Although AGM theory contraction (Alchourrón et al., 1985; Alchourrón and Makinson, 1985) occupies a central position in the literature on belief change, there is one aspect about it that has created a fair amount of controversy. It involves the inclusion of the postulate known as Recovery. As a result, a number of alternatives to AGM theory contraction have been proposed that do not always satisfy the Recovery postulate (Levi, 1991, 1998; Hansson and Olsson, 1995; Fermé, 1998; Fermé and Rodriguez, 1998; Rott and Pagnucco, 1999). In this paper we present a new addition, systematic withdrawal, to the family of withdrawal operations, as they have become known. We define systematic withdrawal semantically, in terms of a set of preorders, and show that it can be characterised by a set of postulates. In a comparison of withdrawal operations we show that AGM contraction, systematic withdrawal and the severe withdrawal of Rott and Pagnucco (1999) are intimately connected by virtue of their definition in terms of sets of preorders. In a future paper it will be shown that this connection can be extended to include the epistemic entrenchment orderings of Gärdenfors (1988) and Gärdenfors and Makinson (1988) and the refined entrenchment orderings of Meyer et al. (2000).
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