Economics and Philosophy

Essays

The Logic of Belief Persistence

Pierpaolo Battigallia1 and Giacomo Bonannoa2

a1 Princeton University

a2 University of California

The principle of belief persistence, or conservativity principle, states that ‘When changing beliefs in response to new evidence, you should continue to believe as many of the old beliefs as possible’ (Harman, 1986, p. 46). In particular, this means that if an individual gets new information, she has to accommodate it in her new belief set (the set of propositions she believes), and, if the new information is not inconsistent with the old belief set, then (1) the individual has to maintain all the beliefs she previously had and (2) the change should be minimal in the sense that every proposition in the new belief set must be deducible from the union of the old belief set and the new information (see, e.g., Gärdenfors, 1988; Stalnaker, 1984). We focus on this minimal notion of belief persistence and characterize it both semantically and syntactically.