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Introduction: Why Dynamic Preferences are Needed

Preferences among defaults play a crucial role in nonmonotonic reasoning. One source of preferences that has been studied intensively is specificity [15,22,23]. In case of a conflict between defaults we tend to prefer the more specific one since this default provides more reliable information. E.g., if we know that students are adults, adults are normally employed, students are normally not employed, we want to conclude ``Peter is not employed'' from the information that Peter is a student, thus preferring the student default over the conflicting adult default.

Specificity is an important source of preferences, but not the only one, and at least in some applications not necessarily the most important one. In the legal domain it may, for instance, be the case that a more general rule is preferred since it represents federal law as opposed to state law [16]. In these cases preferences may be based on some basic principles regulating how conflicts among rules are to be resolved.

Also in other application domains, like model based diagnosis or configuration, preferences play a fundamental role. Model based diagnosis uses logical descriptions of the normal behaviour of components of a device together with a logical description of the actually observed behaviour. One tries to assume normal behaviour for as many components as possible. A diagnosis corresponds to a set of components for which these normalcy assumptions lead to inconsistency. Very often a large number of possible diagnoses is obtained. In real life some components are less reliable than others. To eliminate less plausible diagnoses one can give the normalcy assumptions for reliable components higher priority.

In configuration tasks it is often impossible to achieve all of the design goals. Often one can distinguish more important goals from less important ones. To construct the best possible configurations goals then have to be represented as defaults with different preferences according to their desirability.

The relevance of preferences is well-recognized in nonmonotonic reasoning, and prioritized versions for most of the nonmonotonic logics have been proposed, e.g., prioritized circumscription [12], hierarchic autoepistemic logic [10], prioritized default logic [3]. In these approaches preferences are handled in an ``external'' manner in the following sense: some ordering among defaults is used to control the generation of the nonmonotonic conclusions. For instance, in the case of prioritized default logic this information is used to control the generation of extensions. However, the preference information itself is not expressed in the logical language. This means that this kind of information has to be fully pre-specified, there is no way of reasoning about (as opposed to reasoning with) preferences. This is in stark contrast to the way people reason and argue with each other. In legal argumentation, for instance, preferences are context-dependent, and the assessment of the preferences among involved conflicting laws is a crucial (if not the most crucial) part of the reasoning.

What we would like to have, therefore, is an approach that allows us to represent preference information in the language and derive such information dynamically. In a recent paper [4] the author has described a variant of normal default logic in which reasoning about preferences is possible. Although the version of default logic presented in this earlier paper produces reasonable results in most cases, this approach has several drawbacks:

  1. The approach is computationally extremely demanding as it involves the construction of the Reiter extensions and an additional compatibility check for each extension guaranteeing that the preference information was taken into account adequately.
  2. It may happen that consistent default theories, i.e., theories whose strict part is satisfiable, possess no extensions at all. This is astonishing since in that paper we only dealt with normal defaults. The non-existence of extensions is due to defeasible preference information. It is highly questionable whether such information should be able to destroy all extensions.
  3. The earlier paper did not take non-normal defaults into account, it is thus not general enough to cover normal logic programs with negation as failure.
The approach presented in this paper will be based on extended logic programs with two types of negation. This means that in comparison with our earlier proposal we are more restrictive in one respect and more general in another: we are more restrictive since we do not allow arbitrary first order formulas as in normal default logic; we are more general since we admit negation as failure and hence rules which correspond to non-normal defaults in Reiter's logic. We also switch from the extension based semantics of default logic to well-founded semantics [7,19,13], i.e., to an inherently skeptical approach where the nonmonotonic conclusions are defined directly, not through the notion of extensions. It is well-known that well-founded semantics sometimes looses intuitively expected conclusions. This is also the case in our proposal. However, this is outweighed by a tremendous gain in efficiency: the well-founded conclusions can be computed in polynomial time.

The outline of the rest of the paper is as follows: in Section 2 we first review a definition of well-founded semantics for logic programs with two types of negation which is based on the double application of a certain anti-monotone operator. The definition extends Baral and Subrahmanian's formulation of well-founded semantics for normal logic programs [2] and was used by several authors [1,13]. We show that this definition suffers from an unnecessary weakness and present a reformulation that leads to better results. Section 3, the main section of the paper, introduces our dynamic treatment of preferences together with several small motivating examples. We show that our conclusions are, in general, a superset of the well-founded conclusions. Section 4 illustrates the expressive power of our approach using a more realistic example from legal reasoning. Section 5 shows that the worst case time complexity for generating well-founded conclusions for prioritized programs is polynomial. Section 6 investigates the relationship to Gelfond and Lifschitz's answer set semantics [8]. Section 7 discusses related work and concludes.

next up previous
Next: Well-Founded Semantics for Up: Well-Founded Semantics for Extended Previous: Well-Founded Semantics for Extended

Gerd Brewka
Thu Feb 8 10:26:15 MET 1996