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Resolving Inconsistencies by Variable Forgetting

Jer^ome Lang Pierre Marquis

IRIT / Universite Paul Sabatier CRIL / Universite d'Artois
118 route de Narbonne rue de l'Universite - S.P. 16
31602 Toulouse - France 62307 Lens - France
lang@irit.fr marquis@cril.univ-artois.fr

Abstract tions (see e.g. [Lang and Marquis, 2000] [Liberatore

and Donini, 2000]). Inconsistency can also be dealt
In this paper, a fairly general framework for with. In this case, trivialization is avoided by weaken-
reasoning from inconsistent propositional be- ing the set of consequences that can be derived from
lief bases is de ned. Variable forgetting is the belief base; this can be achieved either by con-
used as a basic operation for weakening be- sidering an approximation by below of classical entail-
liefs so as to restore consistency. The key ment (like in many paraconsistent logics, see [Besnard
notion is that of recoveries, which are sets and Hunter, 1998] [Hunter, 1998] for a survey) or by
of variables whose forgetting enables restor- weakening the input belief base while keeping classi-
ing consistency. Several criteria for de ning cal entailment. This last technique is at work in so-
preferred recoveries are proposed, depending called coherence-based approaches to paraconsistent
on whether the focus is laid on the relative inference (see e.g. [Rescher and Manor, 1970] [Fagin
relevance of the variables or the relative en- et al., 1983] [Ginsberg, 1986] [Brewka, 1989], [Baral
trenchment of the pieces of information (or et al., 1991] [Pinkas and Loui, 1992] [Benferhat et al.,
both). Our framework encompasses several 1993]), as well as in belief merging (see e.g. [Libera-
previous approaches as speci c cases, includ- tore and Schaerf, 1998] [Revesz, 1997] [Konieczny and
ing reasoning from preferred consistent sub- Pino Perez, 1998] [Lin and Mendelzon, 1999]).
sets, and some forms of information merging While some of these approaches take account for the
and belief revision. Interestingly, the gain relative importance of pieces of information, they do
in exibility and generality o ered by our not handle the relative importance of variables in the
framework does not imply a complexity shift problem at hand. This is problematic in many situa-
compared to these speci c cases. tions where some variables are less central than others,
especially when some variables are meaningful only in
the presence of others. Thus, it makes no sense to rea-
1 INTRODUCTION son about whether John's car is grey if there is some
strong con ict about whether John actually has a car.
Nontrivial processing of inconsistent sets of formulas is In order to address this issue, we de ne in the follow-
an important topic in arti cial intelligence. Both the ing a new framework for reasoning from inconsistent
complexity of the problem and its signi cance are re- propositional belief bases, using variable forgetting as a
ected by the number of approaches to paraconsistent basic operation for weakening beliefs. Belief bases are
reasoning that can be found in the literature under var- viewed as ( nite) vectors of formulas, conjunctively in-
ious names, like paraconsistent logics, belief revision, terpreted. W.l.o.g., each formula is assumed to be is-
argumentative inference, information merging, model sued from a speci c source of information. The key
tting, arbitration, knowledge integration, knowledge notion of our approach is that of recoveries, which
puri cation, etc. are sets of variables whose forgetting enables restor-
Corresponding to these approaches are many di er- ing consistency. Several criteria for de ning preferred
ent mechanisms to avoid trivialization. For instance, recoveries are proposed, depending on whether the fo-
inconsistency can be removed by identifying wrong cus is laid on the relative relevance of the variables or
pieces of information through knowledge-gathering ac- the relative entrenchment of the pieces of information
(or both). Our framework o ers several advantages noted 9V:, is a quanti ed boolean formula over PS ,
compared with many existing approaches to paracon- equivalent to a formula from PROPPS that can be in-
sistent reasoning. First of all, it is quite general ductively de ned as follows:
and exible. Especially, it enables to model situations
where some sources of information are considered more  9;:  ;
reliable than others in an absolute way, but also rel-  9fxg:  x 0 _ x 1 ;
atively to some topics of interest. Equity between  9(fxg [ V ):  9V:(9fxg:).
some sources of information can also be achieved by
imposing to forget the same variables in the sources. For example, 9fag::a ^ b  b and 9fag:(a _ b)  >.
Accordingly, our framework encompasses several pre-
vious approaches as speci c cases, including reasoning 9V: represents the logically strongest consequence
from preferred consistent subsets, and forms of infor- of  that is independent of V , which means that there
mation merging and belief revision. Interestingly, the exists a formula 0 from PROPPS s.t.  0 and
gain in generality and exibility o ered by our frame- V ar( 0 ) \ V = ;. Accordingly, forgetting a set of vari-
work does not imply a complexity shift compared with ables within a formula leads to weaken it. To be more
these speci c cases. precise, if V  W holds, then 9V: j= 9W: holds.
Moreover,  is consistent if and only if 9V ar(): is
The rest of this paper is organized as follows. Formal valid (see [Lang and Marquis, 1998]).
preliminaries including a presentation of forgetting are
given in Section 2. Our framework is presented in Sec- Many characterizations of variable forgetting, together
tion 3. Computational issues are discussed in Section with complexity results, are reported in [Lang et al.,
4. Section 5 concludes the paper. Proof sketches can 2001]. For instance, for every V  PS and ev-
be found in an appendix. ery formula , we clearly have 9V:  9V :, where
V = V \ V ar().
PROPPS denotes the propositional language built up 3.1 BELIEF BASES AND RECOVERIES
from a nite set PS of symbols, the Boolean constants
> (true) and ? (false), and the usual connectives. Let us rst make precise the belief bases we are inter-
V ar() denote the set of propositional variables oc- ested in.
curring in the formula . x 0 (resp. x 1 ) denotes De nition 2 (belief base) A belief base B is a
the formula obtained by replacing in  every occur- vector h1 ; : : : ; ni of n formulas from PROPPS ,
rence of variable x by ? (resp. >). where n is a positive integer.
An interpretation ! is an assignment of a truth value
to each variable of PS.
= 2PS is the set of all inter- B = h1; : : : ; ni is conjunctively interpreted, so that
pretations. Formulas are interpreted in the classical it is said to be inconsistent if and only if f1; : : : ; ng
way. Every nite set of formulas is interpreted con- is inconsistent. Each i (1  i  n) identi es a source of
junctively. Mod() denotes the set of models of . Fi- information and i denotes the piece of belief conveyed
nally, ! and !0 being two interpretations, Diff(!; !0 ) by source i. Note that it can be the case that a formula
is the set of propositional variables assigned di erent occurs more than once in B, which can be used to
truth values by ! and !0 . model the situation where two di erent sources (or
more) give the same information.
2.2 FORGETTING The key notions of our approach are forgetting vectors
and recoveries. A forgetting vector consists of a collec-
Our approach to restore consistency is based on vari- tion of sets of variables to be forgotten in each formula
able forgetting, also known as projection or marginal- from the belief base. These sets of variables need not
ization. Variable forgetting can be de ned as follows be identical, but they should obey some constraints
(see [Lin and Reiter, 1994] [Lang and Marquis, 1998] bearing on the forgetting process:
for more details):
De nition 3 (forgetting context) A forgetting
De nition 1 (forgetting) Let  be a formula from context C for a belief base B = h1 ; : : : ; ni is a triple
PROPPS and V  PS . The forgetting of V in , hF; G; H i where:
 F = hFi ii=1:::n where, for each i, Fi  PS is the be blue without forgetting whether it should be red: ei-
set of variables that can be forgotten in i (i.e., ther we forget about the colour of the swimming pool
variables in PS n Fi must not be forgotten in i); or not. Similarly, either we forget about the expenses,
i.e., we forget fc0; c1; c2g or not (i.e., we forget none
