The Review of Symbolic Logic

Research Article

BELIEF-REVISION, THE RAMSEY TEST, MONOTONICITY, AND THE SO-CALLED IMPOSSIBILITY RESULTS

NEIL TENNANTa1 c1

a1 Department of Philosophy, The Ohio State University

Abstract

Peter Gärdenfors proved a theorem purporting to show that it is impossible to adjoin to the AGM-postulates for belief-revision a principle of monotonicity for revisions. The principle of monotonicity in question is implied by the Ramsey test for conditionals. So Gärdenfors’ result has been interpreted as demonstrating that it is impossible to combine the Ramsey test for conditionals with the basic postulates for rational belief-revision. It is shown here that this interpretation of Gärdenfors’ result is unwarranted. A new diagnosis is offered of a methodological error made in the statement of the key principle of monotonicity. Crucial applications of this principle in Gärdenfors’ proof require one to regard as revisions what are really expansions. If monotonicity is stated only for genuine revisions, then Gärdenfors’ proof does not go through. Nor can it; for, when the monotonicity principle for revisions is correctly formulated, one can actually establish a contrary consistency result. This requires only a slight adjustment to the postulates of AGM-theory, in order to ensure that the three operations of expansion, contraction, and revision trichotomize the domain of theory-changes. It is further shown that being careful in this way about the proper domains of definition of the three operations of expansion, contraction, and revision also disposes of another, more direct, impossibility result, due to Arló-Costa, that targets the Ramsey test.

(Received September 22 2008)

Correspondence:

c1 DEPARTMENT OF PHILOSOPHY THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY COLUMBUS, OH 43210 E-mail: tennant.9@osu.edu