Preferential belief change using generalized epistemic entrenchment

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Abstract

A sentence A is epistemically less entrenched in a belief state K than a sentence B if and only if a person in belief state K who is forced to give up either A or B will give up A and hold on to B. This is the fundamental idea of epistemic entrenchment as introduced by Gärdenfors (1988) and elaborated by Gärdenfors and Makinson (1988). Another distinguishing feature of relations of epistemic entrenchment is that they permit particularly simple and elegant construction recipes for minimal changes of belief states. These relations, however, are required to satisfy rather demanding conditions. In the present paper we liberalize the concept of epistemic entrenchment by removing connectivity, minimality and maximality conditions. Correspondingly, we achieve a liberalization of the concept of rational belief change that does no longer presuppose the postulates of success and rational monotony. We show that the central results of Gärdenfors and Makinson are preserved in our more flexible setting. Moreover, the generalized concept of epistemic entrenchment turns out to be applicable also to relational and iterated belief changes.