 G = hGi ii=1:::n where, for each i, Gi is a directed of them).
graph on Fi ; an arc (v; v0 ) in Gi means that v0 is
meaningful only in the presence of v, i.e., that if Clearly enough, the preferences of the group are
v is forgotten in i then v0 must be forgotten as jointly inconsistent. This scenario can be encoded in
well in i; our framework using the following belief base B =
h1 ; 2; 3; 4; 5i and forgetting context C :
 H  PS  f1 : : :ng  f1 : : :ng is a set of triples 1 = (s ) (sr  sb )) ^ (:s ) :sr ^ :sb )
(v; i; j) where v 2 Fi \ Fj and i =
6 j , meaning that  ^(c2 , (s ^ t)) ^ (c1 , (s  t)) ;
if v is forgotten in i, then it must be forgotten as ^(c0 , (:s ^ :t))
well in j .
 2 = (c0 _ c1) ^ (s ) sr );
F, G and H impose some constraints over the way the  3 = (s _ t) ^ (s ) sb );
pieces of belief i from B can be weakened. Thus, if  4 = s;
x 62 Fi , forgetting x in i is forbidden. This is helpful  5 = s ^ t;
to model the situation where source i is fully reliable  F1 = ;, F2 = F3 = F4
to what concerns x, i.e., what i says about x must be = F5 = fs; t; sr ; sb ; c0; c1; c2g;
taken for sure. Gi enables to express that variables can  G1 = ;, G2 = G3 = G4 = G5
be signi cant only in presence of others so forgetting = f(s; sr ); (s; sb ); (sr ; sb); (sb ; sr );
the latter imposes to forget the former. Finally, H (c0; c1); (c0 ; c2); (c1; c0);
can be used to force some sources of information to (c1; c2); (c2 ; c0); (c2; c1)g;
be considered on equal terms w.r.t. weakening. For  H = ;.
instance, if i and j are together inconsistent and
consistency can be recovered by forgetting x in i, then Given that F1 = ;, 1 expresses the integrity con-
it could be expected that x should also be forgotten in straint according to which the swimming pool must
j .
be either red or blue if it is constructed, as well
Example 1 (inspired from [Konieczny and Pino as the logical de nition of the induced price from
Perez, 1998]). As a matter of illustration, let us con- the number of equipments built. 2 (resp. 3,
sider the following preference merging scenario. Sup- 4, 5) encodes the preferences of the co-owners.
pose that a group of four co-owners of a residence tries G2 (= G3 = G4 = G5) ensures that sr and sb are ir-
to agree about building a new tennis court t and/or a relevant if there is no agreement on s, that sr is irrele-
new swimming pool s. If it is constructed, the swim- vant if and only if sb is, and that for any i; j 2 f0; 1; 2g,
ming pool can be either red (sr ) or blue (sb ). If both ci is irrelevant if and only if cj is. In the situa-
a tennis court and a pool { respectively, one of them, tion where all co-owners must be considered on equal
none of them { are (is) constructed, the induced cost is terms w.r.t. the set of variables to be forgotten, H
2 money units (c2 ) { respectively, 1 unit (c1), nothing must be changed to (fsr ; sbg  f2; 3; 4; 5g f2; 3; 4; 5g)
c0 ). The rst co-owner would not like to spend more [(fc0; c1; c2g  f2; 3; 4; 5g f2; 3; 4; 5g).
than 1 unit, and prefers a red swimming pool, should it As expected, our de nition is very general and many
be constructed. The second co-owner would like to im- di erent forgetting contexts can be considered. In
prove the quality of the residence by the construction of some situations, the variables forgotten in each of the
at least a tennis court or a swimming pool and would pieces of information must be identical so that all
prefer a blue swimming pool, should it be constructed. sources of information are considered on equal terms.
The third co-owner just prefers a swimming pool to be This can be captured by considering homogeneous con-
built, whatever its colour. The fourth co-owner would texts, where a forgetting context C = hF; G; H i for
like both a swimming pool (of whatever colour) and a B = h1 ; : : : ; ni is said to be homogeneous if and
tennis court to be built. only if for every i, j 2 1 : : :n, we have Fi = Fj and
Of course, if there is no agreement about whether the Gi = Gj , and H = PS  f1 : : :ng  f1 : : :ng. A sim-
swimming pool is to be constructed, any preference ple case when C should not be homogeneous is when
concerning its colour must be ignored. Furthermore, it some of the pieces of information must be left intact:
is meaningless forgetting about whether the pool should for such a i, we set Fi = ;. This is useful to encode
integrity constraints (or revision formulas), i.e., for- fact that the ith source of information is fully unre-
mulas that are required to be true (just like 1 in the liable, so it should not be taken into account at all
example above). Another non-homogeneous forgetting (hence the corresponding i should be removed from
context for B = h1 ; : : : ; ni is its standard forgetting B).
context, noted CS and given by Fi = PS, Gi = ; for
every i 2 1 : : :n, and H = ;. In this context, every 3.2 PREFERRED RECOVERIES
variable can be forgotten in any piece of belief, and
variables can always be forgotten in an independent Generally, many recoveries for a belief base given a
way. forgetting context are possible, but most of the time,
We can now de ne our notion of recovery: some of the corresponding projections are more ex-
pected than others. Discriminating them calls for a
De nition 4 (recovery) Let B = h ; : : : ; ni be notion of preferred recovery. Many preference criteria
a belief base and C be a forgetting context for B . A can be considered so as to capture in formal terms sev-
recovery vector (or recovery for short) V~ for B given eral intuitions about the way the pieces of information
C is a vector V~ = hV1 ; : : : ; Vni of subsets of V ar(B)1 should be merged.
s.t.: For instance, we may prefer the recoveries V~ =
hV1 ; :::; Vni for B = h1 ; : : : ; ni in which the set Vi of
 for every i 2 1 : : :n, Vi  Fi , and variables forgotten in some of the i's are as close to
each other as possible2, and eventually coincide (which
 for every i 2 1 : : :n, for any (v; v0 ) 2 Gi, v 2 Vi always is the case whenever homogeneous contexts are
implies v0 2 Vi , and considered). We may also prefer recoveries that lead
 for every (v; i; j) 2 H , v 2 Vi implies v 2 Vj , and to forget minimal sets of variables, where minimality
nally may be de ned using a preference criterion induced by
some priorities or penalties on the set of variables. Fi-
 the set B j V~ = f9Vi :i j i 2 1 : : :ng is consistent. nally, we may prefer recoveries that preserve as much
as preferred beliefs as possible (like in the coherence-
B j V~ is called the projection of recovery V~ on B given based approaches to paraconsistent reasoning).
C . RC (B) denotes the set of all recoveries for B given In order to capture these various preferences in formal
C . B is said to be recoverable w.r.t. C if and only if terms, RC (B) can be equipped with a preordering (i.e.,
RC (B) = 6 ;. a re exive and transitive relation) v. For every vector
Example 1 (continued) Here is a list of recoveries V~ , V~ 0 of length n, V~ p V~ 0 means that Vi  Vi0 for
for B given C . For each recovery V~ and every i 2 each i 2 1 : : :n.
1 : : :5 we compute 9Vi :i, and nally B jV~ . De nition 5 (preference relation) Given a be-
All the vectors V~ 1 to V~ 9 considered on the table 1 are lief base B = h1 ; : : : ; ni and a forgetting context C
recoveries for B given C , while the following ones are for it, a preference relation is a re exive and transi-
not recoveries for B given C : tive relation v on RC (B) satisfying the monotonicity
 h;; ftg; ftg; ftg; ftgi, because 9V1 :1 ^ 9V2 :2 ^
9V3 :3 ^ 9V4 :4 ^ 9V5 :5 is inconsistent; 8V~ , V~ 0 2 RC (B), if V~ p V~ 0 then V~ v V~ 0.
 h;; fsg; fsg; fsg; fsgi, because it does not satisfy We note V~ ⊏ V~ 0 for V~ v V~ 0 and V~ 0 6v V~ , and V~  V~ 0
the constraints of C . for V~ v V~ 0 and V~ 0 v V~ .
By construction, replacing the beliefs of B by the pro- It is easy to prove that for any V~ , V~ 0 2 RC (B), if
jection on B of any of its recoveries is sucient to V~ p V~ 0 then B j V~ j= B j V~ 0 holds. Accordingly,
restore consistency, provided that B is recoverable. In among the recoveries from RC (B), the minimal ones
the general case, it may happen that RC (B) is empty, w.r.t. v = p lead to projections that preserve as
because some variables must not be forgotten. An- much information as possible given C . This is helpful
other important sucient condition for a belief base to represent some inertia principle in our framework.
not to be recoverable is when it incorporates some in-
consistent i. In some situations, this can re ect the
For instance, if both V~ = hfag; fb; cgi and V~ = 0

