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Re: [Dbpedia-discussion] Using DBpedia resources as skos:Concepts?

From: Pat Hayes <phayes@ihmc.us>
Date: Thu, 5 Nov 2009 13:52:45 -0600
Cc: Alexandre Passant <alexandre.passant@deri.org>, Richard Cyganiak <richard@cyganiak.de>, dbpedia-discussion@lists.sourceforge.net, SKOS <public-esw-thes@w3.org>
Message-Id: <50D60BF4-3B30-4026-AEFB-45E50C5F2432@ihmc.us>
To: Leonard Will <L.Will@willpowerinfo.co.uk>

On Nov 4, 2009, at 6:43 AM, Leonard Will wrote:

> On Wed, 4 Nov 2009 at 08:15:18, Alexandre Passant <alexandre.passant@deri.org 
> > wrote
>> I think that is the question that should be answered here.
>> The SKOS spec says: "A SKOS concept can be viewed as an idea or  
>> notion; a unit of thought. However, what constitutes a unit of  
>> thought  is subjective, and this definition is meant to be  
>> suggestive, rather  than restrictive."
>> So, do the SKOS implementors consider that, while subjective,  
>> anything can be allowed to go under skos:Concept ?
>> If not, shouldn't a disjunction be introduced in SKOS to prevent  
>> that ?
>> I find all these SKOS properties more that useful, but that  
>> subjectivity regarding skos:Concept is imo an issue - I personally  
>> limit the use of skos:Concept to non-physical objects / abstract  
>> notions, but since that's subjective, someone else will use it for  
>> anything, e.g. foaf:Person, and may lead to disagreement between us  
>> - and related applications.
>> Thanks,
>> Alex.
> From the point of view of thesaurus standards, "concept" is used  
> with a very general meaning - "unit of thought" - which was  
> introduced to distinguish between that and the various different  
> "terms" that may be used to label it. A concept is defined by its  
> scope note, if present, and/or by its various terms and relationships.
> In a thesaurus, concepts are divided into several disjoint facets,  
> such as people, objects, activities, disciplines, places, times, and  
> "abstract concepts" such as "peace", "friendship", "intellectual  
> property" and so on.

I have to say, I find this extremely puzzling. Taking the second  
paragraph at face value, so that 'people' means actual living people,  
etc.,. then none of these real things are in what I would understand  
the category "unit of thought" to be. Both that opaque phrase and the  
word "concept" are usually understood to have some kind of  
psychological connection. The concept of an object is not the object  
itself, precisely because the concept, but not the object, can indeed  
be the stuff of a thought: a concept is an idea of a thing, not the  
actual thing. One cannot burn a concept, or make love to it, or kill  
it. One cannot usually even observe it. One can however learn it, or  
form it mentally, or fail to understand it: none of which can be done  
to physical things. And even if one slurs the use/mention distinction  
(a bad idea, but even if) so that this is understood to refer to the  
object of a thought, the thing the thought is *about*, it still is a  
very odd notion. Most things in the universe have never been thought  
about. There are surely objects that have never been thought about and  
never will be thought about (a particular grain of sand on a beach  
during the fall of Carthage) so which cannot ever be a "unit of  
thought" even in this broken sense of being the referent (rather than  
the content) of a thought.

BTW, there is yet another problem with the phrase "unit of thought",  
which is its presumption that thoughts can be divided into "units".  
But let us leave that issue aside, as the other is more pressing.

There seems to be a problem in the very heart of the SKOS design. Is  
it talking about things, or about concepts of things? Y'all really  
need to get this straight before proceeding.

> The choice of these facets may vary in different applications;  
> "people" could be part of an "organisms" facet, for example, and  
> might or might not include "organisations" or "groups of people".
> As SKOS was developed to handle thesaurus structures, I believe that  
> the use of "concept" in SKOS is in accordance with this. Mrs Obama  
> is an "instance" of a concept within the "people" facet.

Mrs Obama is a living, breathing human being. To my mind, that is  
enough to prevent her ever being a concept. She may well have a  
concept of herself, and others also may have concepts of her. But none  
of these concepts of her are the lady herself.

Pat Hayes


> Leonard Will
> -- 
> Willpower Information     (Partners: Dr Leonard D Will, Sheena E Will)
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Received on Thursday, 5 November 2009 19:54:18 UTC

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