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Re: Of "reification" (and sealing wax?)

From: pat hayes <phayes@ai.uwf.edu>
Date: Thu, 28 Jun 2001 10:51:52 -0500
Message-Id: <v04210106b760ff0c4f15@[]>
To: Graham Klyne <Graham.Klyne@Baltimore.com>
Cc: w3c-rdfcore-wg@w3.org
>I note that your response below was "penned" before your response to 
>my other message about abstract syntax [1].  I think the alternative 
>treatment of the "reification" quad indicated there might have had 
>some effect on your response.

Yes, and I was here assuming that the inner triples in the 
reification were intended to be RDF. I still think they should be, 
but lets go along with your idea for now.

>I'm suggesting an interpretation of the quad-expression as a kind of 
>definition, not as reification.  This why I hedged by saying the 
>'quadruple of triples that we call "reification"' -- I'm not clear 
>what "reification" is to logicians, but it seems that this is not 
>it.  (Is it really just quotation?)

Quotation is kind of the paradigm case, though someone on RDFLogic 
took me to task about this usage a while ago. Technically, 
'reification' just means 'treating as an entity', and what quotation 
does is to reify *character strings*, but one can talk about reifying 
anything: functions, relations, whatever. In the RDF context, 
'reification' seems to mean statement reification, for sure.

>I now see that my use of the notation (p s o) was wrong.
>I was intending to use (p s o) as a function application in this 
>case.  Thus, I was trying to say something like:
>  I(" id rdf:type rdf:Statement .
>      id rdf:predicate p .
>      id rdf:subject s .
>      id rdf:object o . " )
>      = (= id (I("p") I("s") I("o")))      [NOTE1] [NOTE2]
>where I("p"), I("s") and I("o") are provided by some other part of 
>the interpretation, and I("p") is a binary predicate.  In words, the 
>quadruple above means that the symbol "id" is bound to some binary 
>predicate associated with "p" applied to argument values associated 
>with "s" and "o" respectively.

OK, but what does that mean? In normal logic, the result of applying 
a binary predicate to two arguments is a truthvalue (T if the pair of 
arguments is in the extension of the relation, F otherwise.) So do 
you mean here to identify id with a truthvalue? (I doubt it :-) Or do 
you mean to say that id is the sentence? Or do you mean something 
else, like a proposition? (Exactly what a proposition is, is 
debateable, but one widely used notion is that it is a function from 
possible worlds to truthvalues.) The only thing that actually has the 
*syntax* still intact is the sentence (in one form or another: we 
could quibble about whether a sentence is a string or a set of 
triples or whatever, but let's not.)  It's just like a function call 
in a programming language: once you actually evaluate the thing, all 
you have is the value. If you want to keep the code around, then 
you'd better not call it.

>[NOTE1] I'm assuming here that I("id") = id -- that identifiers in 
>the language represent the same identifier in the domain of 
>interpretation -- is this valid?

Well, we can define I in any way we like; but this is, shall we say, unusual.

>[NOTE2] A reminder of the other message:  I am suggesting that the 
>quad is interpreted here in its entirety, not in terms of its 
>components as they might be understood in standard RDF.

Right, got that now.

>Then using your definition (lambda (x y)(if x then T else y)) for 
>'or', and 'id' as above:
>  (or id id) = (or (I("p") I("s") I("o")) (I("p") I("s") I("o")) )
>               ((lambda (x y)(if x then T else y))
>                        (I("p") I("s") I("o"))
>                        (I("p") I("s") I("o")))
>               ... etc.

You stopped just when it was getting interesting. Now evaluate that 
lambda-expression. You bind x and y both to (I("p") I("s") I("o")), 
then you ask if x, ie (I("p") I("s") I("o")), is true. Well, is it? 
If that denotes a truthvalue the question at least makes sense, but 
what if it does not?

>The reason for choosing 'or' here was quite arbitrary:

Sure, but I can run a similar kind of story with any other case. The 
basic point is that the subexpressions get semantically interpreted 
rather than passed as syntactic objects: interpreted rather than 


