Flexibility in Ceteris Paribus Reasoning

Jeremy Seligman, Patrick Girard


Ceteris Paribus clauses in reasoning are used to allow for defeaters of norms, rules or laws, such as in von Wright’s example “I prefer my raincoat over my umbrella, everything else being equal”. In earlier work, a logical analysis is offered in which sets of formulas Γ, embedded in modal operators, provide necessary and sufficient conditions for things to be equal in ceteris paribus clauses. For most laws, the set of things allowed to vary is small, often finite, and so Γ is typically infinite. Yet the axiomatisation they provide is restricted to the special and atypical case in which Γ is finite. We address this problem by being more flexible about ceteris paribus conditions, in two ways. The first is to offer an alternative, slightly more general semantics, in which the set of formulas only give necessary but not (necessarily) sufficient conditions. This permits a simple axiomatisation.

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