1 We note V ar (h ; : : : ;  i) = Sn V ar ( ).
hfag; fa; cgi are recoveries for B , V~ should (in some con-

1 n i=1 i texts) be preferred because it is more uniform.

Table 1:
recovery 9V1 :1 9V2 :2 9V3 :3 9V4 :4 9V5:5 B j V~
V~ = h;; fs; sb; sr g; fs; sb; sr g;
1 c0 _ c1 > > t 1 ^ :s ^ t
fs; sb ; sr g; fs; sb; sr gi
V~ 2 = h;; ft; sb; sr g; ft; sb; sr g; 1 c0 _ c1 > s s 1 ^ s ^ :t
ft; sb; sr g; ft; sb; sr gi
V~ 3 = h;; fc0; c1; c2; sb ; sr g;
fc0 ; c1; c2; sb; sr g; 1 > s_t s s^t 1 ^ s ^ t
fc0 ; c1; c2; sb; sr g;
fc0; c1; c2; sb ; sr gi
V~ 4 = h;; fsb; sr g; fsb; sr g; ;; ftgi 1 c0 _ c1 s_t s s 1 ^ s ^ :t
~V 5 = h;; fc0; c1; c2g; fsb; sr g; ;; ;i 1 s ) sr s_t s s^t 1 ^ s ^ t ^ sr
V~ 6 = h;; fsb; sr g; ;; ;; ftgi 1 c0 _ c1 (s _ t) ^ (s ) sb ) s s 1 ^ s ^ :t ^ sb
V~ 7 = h;; ;; ;; fs; sb; sr g; fs; sb; sr gi 1 (c0 _ c1)^ (s _ t) ^ (s ) sb ) > t 1 ^ :s ^ t
(s ) sr )
V~ 8 = h;; fc0; c1; c2; sb; sr g; ;; ;; ;i 1 > (s _ t) ^ (s ) sb ) s s^t 1 ^ s ^ t ^ sb
V~ 9 = h;; ;; fsb; sr g; ;; ftgi 1 (c0 _ c1)^ s_t s s 1 ^ s ^ :t ^ sr
(s ) sr )