> it easily fitted the binary predicate form and was one of the 
>examples of "use" that you gave.  I might have chosen:
>    assert1 id x .
>and defined its interpretation as:
>    I("assert1 id x .") = I("id")
>                          ... etc.
>[1] http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/w3c-rdfcore-wg/2001Jun/0489.html
>At 12:08 PM 6/26/01 -0500, pat hayes wrote:
>>>I thought I had been converging on some understanding of these 
>>>issues, but my attempts to bridge the (mis)understandings seem to 
>>>keep "bouncing off" some fundamental block...
>>>At 11:22 PM 6/23/01 -0500, you wrote:
>>>>>A part of this will be deciding about the role of "reification", 
>>>>>or maybe some replacement idea.  I happen to think this is a key 
>>>>>area, because the issues of provenance/trust/logic depend on 
>>>>>being able to use a statement without asserting it.  (I am 
>>>>>skeptical that this can be retro-fitted to a core RDF consisting 
>>>>>of just asserted triples.)
>>>>This is probably going beyond the scope of this working group, 
>>>>but I would like to reiterate an opinion I have already voiced on 
>>>>RDF-logic. The previous paragraph seems to accept a view that 
>>>>seems to be built into RDF 1.0, but shouldn't be, since it is 
>>>>profoundly and totally mistaken. This is the view that an 
>>>>expression  must be either asserted or described (reified), so 
>>>>that anything that is not asserted must be reified. This view is 
>>>>so utterly wrong that I find it hard to understand how it ever 
>>>>got built into RDF. Every logic ever invented, from Aristotelian 
>>>>logic forwards, has used propositional expressions in ways other 
>>>>than asserting them, until RDF.  RDF, uniquely in the history of 
>>>>human language design, provides no way to use an expression other 
>>>>than to assert it. In effect, it has no propositional syntax. 
>>>>Reification does not provide a way to add one.
>>>>To see why this assumption is wrong, consider any simple 
>>>>propositional assertion which is more complicated than an atomic 
>>>>fact, eg say the negation of an atomic fact. If someone asserts 
>>>>(not P), they obviously do not assert P. However, they also do 
>>>>not *mention* P or *describe* P; they use the expression P in 
>>>>*exactly the same way in the same sense* as someone who asserts P 
>>>>simpliciter. Both asserting and denying are about the truth-value 
>>>>of the expression.
>>>>There are two different contrasts one needs to keep distinct: 
>>>>between using and mentioning an expression, and between an 
>>>>assertion and other uses of an expression. Denying P , or 
>>>>claiming that P implies Q, or that one of P, Q or R is true, all 
>>>>*use* 'P' in the same way that asserting P itself uses the 
>>>>expression. In modern boolean logic, they are all done by 
>>>>asserting some propositional expressions (respectively (not P), 
>>>>(implies P Q) and (or P Q R).) None of these involve mentioning 
>>>>or reifying the (sub)expressions which are being used.
>>>>All the model theories that have been suggested for RDF either 
>>>>ignore reification or treat it, correctly, as indicating that a 
>>>>statement exists. But if I assert (not P), ie if I deny P, I am 
>>>>not saying that P exists, still less that P doesn't exist: I am 
>>>>saying the world is such as to make P false, just as when I 
>>>>assert P I am saying the word is such as to make it true. In both 
>>>>cases I USE the expression to say something about the world, not 
>>>>MENTION it to say something about it.
>>>>I am not arguing that reification should be abandoned or 
>>>>forbidden (though I would shed no tears if it were). It may have 
>>>>some utility. But it should not, and indeed I think cannot 
>>>>coherently, be used as a tool to encode non-assertional uses of 
>>>>subexpressions. In particular, it cannot be used to encode 
>>>>negation, disjunction, quantification or any of the rest of 
>>>>'normal' logic, nor to encode modalities (such as indirect 
>>>>speech, as in transcribing "Ora said that Bill was Danish"; 
>>>>contrast direct quotation, as in "Ora said: 'Bill was Danish' " 
>>>>where Ora's actual words are cited, rather than the propositional 
>>>>content of what Ora said. The latter does indeed involve 
>>>>reification of a statement, indicated in English as in many 
>>>>technical languages by the use of quotation.) In brief: 
>>>>reification is a technical device of very limited utility; in 
>>>>particular, it cannot be used to 'retrofit' most aspects of a 
>>>>richer assertional language into RDF.
>>>I'd like to try a little "thought experiment":
>>>1.  Suppose we have a language, say RDF[0], whose *only* primitive 
>>>construct is the quadruple of triples that we call "reification":
>>>  id rdf:type rdf:Statement .
>>>  id rdf:predicate p .
>>>  id rdf:subject s .
>>>  id rdf:object o .
>>>It's not very expressive -- using this, you can't say anything 
>>>meaningful about the world.  It simply allows one to bind a binary 
>>>predicate to an identifier:  (= id (p s o) )
>>Well, there is something basically unclear about this language. You 
>>say its only primitive construct is reification, but that isnt 
>>quite correct, I think (?), since it USES triples in a non-reified 
>>way to do the reifying. If you try to give this a semantics you 
>>will see what I mean: eg, the interpretation of rdf:predicate is a 
>>binary relation between thingies of one kind called statements and 
>>thingies of another kind, and "id rdf:predicate p" is true (in I) 
>>when the pair < I("id") , I("p")> is in I("rdf:predicate"). In 
