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Re: Meaning of URIRefs (No Ancient Philosophical Disputes!)

From: Sandro Hawke <sandro@w3.org>
Date: Fri, 25 Oct 2002 17:04:50 -0400
Message-Id: <200210252104.g9PL4ok25949@wadimousa.hawke.org>
To: Dan Brickley <danbri@w3.org>
cc: "Peter F. Patel-Schneider" <pfps@research.bell-labs.com>, phayes@ai.uwf.edu, www-rdf-interest@w3.org

> On Fri, 25 Oct 2002, Peter F. Patel-Schneider wrote:
> > It also is extraordinarily difficult to make a distinction between
> > definitional and non-definitional information.  For example, it is
> > definitional that tigers are mammals?  It is definitional that tigers come
> > from India?  It is definitional that tigers are an endangered species?  It
> > is definitional that tigers are a symbol of royalty?  Is it definitional
> > that tigers are to be revered?  Is it definitional that Tigger is a tiger?
> I agree wholeheartedly. There's a huge literature in philosophy and the
> cognitive sciences on Natural Kind definitions, categories etc. We really
> really don't want to go there. Maybe in version 4.0, if any of us are
> still going... ;-) Nah, even then, trying to say of a category which of
> its characteristics are considered 'defining' vs 'descriptive' is a recipe
> for building brittle systems, since subsequently realising that some
> characteristic of a class was incidental rather than essential would
> undermine all uses of that class. Some topics are too murky and social to
> be worth formalising...

I seem to recall from Materials (back when I thought I might be an
engineer) that in general if you want something to be stronger, you
have to accept that it will be more brittle.  It seems to me you're
advocating soup.

My definition of "definition" does *not* require settling any
philosophical disputes.  I'm just saying that when someone makes up a
name for something, they get the chance to make certain assertions
about that thing.  The choice to use a name involves accepting the
truth of those assertions.   

This is in spirit of what the editor's draft of the Concepts document
already says -- I'm just trying to make sure people understand the
complete ramificiations of this view and trying to find engineering
ways of making those ramifications acceptable.  One of the most
unfortunate ramifications is that term-reusers have to accept all the
assertions in the "definition" whether they are "definitional" or not,
because we can't really distinguish between the two.  This recent
thread is about whether that consequence is fatal or not.  I'm arguing
it's not all that bad.

    -- sandro
Received on Friday, 25 October 2002 17:05:31 UTC

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