Example 1 (cont'd) For instance, we have V~ p 6

symmetric, total function H : INn ! IN s.t. 0(;) = 0
V~ . Accordingly, B j V~ is at least as logically strong
4 6 and 8X, Y  PS, if X  Y , then 0 (X)  0 (Y ), and
as B j V~ .
4 H(0; :::; 0) = 0, and (V~ ) = H(0 (V1 ); :::; 0(Vn )).
Depending on the problem at hand, many other prop- We are now in position to de ne the family of inference
erties on v can be imposed so as to capture various relations jCv that can be de ned in our framework by
intuitions about the result of the merging process. letting C and v to vary. We call them forget inference
Thus, given B = h1; : : : ; ni, a preference relation v
is said to satisfy De nition 6 (skeptical forget inference) Given
a belief base B and a forgetting context C for it, let v
 the binaricity property if and only if 8V~ , V~ 0 2 be a preference relation on RC (B) (possibly induced by
RC (B), if (for every i 2 1 : : :n, (Vi 6= ; , Vi0 6= a ranking function ).
;)), then V~  V~ 0 .
 A recovery V~ 2 RC (B) is said to be preferred
 the gathering property if and only if 8V~ 2 RC (B), (w.r.t. v) if and only if it is minimal in its
~V  hS V~ ; : : :; S V~ i, where S hV1 ; : :~: ; Vni = set w.r.t. v, i.e., there is no V~ 0 2 RC (B) s.t.
VS1 [ : : : [S Vn (obviously, it is required that V~ 0 ⊏ V~ .
h V~ ; : : :; V~ i 2 RC (B) for this notion to make  Let be any formula from PROPPS . is said
sense). to be (skeptically) inferred from B w.r.t. v, de-
noted by B jCv , if and only if for any preferred
In many cases, it is desirable to assume that v is recovery V~ (w.r.t. v), we have B j V~ j= .
a complete preordering. In this situation, we can
equivalently represent v by a ranking function  from Since skeptical inference is considered, among the pre-
RC (B) to IN such that (h;; ;; :::; ;i) = 0, and 8V~ , ferred recoveries for B, only the maximal ones w.r.t.
V~ 0 2 RC (B), if V~ p V~ 0 , then (V~ )  (V~ 0). The p are relevant for inference, in the sense that the
preference relation v induced by  is the total pre- other ones can be ignored without modifying the in-
ordering de ned by 8V~ 2 RC (B), V~ v V~ 0 if and only ference relation jCv . Indeed, such maximal elements
if (V~ )  (V~ 0). We say that a ranking function  is correspond to the logically weakest projections.
anonymously decomposable if and only if there exists
a total function 0 : 2PS ! IN and a non-decreasing, De nition 7 (prudent forget inference) Given
a belief base B and a forgetting context C for it, let that the set of all maxcons inference relations is con-
v be a preference relation on RC (B) (possibly in- tained in the set of forget inference relations, and
duced by a ranking function ). Let be any for- therefore that the latter family is at least as general as
mula from PROPPS . is a prudent consequence the former. In particular, if preference over recoveries
of B w.r.t. v, denoted B jCvprudent , if and is de ned by 8V~ , V~ 0 2 RC (B), V~ v V~ 0 if and only
if fi j Vi 6= ;g  fi j Vi0 6= ;g then B jCv if and

only if B j V~prudent
j= , where V~prudent
is a re-

only if S j= holds for any maximal (w.r.t. set in-

hSV~ 2min(R (B);v) V1 ; : : : ; SV~ 2min(R (B);v) Vni of all
covery for B , de ned as the the pointwise union
clusion) consistent subset S of B. Other criteria such
preferred recoveries for B w.r.t. v (especially, the re-
that maximum cardinality, \discrimin" or \leximin",
lation does not hold whenever V~prudent
does not satisfy
or minimum penalty, can be recovered as well. The
the constraints imposed by C ).
assumption that each i (1  i  n) in B is consistent
is necessary (and sucient) to ensure that B is recov-
Example 1 (cont'd) If v = p is chosen as erable given its standard forgetting context. It can be
a preference relation, we have min(RC (B); v) =
made w.l.o.g., just because B and B n fi j 1  i  n
and i is inconsistentg have the same consistent sub-
fV~ 5 ; V~ 6; V~ 7 ; V~ 8; V~ 9 g. Accordingly, V~prudent
= sets. As an immediate consequence of Proposition 1,
h;; fc0; c1; c2; sb; sr g; fsb; sr g; fs; sb; sr g; fs; sb; sr ; tgi. our framework encompasses other important frame-
We obtain B jCv 1 ^(s_t) and B jCvprudent 1 ^(s_t). works, like supernormal default theories with priori-
ties [Brewka, 1989] and syntax-based belief revision
3.3 ON THE GENERALITY OF OUR [Nebel, 1992], as speci c cases.
We now show how several well-known paraconsistent 3.3.2 Belief Merging
inference relations belong to the family of forget rela- A merging operator (see e.g. [Liberatore and Schaerf,
tions. 1998] [Revesz, 1997] [Konieczny and Pino Perez, 1998]
[Lin and Mendelzon, 1999]) maps any nite collec-
3.3.1 Reasoning from Preferred Consistent tion (multiset) of consistent propositional formulas
Subsets B = f1; : : : ; ng, with n being un xed, into a new
Let us rst recall the de nition of inference drawn from consistent propositional formula Merge(1 ; : : : ; n).
preferred consistent subsets, also called maxcons in- When n is xed, we de ne a n-merging operator
ference relation (see e.g. [Rescher and Manor, 1970] Mergen (1 ; : : : ; n) as the restriction of Merge to
[Fagin et al., 1983] [Ginsberg, 1986] [Brewka, 1989] n-uples of formulas. In order to simplify nota-
[Baral et al., 1991] [Pinkas and Loui, 1992] [Benferhat tions, we will write Merge(1 ; : : : ; n) instead of
et al., 1993]). Let B = f1; : : : ; ng be a nite set of Mergen (1 ; : : : ; n) in the following.
formulas s.t. each i (1  i  n) is consistent, and A special class of n-merging operators is the class of
 a preference pre-ordering on subsets of B s.t. 8X; decomposable merging operators induced by (pseudo-
Y  B, if X  Y , then X  Y 3. Then B j8 if and )distances. Let d :

