Ordinal Conditional Functions. A Dynamic Theory of Epistemic States

In W. L. Harper & B. Skyrms (eds.), Causation in Decision, Belief Change, and Statistics, vol. II. Kluwer Academic Publishers (1988)

Wolfgang Spohn
University of Konstanz
It is natural and important to have a formal representation of plain belief, according to which propositions are held true, or held false, or neither. (In the paper this is called a deterministic representation of epistemic states). And it is of great philosophical importance to have a dynamic account of plain belief. AGM belief revision theory seems to provide such an account, but it founders at the problem of iterated belief revision, since it can generally account only for one step of revision. The paper discusses and rejects two solutions within the confines of AGM theory. It then introduces ranking functions (as I prefer to call them now; in the paper they are still called ordinal conditional functions) as the proper (and, I find, still the best) solution of the problem, proves that conditional independence w.r.t. ranking functions satisfies the so-called graphoid axioms, and proposes general rules of belief change (in close analogy to Jeffrey's generalized probabilistic conditionalization) that encompass revision and contraction as conceived in AGM theory. Indeed, the parallel to probability theory is amazing. Probability theory can profit from ranking theory as well since it is also plagued by the problem of iterated belief revision even if probability measures are conceived as Popper measures (see No. 11). Finally, the theory is compared with predecessors which are numerous and impressive, but somehow failed to explain the all-important conditional ranks in the appropriate way.
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Graded Causation and Defaults.Joseph Y. Halpern & Christopher Hitchcock - 2015 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 66 (2):413-457.
Degrees of Assertability.Sam Carter - 2022 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 104 (1):19-49.
Dynamic Logic for Belief Revision.Johan van Benthem - 2007 - Journal of Applied Non-Classical Logics 17 (2):129-155.
Reducing Belief Simpliciter to Degrees of Belief.Hannes Leitgeb - 2013 - Annals of Pure and Applied Logic 164 (12):1338-1389.

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