The Logical Foundations of Means‐End Reasoning

John L. Pollock

in Common Sense, Reasoning, and Rationality

Published in print February 2002 | ISBN: 9780195147667
Published online February 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780199785865 | DOI:

Series: New Directions in Cognitive Science (formerly Vancouver Studies in Cognitive Science)

 The Logical Foundations of Means‐End Reasoning

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This chapter focuses on one aspect of practical cognition — plan-construction. Human plan-construction is generally based on means-end reasoning. Means-end reasoning is concerned with finding the means for achieving goals. The basic idea is a simple one: to achieve a goal, we consider an action that would achieve it under some specified circumstances and then try to find a way of putting ourselves in those circumstances in order to achieve the goal by performing the action. Putting ourselves in those circumstances becomes a subgoal. The idea is to work backward from the goal through subgoals until we arrive at subgoals that are already achieved. The resulting sequence of actions constitutes a plan for achieving the goal. A precise logical theory of plan-construction is formulated that completely characterizes means-end reasoning.

Keywords: plan-construction; goal regression planning; algorithmic planning; defeasible planning; means-end reasoning

Chapter.  8715 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Metaphysics

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