! IN be a total func-
only if for any preferred (w.r.t. ) consistent subset tion satisfying 8!, !0 2
, d(!; !0) = 0 if and
X of B, we have X j= . only if ! = !0 , and d(!; !0 ) = d(!0 ; !). Let 
be a total function from INn to IN, symmetric and
Proposition 1 j8 is a maxcons inference relation monotonic in each of its arguments. For every B =
if and only if there exists a preference relation v f1; : : : ; ng s.t. each i (1  i  n) is consis-
on RC (B) satisfying binaricity and s.t. for any , tent, the decomposable n-merging operator Merged
f ; : : : ; ng j8 if and only if h ; : : : ; ni jCv . induced by d and  is de ned by Merged (B) =
1 1
f! 2
j d(!; B) is minimalg, where d(!; B) =
The rst direction of Proposition 1 expresses that un- (d(!; 1); : : : ; d(!; n)) when B = f1 ; : : : ; ng and
der the assumption of binaricity and standard forget- d(!; i) = min! j=i d(!; !0). The n-merging inference

ting context, inference from preferred recoveries comes relation jM d; induced by d and  is de ned by B jM d;
down to inference from preferred maximal consistent if and only if Merged (f1 ; : : : ; ng)  Mod( ).

subsets. The other direction of Proposition 1 states In order to characterize the decomposable n-merging
Among usual preference relations, we nd set inclusion: inference relations as forget relations, we need to fo-
X  Y if and only if X  Y , and cardinality: X  Y if cus on the di erential ones, i.e., those based on a dif-
and only if jX j  jY j. ferential distance, where a distance d is said to be
di erential if and only if there exists a total func- Proposition 3 Let C be the forgetting context for
tion f : 2PS ! IN satisfying (i) f(;) = 0 and (ii) h ; i s.t. F = G = G = H = ; and F = PS .
1 1 2 2
8A,B  PS, if A  B, then f(A)  f(B), and s.t. Let vS (resp. vD ) be a preference relation on RC (B)
8!, !0 2
, d(!; !0) = f(Diff(!; !0 )). s.t. 8V~ , V~ 0 2 RC (B), V~ vS V~ 0 if and only if V  V 0
2 2
(resp. V~ vD V~ 0 if and only if jV j  jV 0 j). Provided
Proposition 2 f ; : : : ; ng jMd; is a decomposable
2 2
1 that  is consistent, we have:
and di erential n-merging inference relation if and
only if there exists a complete preference relation v  for any ,  S j= if and only if h ; i jCvS ;
on RC (B), induced by a ranking measure  satisfy-

ing anonymous decomposability, such that for any ,

f ; : : : ; ng jM
1 d; if and only if h ; : : : ; ni jv
S C  for any ,  D j= if and only if h ; i jCvD ;
The rst direction of Proposition 2 expresses that un-  for any ,  W j= if and only if
der the assumptions of completeness of v , anonymous h ; i jCvprudent
S .
decomposability, and standard forgetting context, for-
get inference comes down to inference from a merging 3.4 And Many Others!
operator. The other direction expresses that a partic-
ularly interesting subclass of inferences from merging Up to now, we showed in this section that reason-
operators is contained in the set of forget inference ing from preferred consistent subsets and some forms
relations. In particular, usual arbitration and major- of belief merging and of belief revision are particu-
ity merging operators (see [Konieczny and Pino Perez, lar cases of forget inference relations. Now, there are
1998]) are recovered by letting (1) i (A) = jAj for each many other forget inference relations which do not be-
i 2 1 : : :n, which implies that the induced distance d long to any of the previous families (provided that no
is the Hamming distance between interpretations, and new propositional symbols are added).
(2)  = max or  = +, respectively.
A rst example is the family of homogeneous forget
3.3.3 Belief Revision inference relations. Such relations can be obtained
by requiring the forgetting context to be homogenous,
Our framework also includes some approaches to or requiring the preference relation v to satisfy the
model-based4 belief revision, including Satoh's S gathering property (which is less demanding). When
[Satoh, 1988] (or equivalently, the operator given in homogeneous inference relations are considered, it is
[Delgrande and Schaub, 2000]), Dalal's D [Dalal, enough to de ne a preference relation on subsets of
1988] and Weber's W [Weber, 1986], provided that PS (instead of vectors of subsets of PS). Many such
the belief set under consideration is not PROPPS (i.e., relations can be obtained by letting the preference rela-
it can be encoded by a consistent formula ). tion on 2PS vary, in quite the same manner as maxcons
inference relations are obtained by letting the prefer-
Given two formulas  and , we have: ence relation on subsets vary. We may for instance
 Diff min ( ; ) = min(fDiff(!; !0 ) j ! 2 Mod( ); minimize theSset of Sforgotten variables (i.e., V~ v V~ 0 if
!0 2 Mod()g; ); and only if V  V~ 0), or minimize the number of
 jjDiff min ( ; )jj = min(fjDiff(!; !0 )j j ! 2 forgotten variables, or, more generally, make use of a
Mod( ); !0 2 Mod()g; ); prede ned penalty function or priority preordering on
 Mod( S ) = f! 2 Mod( ) j 9!0 2 Mod() s.t. variables.
Diff(!; !0 ) 2 Diff min ( ; )g;
 Mod( D ) = f! 2 Mod( ) j 9!0 2 Mod() s.t. Here is a variety of conclusions that can be achieved
jDiff(!; !0 )j = jjDiff min ( ; )jjg. through a judicious choice of v on Example 1.
 Mod( W ) = f! 2 Mod( ) j 9!0 2 Mod() s.t. Example 1 (continued) Consider the following
S! Diff
and !0 coincides except possibly on variables from
min ( ; )g. preference relations and the induced inference relations
jCv . We de ne the mapping k : 2V ar B ! IN by
( )

