Sven Ove Hansson (ed).
David Makinson on classical methods for non-classical problems.
Springer Publishing Company, Incorporated, 2014.

ACM CR categories: I.2.0 Artificial intelligence - philsophical foundations
I.2.3 Deduction and theorem proving - nonmonotonic reasoning and belief revision
I.2.1 Applications and expert systems - law
F.4.1 Mathematical Logic

A fine bunch of authors present papers about the present status of the fields of work of an outstanding logician, David Makinson, in this book. Makinson is also invited to comment on the papers and offer some papers of his own. Three areas are covered. The first is belief change, a field whose seminal paper, known by the initials of its authors, came from Alchourrón, Gärdenfors and Makinson (AGM). There are five contributions, including one on the broader area of epistemic reasoning in life and literature by Rohit Parikh. The area of uncertain reasoning is where Makinson has written a book and some magisterial surveys, showing that nonmonotonic, and the more usual monotonic, reasoning can be treated in a single broad framework. There are three detailed contributions dealing with current work and posing open problems. The area of normative systems includes deontic logic, which deals with permissions and obligations. There are four contributions in this area, including one by John Horty which treats an alternative to the AGM postulates from a legal perspective. The editor, Sven Ove Hansson, has written a nice preview, and with Peter Gärdenfors, an introduction to Makinson's work in these three areas. There are so many interesting topics under discussion, I feel the editor could have spent some effort on a decent index (none is provided).

There is also a remarkable paper by Makinson on his academic career, which is more colourful than the usual staid rise to a professorship. The author offers opinions on many things which are notable for their perspicuity. For example, when considering a job in Oxford after completing a doctorate there, he says, ``I was impatient with a culture where so much appeared to be an exercise in appearing clever rather than clarifying and ... settling matters.'' He moved to Beirut and his observations on making that decision and on his life there are worth reading. Discussing teaching, Makinson recommends for students in philosophy, artificial intelligence and computer science, that they should know some logic, and before that, ``they all need to know something about sets, relations, functions, structural recursion as a form of definition and induction as a method of proof piggybacking on it, as well as directed trees and finite probability.'' He wrote a book [1] aimed at this audience.

I think that graduate students and researchers in the area of logic and artificial intelligence will especially benefit from reading this book, for the perspective it provides on what one should work on in these areas (tools and techniques) and how one should work in these areas (with clarity and precision).

This book is part of a series by Springer on the work of outstanding logicians, and I hope the other books in the series are as rewarding.


[1] David Makinson, Sets, Logic and Maths for Computing, Springer, 2nd edition, 2012.