W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-swbp-wg@w3.org > January to March 2004

Re: Tech Plenary: agenda Best Practices

From: Jos De_Roo <jos.deroo@agfa.com>
Date: Thu, 4 Mar 2004 22:45:17 +0100
To: "Pat Hayes <phayes" <phayes@ihmc.us>
Cc: public-swbp-wg@w3.org, schreiber@cs.vu.nl
Message-ID: <OF2C825AF6.66AB271D-ONC1256E4D.00760F01-C1256E4D.00778A55@agfa.be>

Pat, as always, I fully agree with you :)
Just that 'meaning stability'; what do you mean by that ??

Jos De Roo, AGFA http://www.agfa.com/w3c/jdroo/

PS in non-linear control theory things could also be metastable :)

                      Pat Hayes                                                                                                         
                      <phayes@ihmc.us>          To:       schreiber@cs.vu.nl, public-swbp-wg@w3.org                                     
                      Sent by:                  cc:                                                                                     
                      public-swbp-wg-req        Subject:  Re: Tech Plenary: agenda Best Practices                                       
                      04/03/2004 19:37                                                                                                  

Sorry if this is too late for the Cannes discussion.

My 'top 3' would be:

1. Tell people how to put RDF/RDFS/OWL onto (or attach it to) a web page so
that it has some relevance to what is on their web page already (which is
almost certainly largely HTML). Or at least give them an inkling of an idea
how to do that and why it might be worth doing. In other words, take on the
task of the public-rdf-in-xhtml-tf effort and get it done.

2. Get across the idea that the SW will work best when people use one
another's concepts rather than invent their own, and tell people how to do
that. The point of having a topic in a Web ontology is to make
communication easier for agents. We should be thinking of ways to make this
easier to do: right now there is very little support. Obviously there
should be ways to find existing concepts and check them out (to find out if
they are close you the intended meaning one has in mind, or can be tweaked
so as to be) but we need also to deal with trust issues: like, to what
extent am I making my ontology hostage to J's ontology if I use J's
person-concept? Maybe (??) we need to think about a notion of 'meaning
stability' analogous to the best-practices rules for keeping URIs stable.

3. (Hendler's #2 - explain the mess)


4. Finally, this is a negative suggestion, but I would oppose any attempt
to tell the world how best to write ontologies; or if we cannot avoid doing
that, then let the advice be severely pragmatic and free from philosophical
punditry. There is a lingering (festering?) tendency among some folk to
want to give instruction from on high to the great unwashed on how they
should best think and express themselves. Unfortunately this advice is
similar to most religious doctrine: most of the energy is spent in endless
debates between rival doctrines, you can find some of it somewhere to
justify almost any action you want to take anyway, and when the rubber
meets the road most of it isn't really directly applicable in any case
without an expert there to interpret it for you.

The idea that mereology is fundamental, as opposed to simply being a useful
theory of parthood, is one example of a truly bad piece of ontological
doctrine. (c.f , from http://esw.w3.org/topic/PartWhole :" The partOf
relation is one of the basic structuring primitives of the universe"
Er...nonsense. The relation of PartOf cannot be used to "organize the
universe", which is why mereology never made it as a serious rival to set
theory, in spite of Nelson Goodman's strenuous efforts; and probably why it
plays no role in any of the sciences (Is the magnetism part of the
magnet?). It also is, arguably, not even a very good model of human
common-sense intuition, eg people are still arguing about some of Plato's
examples). Another is the pernicious idea that Clear Thinkers *must* make
some kind of basic ontological division of the universe into two disjoint
categories of enduring things and dynamic processes (cf
ontology.buffalo.edu/smith/articles/SNAP_SPAN.pdf ), and another is the
slightly barmy idea that modal reasoning is somehow connected with keeping
your databases up-to-date.

(By the way, it may be of interest to note that the first two of these both
have their intellectual roots in the same strand of Polish philosophy from
the late 1800s in Warsaw, for some reason. It is salutary to try reading
what the founder, Brentano, actually said. But just because Brentano (
was confused, there is no reason why the rest of us need to be, a century

Most of our philosophical ontological ideas have never been seriously
tested in the real world, and there are almost certainly real,
hard-to-solve problems out there that we have never thought of before. If
anything, now that we are asking the planet to do ontology, it might
behoove us to listen and learn, rather than have the hubris to think we can


IHMC       (850)434 8903 or (650)494 3973   home
40 South Alcaniz St.       (850)202 4416   office
Pensacola                 (850)202 4440   fax
FL 32501                     (850)291 0667    cell
phayes@ihmc.us       http://www.ihmc.us/users/phayes
Received on Thursday, 4 March 2004 16:45:55 EST

This archive was generated by hypermail pre-2.1.9 : Thursday, 4 March 2004 16:45:56 EST