k = kc + ks + kt where kc (V ) = 3 if fc ; c ; c g  V ,
0 1 2
The inference relations induced by S , D and W are kc (V ) = 0 otherwise ; ks (V ) = 3 if fs; sb; sr g  V ,
forget ones since: ks(V ) = 1 if V \ fs; sb; sr g = fsb ; sr g, and ks(V ) = 0
otherwise ; kt(V ) = 2 if t 2 V , kt(V ) = 0 otherwise.
As evoked previously, it incorporates as well the usual
syntax-based ones.  v1 =p ;
What should be concluded from such inconsistent
5 X
bases, especially when no information about the (abso-
 v2 : V~ v2 V~ if and only if
0 k (V i )  k(Vi )

lute or relative to topics) reliability of the two sources

i=1 i=1
are available? There is no absolute answer to this
 v3 : V~ v3 V~ 0 if and only if S V~  S V~ 0;
question! The result depends on various assumptions
on the merging process, and the variety of conclusions
 v4 : V~ v4 V~ 0 if and only if k(S V~ )  k(S V~ 0 );
obtained through many paraconsistent inference rela-
tions, as reported in the table, exempli es it.
 v5 : V~ v5 V~ 0 if and only if The very important point here is that our framework
fi j Vi =6 ;g  fi j Vi0 6= ;g. enables to capture each of them:

The results are synthesized in table 2. v1 is the point-  v1 corresponds to inference from maximal (w.r.t.
wise inclusion relation. v2 is a merging inference re-  or cardinality) consistent subsets.
lation. v5 is a maxcons inference relation. v3 and  v2 (resp. v3 ) corresponds to distance-based merg-
v4 correspond to homogeneous inference relations: v3 ing where d is the Hamming distance and  = +
minimizes the set of variables forgotten everywhere (resp.  = max).
while v4 minimizes their cumulated cost.
 v4 = the closure of p under gathering.
A second family of forget inference relations which
does not degenerate into one of the previous types of  v5 = p under the standard forgetting context.
inference is obtained in the situation where reliability
between sources is a matter of topic5, as explained in Compared with the weakening by inhibition mecha-
the following example: nism at work in the coherence-based approaches, weak-
ening by variable forgetting is typically less drastic; in-
Example 2 Let be B = h ;  i, with  = a^b,  =
1 2 1 2 deed, instead of inhibiting a whole formula { or equiv-
:a^:b. Let us consider the standard forgetting context alently, replacing it by > { it is possible to keep all its
for B . Assume that source 1. is more reliable to what consequences that are not involved in any contradic-
concerns a than to what concerns b and conversely, tion (see e.g. the piece of information c in Example
source 2. is more reliable to what concerns b than to 3). Subsequently, more information can be preserved.
what concerns a. To capture it in our framework, the
following ranking function can be considered (among 4 COMPUTATIONAL ISSUES
P (hV1; V2i) = 0(V1) + 0(V2)
other possible choices):
where 0 (Vi ) = v2Vi ki (v) and k1(a) = 2, k1(b) = 1,
k2(a) = 1, k2 (b) = 2. Then the (unique) preferred We now investigate the computational complexity of
recovery for B is hfbg; fagi and therefore we have forget inference relations. We suppose the reader fa-
B jCv a ^ :b. miliar with computational complexity (see e.g. [Pa-
padimitriou, 1994]), and especially the complexity
Finally, in order to illustrate the exibility o ered by classes NP, p2 and p2 of the polynomial hierarchy.
our framework, let us consider the two following bases: We have obtained the following results:
Example 3 Let B = h ;  i, and let B 0 = h0 ; 0 i,
1 2 1 2
Proposition 4
with: 1. Given a belief base B and a forgetting context C
1 = (a _ b) ^ c 1 = a ^ b
for it, determining whether B is recoverable is NP-
2 = :a ^ :b 2 = :a ^ :b
v1 1 _ 2 a,b 2. Provided that the preference relation v on RC (B)
v2 (:a _ :b) ^ c > can be tested in polynomial time, the inference
v3 (a _ b _ c) ^ (:a _ b) a 6, b
v4 c ^ (:a _ :b) > problem associated to jCv is in p2 .
v5 c ^ (:a _ :b) > 3. If moreover v is induced by a ranking function
 computable in polynomial time, the inference
5 Here, a topic simply is a propositional variable x and
problem associated to jCv is in p2.
a source i conveys some information about it as soon as
i is not independent of x, i.e., i 6 9fxg:i . For a very
di erent approach where topics are taken into account, see These results show that the gain in generality and
[Cholvy, 1995]. exibility o ered by our framework does not induce
Table 2:
preference relation preferred recoveries j
that are maximal w.r.t. p

v1 V~ 5 , V~ 6 , V~ 7 , V~ 8 , V~ 9 1 ^ (s _ t)
v2 V~ 6 , V~ 9 1 ^ (s ^ :t)
v3 V~ 1 , V~ 2 , V~ 3 s_t
v4 V~ 1 , V~ 2 , V~ 6 1 ^ (s  t)
v5 h;; ;; ;; F4 ; F5 i, h;; ;; F3; ;; F5i, h;; F2 ; ;; ;; ;i 1 ^ (s _ t) ^ (s ^ t ) sb ) ^ (s ^ :t ) sr )

a complexity shift compared with many more speci c jCvprudent ) is in coNP.

