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web proper names

From: Henry Story <henry.story@bblfish.net>
Date: Mon, 20 Sep 2004 15:29:02 +0200
Message-Id: <098ADAF6-0B09-11D9-AB5A-000A95D9FA7A@bblfish.net>
Cc: h.halpin@ed.ac.uk, ht@inf.ed.ac.uk
To: www-rdf-interest@w3.org

I have just come across a very well written paper by Harry Halpin and 
Henry S. Thompson called "Web Proper Names: Naming Referents on the 
Web" [1]. I don't feel comfortable with the proposed solution to the 
problem, but I do feel he has described the problem itself very well, 
and given a very good summary of the philosophical debate behind it.

In particular the use/mention distinction has really helped locate a 
problem that has kept bugging me when thinking about rdf.

This can be summarized by considering the following triples which 
though formally contradictory, can in fact be seen to be compatible:

(A)     http://www.paris.org/Monuments/Eiffel

(B)     http://www.paris.org/Monuments/Eiffel

If we only understand the above names to be used then the two sentences 
are contradictory.

(A) states that the Eiffel Tower was created by Gustav Eiffel, whereas 
(B) states that
it was created by Gary Feuerstein. (A) is true in this interpretation, 
whereas (B) is false.

But we can guess that what was probably intended by (B) was not that 
<http://www.paris.org/Monuments/Eiffel> refer to the Eiffel Tower, but 
that it refer to the Web Page which refers to the Eiffel Tower, whereas 
in the first sentence we have the intuition that it refers to the 
actual building located in Paris.

Harry's solution is to assume that rdf resources by default point to 
the representation of the resource and not the thing itself, and then 
to add a new wpn:// scheme to help create names that refer directly to 
an object. It occurs to me right now that from a philosophical 
perspective this cannot quite be the correct solution, since the 
arguments have always been that names can be used in both ways. So 
whatever naming scheme one comes up with the problem of which way they 
are being used will exist.

Would it perhaps not be easier to extend RDF so that one can point to a 
resource in either way, for example by allowing the following:

<Entry rdf:about="http://www.paris.org/Monuments/Eiffel">
<Entry rdf:refers="http://www.paris.org/Monuments/Eiffel">

I have been confused a few times about this exact problem, and am very 
thankful to Harry Halpin, and Henry S.Thompson for the clear 
explanation of this problem.


Yet another Henry

Henry Story

[1] http://www.cogsci.ed.ac.uk/~ht/webpropernames/
Received on Monday, 20 September 2004 13:29:09 UTC

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