Changes of Mind: An Essay on Rational Belief Revision

Hardcover | July 28, 2012

byNeil Tennant

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This is the first logically precise, computationally implementable, book-length account of rational belief revision. It explains how a rational agent ought to proceed when adopting a new belief - a difficult matter if the new belief contradicts the agent's old beliefs. Belief systems are modeled as finite dependency networks. So one can attend not only to what the agent believes, but also to the variety of reasons the agent has for so believing. The computational complexity of the revision problem is characterized. Algorithms for belief revision are formulated,and implemented in Prolog. The implementation tests well on a range of simple belief-revision problems that pose a variety of challenges for any account of belief revision. The notion of 'minimal mutilation' of a belief system is explicated precisely for situations when the agent is faced with conflicting beliefs. The proposed revision methods are invariant across different global justificatory structures (foundationalist, coherentist, etc.). They respect the intuitionthat, when revising one's beliefs, one should not hold on to any belief that has lost all its former justifications. The limitation to finite dependency networks is shown not to compromise theoretical generality.This account affords a novel way to argue that there is an inviolable core of logical principles. These principles, which form the system of Core Logic, cannot be given up, on pain of not being able to carry out the reasoning involved in rationally revising beliefs.The book ends by comparing and contrasting the new account with some major representatives of earlier alternative approaches, from the fields of formal epistemology, artificial intelligence and mathematical logic.

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This is the first logically precise, computationally implementable, book-length account of rational belief revision. It explains how a rational agent ought to proceed when adopting a new belief - a difficult matter if the new belief contradicts the agent's old beliefs. Belief systems are modeled as finite dependency networks. So one ca...

Neil Tennant holds a BA in Mathematics and Philosophy, and a PhD in logic, from the University of Cambridge. His researches in Logic and Philosophy of Science have been supported by the British Academy, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the Australian Research Council, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He has held ch...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:368 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.98 inPublished:July 28, 2012Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199655758

ISBN - 13:9780199655755

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Table of Contents

1. IntroductionPart I: Computational Considerations2. Computing Changes in Belief3. Global Conditions on Contraction4. A Formal Theory of Contraction5. Specification of a Contraction Algorithm6. A Prolog Program for Contraction7. Results of Running our Program for ContractionPart II: Logical and Philosophical Considerations8. Core Logic is the Inviolable Core of Logic9. The Finitary Predicament10. Mathematical Justifications are Not Infinitely VariousPart III: Comparisons11. Differences with Other Formal Theories12. Connections with Various Epistemological Accounts

Editorial Reviews

"Neil Tennant is a highly original logician who looks at belief revision and related topics with a fresh eye, rejecting accepted paradigms and thinking outside the box. His book is a welcome addition to the field." --Rohit Parikh, The City University of New York, USA