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Reasoning with partial knowledge

Pólos, L.; Hannan, M.T.


M.T. Hannan


We investigate how sociological argumentation differs from classical first–order logic. We focus on theories about age dependence of organizational mortality. The overall pattern of argument does not comply with the classical monotonicity principle: Adding premises overturns conclusions in an argument. The cause of nonmonotonicity is the need to derive conclusions from partial knowledge. We identify metaprinciples that appear to guide the observed sociological argumentation patterns, and we formalize a semantics to represent them. This semantics yields a new kind of logical consequence relation. We demonstrate that this new logic can reproduce the results of informal sociological theorizing and lead to new insights. It allows us to unify existing theory fragments, and it paves the way toward a complete classical theory.


Pólos, L., & Hannan, M. (2002). Reasoning with partial knowledge. Sociological Methodology, 32(1), 133-181.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2002
Deposit Date Mar 28, 2007
Journal Sociological Methodology
Print ISSN 0081-1750
Electronic ISSN 1467-9531
Publisher American Sociological Association
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 32
Issue 1
Pages 133-181
Public URL