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Re: plain rules, please [was: Semantic Web Rule Language (SWRL) 0.5 released]

From: Graham Klyne <gk@ninebynine.org>
Date: Wed, 03 Dec 2003 09:31:55 +0000
Message-Id: <>
To: Drew McDermott <drew.mcdermott@yale.edu>, www-rdf-rules@w3.org

My question about the distinction between "deduction" and other forms of 
inference was posed to help me better understand the points you have been 
making about the utility of non-deductive inferences.

 From your response, I think that "deduction" is the process of finding a 
proof in some theory.  Thus, "deductions" (deduced results) are precisely 
those that are proven to be true in some (accepted) proof theory.  (And, 
maybe, for a proof theory to be acceptable, it must be sound with respect 
to some accepted model theory.)

On this basis, I understand the further points you are making to be that 
there may be useful results (inferences) that cannot be proven.  Which, I 
guess, takes us into issues of how dependable one needs results to be in 
order for them to be useful.

Am I following your key points?

(This leaves me wondering if it is not generally possible to turn any 
non-deduction into a deduction by strengthening the accompanying proof 
theory.  Picking an example from another thread here:  based on a given 
knowledge of airports, I might usefully infer, via NAF, that the closest to 
my current location is LHR, because I don't know of a closer one (and 
there's a general presumption that I know about airports close to my 
current location).  This is not a provable deduction, but maybe it is made 
so by adding to the proof theory concerned an axiom to the effect that a 
given list of airports is complete.)


At 15:58 01/12/03 -0500, Drew McDermott wrote:
>    [Graham Klyne]
>    Can you please point me at a resource that explains the precise 
> distinction
>    between "deduction" and other forms of inference?
>Consulting my agent undergraduate logic textbook (by Angelo Margaris,
>published 1967), under "deduction" in the index we find a definition
>of "a" deduction, namely, a series of formulas that are either
>axioms or result from application of an inference rule from previous
>formulas.  Then one could say that "deduction" (the technique) is
>whatever comes at the end of a "deduction" (the series of formulas).
>But that's not terribly enlightening.
>A better definition comes by taking into account the semantics of
>logical languages (found in another chapter).  Anything that can be
>deduced is true in all models of a theory (and, if the theory is
>complete, vice versa).  This is the reason that deduction is
>conservative: if you can think of any interpretation of the given
>facts, no matter how wild, in which the statements you start with are
>true, then if P is false in that interpretation it cannot be deduced.
>(Unless the statements you start with are inconsistent, in which case
>there _are_ no interpretations that make them all true.)
>When one philosopher says "P is possible," and the other retorts that
>it's "only logically possible," it's exactly this sense of possibility
>they have in mind.  Those who expect great things from deduction hope
>to make many commonsense inferences logically necessary by supplying
>the appropriate axioms.  For instance, we'd like to infer that you
>know your name.  It may be physically impossible, or incredibly
>unlikely, that you have forgotten your name, but it's not logically
>impossible unless we supply an axiom that says "Everybody knows their
>own name."  Then we think of the possibility of Alzheimer's, and
>realize that this is trickier than we thought.
>Techniques like probabilistic reasoning with Bayes nets can be thought
>of as deductive or nondeductive, and it is easy to slip from one mode
>to the other without realizing it.  Let's assume that there is a
>deductive theory in which a Bayes net and its boundary conditions can
>be described, and the conclusions you arrive at are precisely those
>licensed by the usual algorithms.  (Actually expressing this theory is
>probably harder than you think, but let that pass.)  Now we will have
>a theorem such as P("Klyne knows his name", 0.9999976).  So far,
>deduction.  But if we slip to "Therefore, Klyne knows his name," we
>have interpreted the conclusion nondeductively.
>Decision theorists can postpone the inevitable one step further by
>having all _behavior_ depend only on expected utilities rather than
>beliefs.  I don't need to actually _believe_ that Klyne knows his
>name; I just have to realize that if I want to answer the question
>"Does Klyne have a middle name?" the action with the highest expected
>utility is to send him an e-mail message with the question.  One
>problem is that to prove that an action has the highest expected
>utility I have to be able to reason about all possible actions, not by
>running through an explicit list, but somehow.  Another problem is
>that it is much more efficient to reason in terms of possibly wrong
>beliefs than in terms of certain probabilities.  In the present
>example, I'd like to believe that after asking Klyne the question and
>getting the answer I will then know whether he has a middle name.  But
>all I can conclude is that the conditional probability of "Klyne has a
>middle name" given that he replies "No" is 0.001495.  (It's much
>higher than you'd expect because of the chance that he may conceal the
>truth, not out of malice, but in order to spoil the example.)
>                                              -- Drew
>P.S. One might object that I can't really be certain about the
>probabilities, not to very many significant digits.  No, but you'll
>almost certainly never be contradicted if you act as though these
>numbers really are completely accurate.
>                                              -- Drew McDermott
>                                                 Yale University CS Dept.

Graham Klyne
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Received on Wednesday, 3 December 2003 05:54:32 UTC

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