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Re: Begging the Question
- From: "Paul W. Abrahams" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- To: "'email@example.com'" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Sat, 06 Jan 2001 23:41:01 -0500
Andrew Layman wrote:
> Simon St. Laurent wrote, "I would humbly suggest that it might be reasonable
> at this point to put
> 'namespaces mean X because the namespaces spec says so' into the same
> category as [example of begging the question]. That would suggest that
> because the namespaces spec has been the subject of
> so much (unfulfilling) argument, it may be considered to have virtually no
> traction whatsoever on any but the most limited points - an attribute-based
> syntax for associating identifiers with prefixes which uses element
> structures to define its scope."
> I'm going to read this very literally. This statement would mean that "the
> namespaces spec says X" is false for all X, in other words, the spec does
> not say anything at all.
> That conflates the (true) recognition that the namespaces specification has
> suffered much misunderstanding with the (false) idea that it has no meaning
> whatsoever. Much of the fruitless debate has been caused by reading into
> the specification things that it does not say. If you strip away these
> projections, what remains is less than has been fantasized but still much
> more than nothing.
> It is an error to claim that the spec says more than it does. It is equally
> an error to claim, because it does not say what some would imagine or prefer
> that it say, that it says nothing. It says a limited amount.
> It is also an error to assert that the specification has no definite meaning
> if many people have misrepresented or misunderstood it. That confuses
> popularity with identity.
> If the specification is not well understood, I recommend that we have little
> to gain by arguing that it thereby does not say anything. We will gain more
> by investing our obviously abundant writing capacity into getting what it
> does say well understood and then moving on.
Simon wasn't saying that the spec says nothing. He was saying that the spec
says very little.
But it's really beside the essential point to focus on anything other than the
one sentence that's the cause of all the brouhaha: "It is not a goal that [the
namespace name] be directly usable for retrieval of a schema (if any
exists)." What is a reasonable person supposed to conclude from that negative
statement? There's a clear implication that some people might expect the
namespace name be usable for retrieving a schema, for absent that expectation,
what's the point of saying anything like that at all?
Since the sentence has no explicit content, the obvious conclusion is that it
must be read for its implications, for otherwise it would serve no purpose.
It seems to imply that one should not expect a schema to reside at the business
end of the URI reference, but how much trust should be placed in that
It's abundantly clear that there's some legislative intent here, but not at all
clear what that intent is.