was not a sufficient metaphysical
theory and that there was no universal comparability of experience.

For ZEUS the logical positivist approach was sufficient. We were dealing
with a closed form problem. The Web is attempting to deal with open 
form. It is meant to be a system of knowledge, not merely an information 
system. That is why it is important to get the terms right.

If you must ground the terms then I suggest getting a bona fide Philosopher
to do the heavy lifting. Dr. Herwitz is probably your best bet. I suggest that 
you don't open up that can of worms just before the completion deadline however. 
It may not look like it but its the naming problem can of worms you are opening. 
The failure of the URI group was due in large part to amateur expeditions in 
epistemology and semiotics. Whether you agree or disagree with Hermeneutics the 
class of problems the URI group failed to solve are a class of problems the 
hermeneutics litterature predicts cannot be solved.

There really is no difference between generic resources and resources. All 
resources are generic resources. The distinction to be made between signs is 
dependent on context. 

If we must settle this question I can get a MIT/Harvard A.B.D* in philosophy to 
provide consulting in return for food. They get touchy about demarcation 
disputes you know...


[A.B.D. = All But Disertation]

Received on Monday, 29 April 1996 18:41:41 UTC