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Re: Syntax and semantics

From: John Robert Gardner <jrgardn@emory.edu>
Date: Thu, 18 May 2000 17:04:57 -0400 (EDT)
To: "W. E. Perry" <wperry@fiduciary.com>
cc: xml-uri@w3.org, xml-dev@xml.org
Message-ID: <Pine.GSO.4.05.10005181522350.19307-100000@jet.cc.emory.edu>
On Thu, 18 May 2000, W. E. Perry wrote:

> I find this entertaining and appreciate it on that basis alone. I

Good, partly that was an intent, but, more importantly, I was replying
to/concerned with the implicit normative weight given to what is an
essentially dualist reading of semantics.  Following that philosophical
notion of semantics has weighted implications when used to justify design
plans.  For instance, working with philosophical image of The Cave, a
namespace would seem only righteous and proper if and only if it points
to/resolves to an "archetype/schema."  

> the given data to the requisite output. Epistemological processes,
> though real, through which semantics are elaborated from
> content-in-syntax are simply not so explicitly recognized, as process,
> by the less function-obsessed disciplines which study them. That has

I'm not sure if it makes me function obsessed, but this is a pivotal
assertion in your line of reasoning which, as elsewhere, relies upon some
very ambiguous terminology.  There are clearly some specific referents in
this sentence you have written, but your use of the passive, two
counterposed uses of process, and non-specificity with what a
"function-obsessed discipline" is makes me highly aware that even with, to
quote you from elsewhere on the process for designing/grunt-work of a
semantic web: ". . . utterly no usable match to go by, the node can
attempt by brute force to instantiate the atomic items of the received
message into any of the data structure which it is capable of
processing--which is to say, any of the forms which it has any interest in
or understanding of.", as a node in our exchange, and with my own best
brute force I still don't have any clue what you mean, and cannot
intantiate the atomic items of this received message into any data
structure for any processing.

> historically been a methodological lapse in the West since Plato. The

Which West and which Plato ?

> concepts themselves of archetypal forms and their transient
> instantiations cannot really be challenged in their baldly nominative
> presentation because they are, after all, as good an hypothesis as
> we've seen, whether in Plato's cave or in OO design. What can be

This is not the place, but, in fact, this whole thread deriving from
dualist logic is the fundamental core of what I suggested was
misrepresented and, accordingly, mis-extrapolated from "semantics."  It
prompts one to say things like "transient instantiations" of archetypal
forms "cannot be challenged in their baldy nominative presentation" b/c
they are a good hypothesis.  An archetype is not instantiated because it
_is_ an archetype in the philosophical sense you suggest.

Perhaps I have lost the pointer for the theme and phoros in this
archetype/philosophy analogy (a namespace would really help to
disambiguate the analogy from classic Greek dualism which, among other
things, was a primary target of "critical theory" as an invalid assumption
to to the arbitrary nature of semantic pointing it implied . . . but then,
this is about programming, not semantics . . . .), but this is either a
perfect example of an unresolvable conceptual/philosophical namespace, or
an endless recursion loop (a 404/Not found would actually appeal).

> Where is all this leading? Simply (I hope) to the recognition that the
> description I have offered for the process of elaborating semantics
> from syntax through the working of executable code is both

As a means of programming design principles, I'm not qualified to state.
As a scholar from a function-obsessed discipline, I'm simply saying that
 this conception of semantics as juxtaposed with syntax and taking refuge
in Plato, while also invoking critical theory, argued as a whole, is not
sound rhetorical proof of a design concept.

> intellectually defensible on its own terms and practicable within the
> topology of the Internet, regardless of the grounds which, as an
> abstraction, it may offer for dispute within the current academic
> practice of critical theory.
> 

True, but that said, I'm simply saying that, therefore, you cannot
randomly deploy the terminology of "semantics" as you have, nor "critical
theory"  as a rhetorical defense of your process  . . . unless, per your
model for a semantic web:

> W.E. Perry:
> . . .
> Where less-than-perfect matches are found, the process attempts, if no
> better model is available in the history of its interaction with the
> particular counterparty node, to use them as templates for instantiating
> the received message content into a form usable by local processes.

Your notion of semantics, philosophy, and critical theory are confined to
the local process of programming and design as you are advocatting it.

I present the foregoing out of due respect for the larger issues you and
others are discussing, as a discussion of the application of your
rhetorical structures of "semantics" and "syntax" -- 

jr
Received on Friday, 19 May 2000 03:30:16 UTC

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