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Re: Possible new issue: Things with and without identity?

From: Miles Sabin <miles@milessabin.com>
Date: Tue, 10 Sep 2002 02:20:27 +0100
To: uri@w3.org, rest-discuss@yahoogroups.com
Message-Id: <200209100220.27513.miles@milessabin.com>

Al Gilman wrote,
> At 07:17 PM 2002-09-09, Miles Sabin wrote:
> >There's also a brief discussion of the relation between stuffs and
> >things, but that's irrelevant here: RFC 2396 talks about things from
> >the outset, so individuation is already presupposed.
> Yes, but erroneously so.  This language in RFC 2396 was heuristic,
> and the idea that individuation and a persistent referenceable
> identity are intrinsic and universal in the Web, while central to the
> thinking of some people, did not at that time nor at this one reflect
> a globally valid interpretation of all the uses of URIs.

I must admit I'm a bit taken aback by this response, however ...

> And the distinction between things and stuffs is not at all
> irrelevant to building a reasonable engineering foundation for
> semantics for the Web.
> On the web we need to be able to refer to both stuffs and things.

... even tho' I don't have any particular metaphysical scruples when it 
comes to stuffs and substances, I'm afraid I simply don't buy this. 
Stuffs probably have a useful place somewhere, but I think not here.

> We just discovered we needed to factor ACSS into perturbations of the
> text-to-speech transform, which is analogous to font characteristic
> manipulation, and sonicons that are used as punctuation for phrasal
> elements. Analogous to quotation marks and other punctuation which
> appear in the final stream as characters but this is because these
> controls are of such antiquity that there are standard glyphic
> characters for them.
> The moral here is that this points straight at a distinction between
> text and fills, which are styled as stuffs, and list elements and
> paragraphs and such, which are styled as things.
> If we comprehend this distinction at the outset, it would make the
> whole job of characterizing styling a lot easier, and the result more
> like natural language semantics.

Why are fills stuffs? Sure, I fill my pies with apple (apple-stuff, not 
individual apples), but text is nothing like a pie. This is a physical 
analogy too far: surely text-fills are properties. That gets you a 
categorical distinction between text and fill ... but a different one.

> In particular, for my dump on how regarding a search URL as a
> reference to an identity is spurious, see
>   http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-talk/2001NovDec/0058.html
> It is just much more direct to view a search URL as subclassing a
> stuff and the server as returning references to things that exemplify
> the stuff that the user's URL described.

I have no idea what "subclassing a stuff" could possibly mean. I do 
understand types and subtypes tho'. And I've no idea how a thing 
"exemplifies" a stuff. A thing might exemplify (I'd prefer instantiate) 
a property, but it's _made_ of stuff ... and that's a different kind of 
relationship altogether.

Are we talking at cross-purposes? Do you mean by stuff what I mean by 

> The data of the 'dark Web' is more practical to approach as stuff
> typed by tuples of properties than as entified things. Or at least
> that view matches application semantics better.
>   http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/uri/2000Apr/thread.html#18

I can't see anything there which directly relates to this thread. Could 
you give me an example?

I can certainly see a case for properties having first class status on 
the web, and I have no problem with properties counting as resources 
and having URIs. You'd need, in effect a second-order version of,

  A resource can be anything that has identity.

but it's also true that in almost all second-order systems,

  (VX)(X = X)

(ie. a second-order quantifier ranging over properties) is either an 
axiom or a theorem, so "that has identity" is _still_ redundant.

I can't see any immediate role for stuffs tho', and the fact that 
there's no well worked out formal theory of stuffs doesn't help either.


Received on Monday, 9 September 2002 21:21:06 UTC

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