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Re: Some TAG review of "Cool URIs for the Semantic Web"

From: John Cowan <cowan@ccil.org>
Date: Fri, 21 Sep 2007 10:08:09 -0400
To: Marc de Graauw <marc@marcdegraauw.com>
Cc: 'Pat Hayes' <phayes@ihmc.us>, 'John Cowan' <cowan@ccil.org>, 'Technical Architecture Group WG' <www-tag@w3.org>
Message-ID: <20070921140809.GE5036@mercury.ccil.org>

Marc de Graauw scripsit:

> I don't think Quine would hold such a radical position. He would
> probably say we need to replace the everyday word 'unicorn' with some
> definite description such as 'animals which look like horses and have
> a single horn on their head',

>From the point of view of subject-matter, this is of course a total
flop.  It is one thing to talk about unicorns, and another to talk about
animals which look etc. etc.  Quine, notoriously, didn't care: he was
only interested in the parts of natural language that were reducible to
FOPL, and everything else could go hang.

Let's remember that this is a severely practical question.  People make
and use subject indexes, and they need to be able to index things that
don't exist (it is not all one whether we talk of unicorns or pegasi),
and to distinguish between various sorts of inexistent things, and
even between things and other things that are identical with them.
"Hesperus" is the name of one subject-matter, "Phosphorus" the name of
another, and "the planet Venus" the name of a third, although as planets
they are all the same object.

> And to me it seems fine to use a word like 'subject' or 'resource'
> for all such constructs, existing or not, if we keep in mind we use
> 'resource' or 'subject' in a more technical sense and not the everyday
> English sense.

I believe, however, that the sense of "subject" here is an ordinary
English sense, or at least one of them.  Specifically, it is sense 13a
as listed in the OED:

	13. a. In a specialized sense: That which forms or is
	chosen as the matter of thought, consideration, or inquiry;
	a topic, theme.

	[Illustrative quotations:]

	1586 B. YOUNG Guazzo's Civ. Conv. IV. 208 Now that Lorde
	Hercules hathe geuen occasion to talke of this subiecte.
	1667 Decay Chr. Piety 346 Here he would have us..fix our
	thoughts and studies: Nor need we fear that they are too
	dry a subject for our contemplation.  a1700 EVELYN Diary
	13 June 1683, We shew'd him divers experiments on the
	magnet, on which subject the Society were upon.  1729 BUTLER
	Serm. Wks. 1874 II. 51 Justice must be done to every part of
	a subject when we are considering it.  1780 Mirror No. 89 As
	for politics, it was a subject far beyond the reach of any
	female capacity.  1794 MRS. RADCLIFFE Myst. Udolpho xxxviii,
	'Alas! I know it too well,' replied Emily: 'spare me on
	this terrible subject.'  1828 MISS MITFORD in L'Estrange
	Life (1870) II. xi. 247 History never will sell so well
	as more familiar and smaller subjects.	1837 DISRAELI
	Venetia II. i, Her father had become a forbidden subject.
	1872 MORLEY Voltaire (1886) 9/9 He always paid religion
	respect enough to treat it as the most important of all
	subjects.  1874 CARPENTER Mental Phys. I. ii. (1879) 70 The
	phenomena presented by the Human subject.  1902 V. JACOB
	Sheep-Stealers viii, The Pig-driver seated himself beside
	him and plunged immediately into his subject.

A jester, it is said, boasted that he could make a joke on any subject.
The King challenged him: "Make a joke about me, then!"  "Ah," said the
jester, "but Your Majesty is not a subject."

Business before pleasure, if not too bloomering long before.
        --Nicholas van Rijn
                John Cowan <cowan@ccil.org>
Received on Friday, 21 September 2007 14:08:27 UTC

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