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

From: Antoine Isaac <aisaac@few.vu.nl>
Date: Thu, 05 Nov 2009 21:46:00 +0100
Message-ID: <4AF33988.7090005@few.vu.nl>
To: Leonard Will <L.Will@willpowerinfo.co.uk>
CC: Pat Hayes <phayes@ihmc.us>, Alexandre Passant <alexandre.passant@deri.org>, Richard Cyganiak <richard@cyganiak.de>, dbpedia-discussion@lists.sourceforge.net, SKOS <public-esw-thes@w3.org>
Pat, Leonard, others,

To re-use Pat's wording, SKOS is on the side of "concepts of things". 

I tend to use a (a bit dubious from an intellectual perspective, but often useful in practice) "creator" test, which I think comes from examples by Alistair Miles and Dan: if the "creator" of the Mrs Obama we are considering are her parents, then it's probably not a concept; if it's something like "Library Of Congress" then it's likely to be a concept (even if a concept belonging to a person-facet).
Trying to give it more flesh: concepts are elements from knowledge organization systems, they are here to provide with "vocabularies" that we use to categorize stuff around us. If her parents did not "create" (promised, that's the last time I'm using the word!) Mrs Obama as part of a knowledge-oriented structure, then one can certainly say they have not created a concept.


> On Thu, 5 Nov 2009 at 13:52:45, Pat Hayes <phayes@ihmc.us> wrote
>> On Nov 4, 2009, at 6:43 AM, Leonard Will wrote:
>>> 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.
>> Pat Hayes
> As so often in this field, as in philosophy, this problem boils down to 
> "it depends what you mean by ..."
> As I said above, the word "concept" is used in this context with a very 
> general meaning. Perhaps "unit of thought" does not express it well. We 
> really use to mean "something that can be thought about", or "something 
> that can be talked or written about in a 'document'" (where again 
> "document" is to be interpreted very broadly as any resource for 
> containing or communicating information).
> As you can certainly think about grains or sand, the fall of Carthage, 
> or Mrs Obama, these fall within our definition of "concept". Perhaps 
> some other word could be found to express this better and avoid 
> confusion with a narrower definition such as "abstract concept", but the 
> word "concept" is widely used in the thesaurus literature, in order to 
> make a distinction between the thing that is thought about and the words 
> that may be used to label it.
> My view of this is from the approach of the library / thesaurus / 
> knowledge organisation community and the ISO thesaurus standard working 
> party, and I cannot say definitively that the SKOS interpretation is the 
> same - there have been some erudite discussions here about the 
> difference between a thing and our thoughts about the thing, but from a 
> practical point of view of applying indexing terms to resources these 
> seem unnecessary.
> Leonard Will
Received on Thursday, 5 November 2009 20:46:41 UTC

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