Principles of KLM-style Defeasible Description Logics

Katarina Britz*, Giovanni Casini, Thomas Meyer, Kody Moodley, Uli Sattler, Ivan Varzinczak

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The past 25 years have seen many attempts to introduce defeasible-reasoning capabilities into a description logic setting. Many, if not most, of these attempts are based on preferential extensions of description logics, with a significant number of these, in turn, following the so-called KLM approach to defeasible reasoning initially advocated for propositional logic by Kraus, Lehmann, and Magidor. Each of these attempts has its own aim of investigating particular constructions and variants of the (KLM-style) preferential approach. Here our aim is to provide a comprehensive study of the formal foundations of preferential defeasible reasoning for description logics in the KLM tradition.

We start by investigating a notion of defeasible subsumption in the spirit of defeasible conditionals as studied by Kraus, Lehmann, and Magidor in the propositional case. In particular, we consider a natural and intuitive semantics for defeasible subsumption, and we investigate KLM-style syntactic properties for both preferential and rational subsumption. Our contribution includes two representation results linking our semantic constructions to the set of preferential and rational properties considered. Besides showing that our semantics is appropriate, these results pave the way for more effective decision procedures for defeasible reasoning in description logics. Indeed, we also analyse the problem of non-monotonic reasoning in description logics at the level of entailment and present an algorithm for the computation of rational closure of a defeasible knowledge base. Importantly, our algorithm relies completely on classical entailment and shows that the computational complexity of reasoning over defeasible knowledge bases is no worse than that of reasoning in the underlying classical DL ALC.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Number of pages46
JournalAcm Transactions on Computational Logic
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • Non-monotonic reasoning
  • defeasible subsumption
  • preferential semantics
  • rational closure

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