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

From: Harry Halpin <hhalpin@ibiblio.org>
Date: Tue, 25 Sep 2007 11:05:47 -0400
Message-ID: <46F923CB.20909@ibiblio.org>
To: Pat Hayes <phayes@ihmc.us>
Cc: Marc de Graauw <marc@marcdegraauw.com>, 'John Cowan' <cowan@ccil.org>, 'Technical Architecture Group WG' <www-tag@w3.org>

Pat Hayes wrote:

> And he would certainly say that from
>> the fact we talk about unicorns we cannot infer the existence of
>> unicorns. At least, to me this seems his entire point
>> in the above-mentioned article.
>> 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.
>> | In order to talk
>> | about unicorns, you have to admit them into some kind of at least
>> | logical existence. For authorities, if you wish, go to Quine and
>> | Wittgenstein.
>> This is the position Quine attacks: "If Pegasus were not, McX argues,
>> we should not be talking about anything when we
>> use the word; therefore it would be nonsense to say even that Pegasus
>> is not" from, again, "On What There Is". Which
>> position Quine of course refutes: "we commit ourselves to an ontology
>> containing Pegasus when we say Pegasus is. But we
>> do not commit ourselves to an ontology containing Pegasus ... when we
>> say that Pegasus ... is not."
> He refutes McX's conclusion ("therefore it would be nonsense"... which
> sounds like a reductio argument) but not the idea that we are not
> talking about anything when we say that Pegasus is not. As Quine
> points out, to deny the existence of something does not (contra McX)
> implicitly commit one to agreeing to its existence.
> Pat
I think the key distinction here is between sense and reference, and the
rather strange idea (but important) that we as humans will always have a
partial grasp of the world of possible referents. A definite description
like "a horse with a single horn on its head" is a good description of a
Unicorn,anda description is a kind of sense, but as far I know no
interpretation, which maps that sense to a domain of referents in the
"real world, will fulfill the criteria given by that description.

 The key point is that the we as humans can never be absolutely  sure if
we know all the referents, or if we are genuinely sharing the same
referent. While unlikely, it is possible we will discover a unicorn
fossil in a remote desert one day.

This has implications for Web Architecture, in particular the
never-ending debate about information/non-information resources. If
anything (like a non-information resource) is defined in terms a certain
name identifying a referent, as opposed to a sense (like a descriptive
web-page), as we humans can never be sure we have the same space of
referents and what even a valid "real-world" referent is, then it is
difficult even in practice to make any a priori distinction about
whether any given resource is a referent.
>> Marc de Graauw
>> www.marcdegraauw.com


Harry Halpin,  University of Edinburgh 
http://www.ibiblio.org/hhalpin 6B522426
Received on Tuesday, 25 September 2007 15:06:00 UTC

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