approaches (such as maxcons inferences and forms of
belief revision), that are already p2 -complete. This 2. If moreover the set fi j 1  i  ng of formu-
holdsp as well for distance-based belief merging which las from B belongs to a class of formulas that are
is 2-complete in the general case (see [Liberatore and tractable for clausal entailment and stable for new
Schaerf, 2000] [Konieczny et al., 2002]), while the prob- variable renaming6 , the inference problem asso-
lem of forget inference with a complete preference re- ciated to jCv (or jCvprudent ) is in P when CNF
lation induced by a polytime ranking function is not queries are considered.
harder. Hardness results for our forget inference rela-
tions (in the general case) can be easily obtained from Interestingly, several well-known classes that are
known results for maxcons inference relations, belief tractable for the satis ability problem are also stable
revision or merging (see e.g. [Eiter and Gottlob, 1992] for new variable renaming; For example, this is the
[Cayrol et al., 1998] [Nebel, 1998] [Konieczny et al., case for the class of Krom formulas (CNF formulas
2002]), thanks to the forget-based characterizations of consisting of binary clauses) and for the class of CNF
such approaches, as reported in Section 3.3. Horn renamable formulas.
In the general case (especially, when v is not induced
by a ranking function), our complexity result show
that two independent sources of complexity must be 5 CONCLUSION
dealt with. One of them lies in the possibly expo- We have proposed a new framework for reasoning from
nential number of preferred recoveries which must be inconsistent belief bases, which proceeds by selecting
taken into account. The other one originates from subsets of variables to be forgotten in the pieces of in-
the complexity of classical entailment in propositional formation, respecting some xed constraints. We have
logic. shown that this framework encompasses many existing
One way to circumvent this intractability consists in frameworks as speci c cases, namely reasoning from
compiling the belief base [Cadoli and Donini, 1997] preferred consistent subsets, forms of belief merging
[Coste-Marquis and Marquis, 2000]. Such a com- and of belief revision.
pilation may consist in computing o -line the set As evoked in the introduction, our approach is based
min(RC (B); v) - or only the maximal elements of it on classical entailment so that the logical contents of
w.r.t. p . In this situation, the source of complexity the belief base is weakened instead of the inference
due to the number of preferred recoveries disappears relation itself. This gives to our family of forget re-
(in practice, this is signi cant only when the number is lations some pros and some cons. Thus, if the belief
small enough, which is always the case when prudent base consists of a single inconsistent formula, our ap-
inference is considered); accordingly, the complexity proach is not adapted (as well as the coherence-based
of (skeptical or prudent) inference goes down to coNP. approaches and belief merging, which are also based
The other source of complexity can also be removed on classical entailment). Paraconsistent logics based
by imposing some restrictions on the belief base B. In on subclassical entailment relations can then be used
this situation, on-line forget inference is tractable. with pro t. Conversely, since weakening bears on the
Proposition 5 6 This means that for every formula  from P ROP
1. Provided that min(RC (B); v) - or only the max- and for every substitution  that renames some occurrences
of variables from  into new variables (not occurring in ),
imal elements of it w.r.t. p - is part of the in- if  belongs to the class under consideration, this is also
put, the inference problem associated to jCv (or the case for ().
inference relation in paraconsistent logics, it is uni- Transactions on Knowledge and Data Engineering,
form and the fact that information comes from several 3(2):208{220, 1991.
sources is not exploited. For instance, it is not possible [Benferhat et al., 1993] S. Benferhat, C. Cayrol,
to derive b from fa ^ (:a _ b); :ag using the paracon-
sistent logic LPm [Priest, 1991] (this is because :a _ b D. Dubois, J. Lang, and H. Prade. Inconsistency
is a consequence of :a). management and prioritized syntax- based entail-
ment. In Proceedings of the 13th International Joint
The idea of weakening beliefs instead of throwing them Conference on Arti cial Intelligence (IJCAI'93),
out is not new. For instance, in [Bessant et al., pages 640{645, 1993.
2001], each formula belonging to a con ict is weak-
ened through the introduction of a new propositional [Besnard and Hunter, 1998] Ph. Besnard and
symbol. This way, inconsistency is removed. Then, A. Hunter. Handbook of Defeasible Reasoning
non-monotonic inference is conducted over the result- and Uncertainty Management Systems, volume 2,
ing base so as to prefer the introduced symbols as false. chapter Introduction to actual and potential contra-
This enables a non-trivial treatment of iterated re- dictions, pages 1{11. Kluwer Academic Publishers,
vision. Unfortunately, this approach comes down to 1998.
the well-known WIDTIO approach (\When In Doubt [Bessant et al., 2001] B. Bessant, E. Gregoire, P. Mar-
Throw It Out") [Winslett, 1990] when only one revi- quis, and L. Sas. Frontiers of Belief Revision, vol-
sion is performed. Indeed, in this situation, weakening ume 22 of Applied Logic Series, chapter Iterated
by variable introduction does not enable more infor- syntax-based revision in a nonmonotonic setting,
mation to be preserved than if beliefs were removed. pages 369{391. Kluwer Academic, 2001.
Our approach does not su er from this drawback be-
cause weakening is achieved through forgetting instead [Brewka, 1989] G. Brewka. Preferred subtheories: an
of variable introduction. This also enables classical en- extended logical framework for default reasoning.
tailment to be performed from the resulting base (i.e., In Proceedings of the 11th International Joint Con-
after forgetting) instead of nonmonotonic inference. ference on Arti cial Intelligence (IJCAI'89), pages
Finally, weakening formulas by variable forgetting 1043{1048, Detroit (MI), 1989.
can be useful in many practical situations. For in- [Cadoli and Donini, 1997] M. Cadoli and F.M.
stance, if a series of tests has to be performed so Donini. A survey on knowledge compilation. AI
as to \solve" inconsistency [Lang and Marquis, 2000; Communications, 10:137{150, 1997. Printed in
Liberatore and Donini, 2000], preferred recoveries give 1998.
some hints about the variables that should be tested [Cayrol et al., 1998] C. Cayrol, M.-C. Lagasquie-
rst, namely, the most important ones (w.r.t. the Schiex, and Th. Schiex. Nonmonotonic reasoning:
graph G in C ) that have to be forgotten. Similarly, from complexity to algorithms. Annals of Mathe-
in a decision-theoretic context where the i 's are no matics and Arti cial Intelligence, 22(3{4):207{236,
longer beliefs but preferences of several agents, vari- 1998.
ables that do not need to be forgotten are these the
agents agree on, and preferred recoveries help nding [Cholvy, 1995] L. Cholvy. Automated reasoning with
the variables about which negociation should start. merged contradictory information whose reliabil-
ity depends on topics. In Proceedings of the Eu-
Acknowledgements ropean Conference on Symbolic and Quantitative
Approaches to Reasoning and Uncertainty (EC-
The authors wish to thanks Philippe Besnard and SQARU'95), pages 125{132, Fribourg, 1995.
Torsten Schaub for many helpful discussions. The sec- [Coste-Marquis and Marquis, 2000] S. Coste-Marquis
ond author has been partly supported by the IUT de and P. Marquis. Compiling strati ed belief bases. In
Lens, the Universite d'Artois, the Region Nord/Pas- Proceedings of the 14th European Conference on Ar-
de-Calais under the TACT-TIC project, and by the ti cial Intelligence (ECAI'00), pages 23{27, Berlin,
European Community FEDER Program. 2000.
[Dalal, 1988] M. Dalal. Investigations into a theory
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Appendix: proof sketches cardinality playing the role that set inclusion plays
for S . We omit the case of W , the proof of which is
Sketch of proof of Proposition 1: not hard to establish.
((): Let v be a preference relation over RC (B)
satisfying binaricity. Let B = h ; : : : ; ni. For any Sketch of proof of Proposition 4: The membership