>>other words, those four triples inside the reifaction need to be 
>>interpreted as assertions (about setences, but still assertions) 
>>and those triples are bieng used, not reified. So you are 
>>restricting RDF here to a very small subset of RDF1.0, but it still 
>>obeys the interpretation rules of RDF 1.0.
>>>2.  Now suppose that we have a new language, RDF[1], which is the 
>>>same as RDF[0] but has an additional primitive construct:
>>>  or id id .
>>>which means, if id is bound as above, (or (p s o) (p s o) ), which 
>>>(under the usual meaning of or) is the same as (p s o).
>>The usual meaning of 'or' is the truth function (lambda (x y)(if x 
>>then T else y)). That doesnt give any value when applied to RDF 
>>sentences, which is what "id" denotes. You have missed out a vital 
>>step: you need to get from the expression itself (triple, in this 
>>case, denoted by "id") to its interpretation (a truthvalue, in a 
>>given interpretation, or maybe a proposition, or something like 
>>that: but not something syntactic like an expression or a sentence, 
>>for sure. What you need is the *meaning* of the sentence, in some 
>>suitable sense.) Again, try giving a semantics. The denotation of 
>>the expression "or id id" in an interpretation I is going to be 
>>some I-value for 'or' (never mind exactly what that is for now) 
>>applied (twice) to the I-value of "id";  I(" or id id") = I("or") ( 
>>I("id") I("id") ) and we know that I("id") is an expression 
>>(indicated by '(p s o)' ). Note that is not what you get when you 
>>USE the expression: if I were to assert (p s o) (ie to use it) then 
>>I wouldnt be referring to the sentence itself; I would be referring 
>>to a p-relation between two things called s and o (not two symbols 
>>called 's' and 'o'). That is not what is meant by
>>or (p s o) (p s o) , however. It is more like
>>or '(p s o) '(p s o)
>>(note the quote marks: ive used LISP-style quotes to indicate the 
>>triple rather than the character string.)
>>Now, one CAN make sense of this, but only by interpreting 'or' in a 
>>rather nonstandard way. Instead of a truth-function
>>(lambda (x y)(if x then T else y))
>>it has to be the functional product of this with a semantic 
>>evaluation function (often called a truth predicate.) So suppose 
>>that 'isTrue' is a predicate on expressions which obeys the 
>>semantic equation I(isTrue) = (lambda (x) I(x)), i.e. in any 
>>interpretation, it maps the expression to its value in that 
>>interpretation. Then the 'or' you want here is
>>(lambda (x y)(if x then T else y)) o isTrue
>>ie (lambda (x y)(if I(x) then T else I(y)))
>>which is the same as writing (using now the 'usual' truthfunctional or)
>>or isTrue((p s o)) isTrue((p s o))
>>rather than
>>or (p s o)(p s o)
>>So, why not always interpret 'or' in this kind of a way? Well, the 
>>trouble is, it then doesn't mean 'or' when used 'normally', ie if I 
>>simply assert (or A B) where A and B are sentences (not names of 
>>sentences) then this truth-evaluating interpretation of 'or' will 
>>try to look up the intepretation of the interpretation of A and B, 
>>instead of just interpreting A and B in the usual way. And there is 
>>a deeper reason why this is a bad idea: it involves the 
>>interpretation function (I) in its own definition, ie it makes 
>>interpretation recursive. That is where paradoxes creep in if one 
>>is even a tiny bit careless, and even if one isnt careless it makes 
>>the semantics very much more complicated.
>>>This RDF[1] seems to me to have the same expressive power as RDF. 
>>>But, as far as I can see, it establishes a framework for *use* of 
>>>a predicate that is bound using the construct that RDF calls 
>>No, you kind of slid from mention to use when you went from
>>or id id
>>or (p s o)(p s o)
>>>I can't see what I am missing when you say, categorically, that 
>>>"[RDF] has no propositional syntax. Reification does not provide a 
>>>way to add one".  Is the problem with the term "reification", or 
>>>is it fundamental in the structure suggested?
>>The point is that reification alone doesnt do it. Reification plus 
>>a truth-predicate (isTrue, or whatever) might be a way to do it, 
>>but its an amazingly ass-backwards and awkward and dangerous way to 
>>do something that ought to be blindlingly simple (and is, in 
>>virtually every other natural and formal language).
>>>(This is the kind of thing I have been trying to pursue with my 
>>>"abstract syntax" and subsequent attempt at a semantics.)
>>>I'm trying to capture that the following:
>>>  id rdf:type rdf:Statement .
>>>  id rdf:predicate was .
>>>  id rdf:subject Bill .
>>>  id rdf:object Danish .
>>>  Ora said id .
>>>can mean
>>>  "Ora said that Bill was Danish"
>>>rather than
>>>  "Ora said: 'Bill was Danish' "
>>??But the first one doesn't use reification, and the second one 
>>does, so why would you want RDF reification to mean the first one?
>>IHMC                                    (850)434 8903   home
>>40 South Alcaniz St.                    (850)202 4416   office
>>Pensacola,  FL 32501                    (850)202 4440   fax
>>phayes@ai.uwf.edu http://www.coginst.uwf.edu/~phayes
>Graham Klyne                    Baltimore Technologies
>Strategic Research              Content Security Group
><Graham.Klyne@Baltimore.com>    <http://www.mimesweeper.com>
>                                <http://www.baltimore.com>

IHMC					(850)434 8903   home
40 South Alcaniz St.			(850)202 4416   office
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Received on Thursday, 28 June 2001 11:51:57 UTC

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