International Journal of Approximate Reasoning 5 (2):149-181 (1991)
The main ingredients of Spohn's theory of epistemic beliefs are (1) a functional representation of an epistemic state called a disbelief function and (2) a rule for revising this function in light of new information. The main contribution of this paper is as follows. First, we provide a new axiomatic definition of an epistemic state and study some of its properties. Second, we study some properties of an alternative functional representation of an epistemic state called a Spohnian belief function. Third, we state a rule for combining disbelief functions that is mathematically equivalent to Spohn's belief revision rule. Whereas Spohn's rule is defined in terms of the initial epistemic state and some features of the final epistemic state, the rule of combination is defined in terms of the initial epistemic state and the incremental epistemic state representing the information gained. Fourth, we state a rule of subtraction that allows one to recover the addendum epistemic state from the initial and final epistemic states. Fifth, we study some properties of our rule of combination. One distinct advantage of our rule of combination is that besides belief revision, it can be used to describe an initial epistemic state for many variables when this information is given as several independent epistemic states each involving few variables. Another advantage of our reformulation is that we can show that Spohn's theory of epistemic beliefs shares the essential abstract features of probability theory and the Dempster-Shafer theory of belief functions. One implication of this is that we have a ready-made algorithm for propagating disbelief functions using only local computation.
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