Coherence and conservatism in the dynamics of belief

Erkenntnis 50 (2-3):387-412 (1999)
Abstract
In this paper I discuss the foundations of a formal theory of coherent and conservative belief change that is (a) suitable to be used as a method for constructing iterated changes of belief, (b) sensitive to the history of earlier belief changes, and (c) independent of any form of dispositional coherence. I review various ways to conceive the relationship between the beliefs actually held by an agent and her belief change strategies (that also deal with potential belief sets), show the problems they suffer from, and suggest that belief states should be represented by unary revision functions that take sequences of inputs. Three concepts of coherence implicit in current theories of belief change are distinguished: synchronic, diachronic and dispositional coherence. Diachronic coherence is essentially identified with what is known as conservatism in epistemology. The present paper elaborates on the philosophical motivation of the general framework; formal details and results are provided in a companion paper.
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