This morning I wake up to a new post from Barry Smith at HL7-Watch entitled “HL7 attempts to get things clear about its own use of the word ‘concept’“, in which he criticises HL7 for it’s definition of Concept as found in the V3 Core Principles.
There’s a lot to criticise in the definition of concept – it’s a tough thing to define. But Barry’s criticisms are not well informed. In fact, they look like he didn’t want to engage, but only to lampoon.I’m not going to make a point by point refutation, but I will note the following things:
- The point of the terminology work is to impose standards on the way people think. As a goal/method, this has obvious problems, but that’s exactly what a grammar does
- When you provide 3 aspects to a definition for something, that would be because they are all different, and all need to be true
- The difference between “real” and “abstract” is a false dichotomy in language, which is all symbolic
- It is hard to differentiate between use and mention – Barry demonstrates that several times in his own comments
But the Core Principles document (which I sometimes edit, though not this section) here has a tough gig: it’s mission is to describe what we already do, which in this context, is use defined terms. It’s actually a ubiquitious practice in all IT – when a programmer knocks up an enumeration, they’re doing it too. It’s a smooth continuum up to the nightmare of working with post-coordinated Snomed-CT.
If Barry really wanted to help people out, he would offer a better way to describe of what people are already doing. But no….