A recursive semantics for defeasible reasoning

One of the most striking characteristics of human beings is their ability to function successfully in complex environments about which they know very little. In light of our pervasive ignorance, we cannot get around in the world just reasoning deductively from our prior beliefs together with new perceptual input. As our conclusions are not guaranteed to be true, we must countenance the possibility that new information will lead us to change our minds, withdrawing previously adopted beliefs. In this sense, our reasoning is “defeasible”. The question arises how defeasible reasoning works, or ought to work. In particular we need rules governing what a cognizer ought to believe given a set of interacting arguments some of which defeat others. That is what is called a “semantics” for defeasible reasoning, and this chapter will propose a new semantics that avoids certain clear counter-examples to all existing semantics.
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