Representing Preferences as Ceteris Paribus Comparatives

Jon Doyle and Michael P. Wellman

Decision-theoretic preferences specify the relative desirability of all possible outcomes of alternative plans. In order to express general patterns of preference holding in a domain, we require a language that can refer directly to preferences over classes of outcomes as well as individuals. We present the basic concepts of a theory of meaning for such generic comparatives to facilitate their incremental capture and exploitation in automated reasoning systems. Our semantics lifts comparisons of individuals to comparisons of classes "other things being equal" by means of contextual equivalences, equivalence relations among individuals that vary with the context of application. We discuss implications of the theory for representing preference information.


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