W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-rdf-interest@w3.org > April 2003

RE: URI for language identifiers

From: <Patrick.Stickler@nokia.com>
Date: Wed, 2 Apr 2003 11:16:21 +0300
Message-ID: <A03E60B17132A84F9B4BB5EEDE57957B01B90C43@trebe006.europe.nokia.com>
To: <miles@milessabin.com>, <www-rdf-interest@w3.org>

> -----Original Message-----
> From: ext Miles Sabin [mailto:miles@milessabin.com]
> Sent: 01 April, 2003 17:55
> To: www-rdf-interest@w3.org
> Subject: Re: URI for language identifiers
> Peter F. Patel-Schneider wrote,
> [snip: lots of stuff I agree with]
> > For example, here is a view that I happen to subscribe to
> >
> > 	In any formal system, such as RDF, the denotation of a name
> > 	(including URI references as a special case) is left 
> unspecified.
> > 	Statements in the formal system, including RDF statements, serve
> > 	only as constraints on that denotation.  Any agent (including
> > 	people) choose to believe certain statements, and thus 
> every agent
> > 	can potentially have a different view of the denotation of any
> > 	particular name.
> Same here ... tho' I'd add (and I'd guess you'd agree) that 
> denotations 
> can be imposed externally to the formal system in non-arbitrary ways 

IMO, such constraints *must* be imposed outside the system. The 
system has no way to define the denotation of its atomic elements.
That is part of the bootstrapping of the system.

> which means that it makes sense (again, externally to the formal 
> system) to describe arbitrary reassignments of denotations as 
> idiosyncratic. For example reasonable people might differ 
> about whether 
> "http://www.w3.org/" denotes an organization, a web site or a 
> web page, 
> but asserting that it denotes the first poached egg consumed in Paris 
> would be ... umm ... peculiar ;-)

Well, regardless of what reasonable people might believe, it is up to
the owner of that URI to *say* what it denotes, and for all users of
that URI to respect that denotation.

To do otherwise is very bad practice, and highly anti-social behavior.

> Exactly how those external denotations come about is, of course, an 
> interminable puzzle in the philosophy of language ...

No. It's a straightforward process laid down (albeit in some ways
implicitly) in the web architecture.

The creator of a URI says what it denotes, and that denotation is
taken as system-external knowledge which that system can neither
codify nor question, but serves as the basis for the fundamental
operations of that system.

There is no philosophy involved whatsoever. 

RDF is not the same as natural language and does not suffer the kinds
of "philosophical puzzles" that you allude to regarding the assignment
of the denotation of terms.

> but as 
> far as I'm 
> concerned, any plausible answer has to accomodate both the use of the 
> term within a language community and some kind of quasi-causal 
> relationship between that use and the referent (ie. something midway 
> between Wittgenstein II and Kripke/Putnam).

The answer is simple. The creator of a URI says what it denotes, and
anyone else who uses that URI implicitly agrees with that denotation.

Perhaps this answer is just too simple for some. Perhaps it's not
interesting enough. But there it is...


Patrick Stickler, Nokia/Finland, (+358 40) 801 9690, patrick.stickler@nokia.com
Received on Wednesday, 2 April 2003 03:16:27 UTC

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.4.0 : Friday, 17 January 2020 22:44:41 UTC