subset S of f ; :::; ng, we de ne V~S = hV ; : : : ; Vni
1 1 proof for Point 1 goes as follows. Let B = h ; : : : ; ni
where for each i 2 1 : : :n, Vi = ; if i 2 S and Vi = Fi be a belief base and let C = hF; G; H i be a forget-
otherwise. Now, we de ne a preference relation  ting context for B. The following nondeterministic
on consistent subsets of f ; :::; ng by X  Y if
1 algorithm can be used to determine whether B is
and only if V~X v V~Y . It can then be shown that recoverable: 1. Guess n subsets V1; : : : ; Vn of V ar(B)
f ; :::; ng j8 if and only if B jCv .
and n + 1 interpretations !, !1; : : : ; !n over V ar(B);
()): Let  be a preference relation over con- 2. For each i 2 1 : : :n, check that: (a) Vi  Fi ; (b) for
sistent subsets of f ; :::; ng. For any vector
1 every (v; v0 ) 2 Gi , if v 2 Vi , then v0 2 Vi ; (c) !i j= i;
V~ = hV ; : : : ; Vni of subsets of PS, let SV~ be the
(d) ! coincides with !i on V ar(i ) n Vi .
subset of f ; :::; ng de ned by SV~ = fi j Vi = ;g.
Due to lack of space we omit hardness (easy to
Let us now de ne the preference relation v over establish) and points 2 and 3.
RC (B) by V~ v V~ 0 if and only if SV~  SV~ 0 . Note
that v satis es binaricity. Now, it can be shown that

Sketch of proof of Proposition 5: Let

f ; :::; ng j8 if and only if h ; :::; ni jCv .
1 1
V~ = hV ; : : : ; Vni be any preferred recov-
ery from min(RC (B); v). Forget inference
Sketch of proof of Proposition 2: W~
from B comes down to classical inference from
((): Assume that v is a complete preference V 2min R B ;v B j V~ . The key point is the equiv-
( C( ) )
relation on RC (B) induced by a ranking function 

satisfying decomposability, i.e., there exists 0 and

V that f9V : ; : : : ; 9Vn:ng j= if and
alence stating 1 1
only if ni i [new(Vi )] j= , where i [new(Vi )] is
H s.t. (V~ ) = H(0 (V1); : : : ; 0(Vn )). Let us de ne
the formula obtained by renaming in an uniform way
the merging operator jM d; induced from the pseudo- in i every variable v 2 Vi by the new variable vi ,
distance de ned by d(!; !0) = 0(Diff(!; !0 )) and provided that does not contain any new variable
the aggregation function  = H. It can then be vi , i 2 1 : : :n. While the formula corresponding to
proven that B jMd; if and only if B jv .
B j V~ after such a renaming process is not logically
()) Let B jM d; be a decomposable and dif- equivalent to it7, it is query-equivalent to it (i.e.,
ferential n-merging inference relation induced equivalence in preserved over the original language,
by pseudo-distance d and aggregation func- only), but this is sucient for our query answering
tion , i.e., d(!; B) = ni=1 (d(!; i)) and purpose.
d(!; !0 ) = f(Diff(!; !0 ). Let us consider the
forget inference induced from the standard for-
getting context and the function  de ned by
(V~ ) = H(0(V1 ); : : : ; 0(Vn )) where 0 = f and 7
In [Lang et al., 2001], we show that in the general case
H = . Then we prove that we get (!) = d(!; B), and unless NP \ coNP  P/poly, there exists no proposi-
from which it follows that B jM d; = B jv .
tional formula equivalent to 9V:, s.t. the size of is
polynomially bounded in the size of  plus the size of V .