Iterated belief revision, reliability, and inductive amnesia

Erkenntnis 50 (1):11-58 (1999)
Belief revision theory concerns methods for reformulating an agent's epistemic state when the agent's beliefs are refuted by new information. The usual guiding principle in the design of such methods is to preserve as much of the agent's epistemic state as possible when the state is revised. Learning theoretic research focuses, instead, on a learning method's reliability or ability to converge to true, informative beliefs over a wide range of possible environments. This paper bridges the two perspectives by assessing the reliability of several proposed belief revision operators. Stringent conceptions of minimal change are shown to occasion a limitation called inductive amnesia: they can predict the future only if they cannot remember the past. Avoidance of inductive amnesia can therefore function as a plausible and hitherto unrecognized constraint on the design of belief revision operators.
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