Abduction as Belief Revision

Craig Boutilier and Veronica Becher
Department of Computer Science
University of British Columbia
Vancouver, BC, CANADA, V6T 1Z4
email: cebly@cs.ubc.ca

We propose a model of abduction based on the revision of the epistemic state of an agent. Explanations must be sufficient to induce belief in the sentence to be explained (for instance, some observation), or ensure its consistency with other beliefs, in a manner that adequately accounts for factual and hypothetical sentences. Our model will generate explanations that nonmonotonically predict an observation, thus generalizing most current accounts, which require some deductive relationship between explanation and observation. It also provides a natural preference ordering on explanations, defined in terms of normality or plausibility. To illustrate the generality of our approach, we reconstruct two of the key paradigms for model-based diagnosis, abductive and consistency-based diagnosis, within our framework. This reconstruction provides an alternative semantics for both and extends these systems to accommodate our predictive explanations and semantic preferences on explanations. It also illustrates how more general information can be incorporated in a principled manner.

(To appear, Artificial Intelligence, 1995)

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