This paper gives a new, proof-theoretic explanation of partial-order reasoning about time in a nonmonotonic theory of action. The explanation relies on the technique of lifting ground proof systems to compute results using variables and unification. The ground theory uses argumentation in modal logic for sound and complete reasoning about specifications whose semantics follows Gelfond and Lifschitz’s language. The proof theory of modal logic A represents inertia by rules that can be instantiated by sequences of time steps or events. Lifting such rules introduces string variables and associates each proof with a set of string equations; these equations are equivalent to a set of partial-order tree-constraints that can be solved efficiently. The defeasible occlusion of inertia likewise imposes partial-order constraints in the lifted system. By deriving an auxiliary partial order representation of action from the underlying logic, not the input formulas or proofs found, this paper strengthens the connection between practical planners and formal theories of action. Moreover, the general correctness of the theory of action justifies partial-order representations not only for forward reasoning from a completely specified start state, but also for explanatory reasoning and for reasoning by cases
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