Problems with persistence

Topoi 13 (1):37-49 (1994)
Abstract
A fundamental question in reasoning about change is, what information does a reasoning agent infer about later times from earlier times? I will argue that reasoning about change by an agent is to be modeled in terms of the persistence of the agent''s beliefs over time rather than the persistence of truth and that such persistence is explained by pragmatic factors about how agents acquire information from other agents rather than by general principles of persistence about states of the world. AI accounts of persistence have focused on closed world examples of change, in which the agent believes that the truth of a proposition is unaltered so long as he or she has no evidence that it has been changed. AI principles of persistence seem plausible in a closed world where one assumes the agent knows everything that is happening. If one drops the assumption of omniscience, however, the analysis of persistence is implausible. To get a good account of persistence and reasoning about change, I argue we should examine open world examples of change, in which the agent is ignorant of some of the changes occurring in the world. In open world examples of change, persistence must be formulated, I argue, as a pragmatic principle about the persistence of beliefs. After elaborating my criticisms of current accounts of persistence, I examine how such pragmatic principles fare with the notorious examples of reasoning about action that have collectively characterized the so-called frame problem.
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References found in this work BETA
Jaakko Hintikka (1962). Knowledge and Belief. Ithaca, N.Y.,Cornell University Press.
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