A Knowledge Level Account of Forgetting

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James P. Delgrande


Forgetting is an operation on knowledge bases that has been addressed in different areas of Knowledge Representation and with respect to different formalisms, including classical propositional and first-order logic, modal logics, logic programming, and description logics. Definitions of forgetting have been expressed in terms of manipulation of formulas, sets of postulates, isomorphisms between models, bisimulations, second-order quantification, elementary equivalence, and others. In this paper, forgetting is regarded as an abstract belief change operator, independent of the underlying logic. The central thesis is that forgetting amounts to a reduction in the language, specifically the signature, of a logic. The main definition is simple: the result of forgetting a portion of a signature in a theory is given by the set of logical consequences of this theory over the reduced language. This definition offers several advantages. Foremost, it provides a uniform approach to forgetting, with a definition that is applicable to any logic with a well-defined consequence relation. Hence it generalises a disparate set of logic-specific definitions with a general, high-level definition. Results obtained in this approach are thus applicable to all subsumed formal systems, and many results are obtained much more straightforwardly. This view also leads to insights with respect to specific logics: for example, forgetting in first-order logic is somewhat different from the accepted approach. Moreover, the approach clarifies the relation between forgetting and related operations, including belief contraction.

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