Philosophical Applications of Belief Revision


The event, taking place on July 6 and July 7 2020, in the context of the Australasian Association of Philosophy (AAP) annual conference, which runs from July 5 to July 7 2020 at the University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia. It will also occur on the heels of the Australasian Association of Logic (AAL) annual conference, which takes place in the same location on July 2 and July 3 2020.

The workshop will focus on philosophical applications of models of belief change in the AGM tradition. Possible topics include, for instance, applications of belief revision to:

  • argumentation
  • conditionals
  • epistemic modals
  • the concept of knowledge
  • evidence
  • causality
  • scientific laws
  • game theory and bargaining
  • social epistemology

Talks will include both original contributions and brief topical surveys.


While the modeling of rational belief change is a topic of philosophical interest in its own right, it has also long been seen to provide a potentially useful tool to clarify questions across a sizeable range of philosophical subsdiciplines.

Most philosophers will be acquainted, to some extent or another, with the numerous attempts to bring Bayesian models to bear on topics in the philosophy of language, metaphysics and epistemology. Classic examples include work stemming from Adams’ research on the logic of conditionals (Adams 1975) or from Reichenbach and Suppes’ probabilistic approach to causation (Reichenbach 1956; Suppes 1970), as well as the programme of research sometimes known as ‘Bayesian confirmation theory’, whose roots can be found in the work of Carnap (Carnap 1950/1962).

Fewer, however, will be familiar with a parallel endeavour that has drawn upon the so-called AGM model and related frameworks (Alchourron, Gärdenfors & Makinson 1985; Spohn 1988), popular in the `knowledge representation’ community in computer science. Whereas Bayesianism focuses on the dynamics of degrees of confidence, these models represent constraints on changes in belief.

The most well-known application of these qualitative models is undoubtedly to the understanding of the logic of conditionals and associated constructions (Rott 1986). There have also been attempts to draw upon the resources of the theory of belief revision to clarify our understanding of explanatory and causal reasoning (Gärdenfors 1988; Spohn 2006; Andreas & Gunther 2019) as well as evidential reasoning (Chandler 2013). Other areas of application have included the analysis of knowledge (Rott 2004; Baltag et al 2013).


Adams, E.W. (1975), The Logic of Conditionals, Dordrecht: D. Reidel.

Alchourrón, C. E., P. Gärdenfors, D. Makinson (1985), “On the logic of theory change: Partial meet contraction and revision functions”, Journal of Symbolic Logic 50(2): 510–530.

Andreas, H. and M. Günther (2019), “On the Ramsey Test analysis of `because’”, Erkenntnis 84: 1229–1262.

Baltag, A., N. Bezhanishvili, A. Ozgun, S. Smets (2013), “The Topology of belief, belief revision and defeasible knowledge”. In Lecture Notes in Computer Science , Volume 8196, pp.27-40.

Carnap, R. (1950/1962), Logical Foundations of Probability, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Chandler, J. (2013), “Transmission failure, AGM-style”, Erkenntnis 78(2): 383–398.

Gärdenfors P. (1988), Knowledge in Flux: Modelling the Dynamics of Epistemic States, MIT Press.

Reichenbach, H. (1956), The Direction of Time, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Rott, H. (1986), “Ifs, though, and because”. Erkenntnis, 25(3): 345–370.

Rott, H. (2004), “Stability, strength and sensitivity”, Erkenntnis, 61(2-3): 469-493.

Spohn, W. (1988), “Ordinal conditional functions: A dynamic theory of epistemic states”, in: W.L. Harper, B. Skyrms (eds.), Causation in Decision, Belief Change, and Statistics, Vol. II, Kluwer, Dordrecht, pp. 105–134.

Spohn, W. (2006), “Causation: An alternative”, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 57(1):93–119.

Suppes, P. (1970), A Probabilistic Theory of Causality, Amsterdam: North-Holland Publishing Company.


Sven Ove Hansson, Professor, Department of Philosophy and History, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm

Hans Rott, Professor, Institute for Philosophy, University of Regensburg, Germany

Kevin Kelly, Professor and Director of the Center for Formal Epistemology, Department of Philosophy, Carnegie Mellon University, USA

Further speakers TBA shortly.


Jake Chandler, Senior Lecturer and ARC Future Fellow, Department of Computer Science and IT, La Trobe University, Australia




This workshop is generously funded by La Trobe University, in the context of an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship (project number FT160100092), awarded to Jake Chandler.