A brief comparison of Pollock's defeasible reasoning and ranking functions

Synthese 131 (1):39-56 (2002)
Abstract
In this paper two theories of defeasible reasoning, Pollock's account and my theory of ranking functions, are compared, on a strategic level, since a strictly formal comparison would have been unfeasible. A brief summary of the accounts shows their basic difference: Pollock's is a strictly computational one, whereas ranking functions provide a regulative theory. Consequently, I argue that Pollock's theory is normatively defective, unable to provide a theoretical justification for its basic inference rules and thus an independent notion of admissible rules. Conversely, I explain how quite a number of achievements of Pollock's account can be adequately duplicated within ranking theory. The main purpose of the paper, though, is not to settle a dispute with formal epistemology, but rather to emphasize the importance of formal methods to the whole of epistemology.
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