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Inference, reasoning, consistency check definitions

Note1 – the scope of these definitions is limited to semantic web discipline.
Note2 – 05.10.2009 – updated thanks to a comment from Horst.
Note3 – 06.10.2009 – changed “inference” to an effect instead of process/action (thanks Horst as well). If it is an action, then it is part of the reasoning action. And reasoning action is part of the inference action. So, inference=reasoning, which is not ok.

There is a bunch of definitions about each of the terms, here I try to define with the purpose of marking the main differences and relations between “inference”, “reasoning” and “consistency check”.

inference – the effect of triples added to a model achieved via reasoning (using OWL / SWRL rules / etc.)

reasoning – process of calculating logical consequences from a set of asserted facts or axioms (from wiki). The goal of reasoning can be an inference or a consistency check.

consistency check – verify if there are no logical clashes (contradictions) in the given model

One reply on “Inference, reasoning, consistency check definitions”

Keeping in mind your intention to clearly distinguish between the three, I venture to add some comments.

Inference is an effect on a dataset achieved via reasoning. The effect could be translated into ‘explicit expression of any implicit triple’.
This applies to datasets with complex logic like ontologies and RDF as well as to simpler datasets expressed in XML and schemas or even SGML and DTDs where an IMPLIED value for an attribute is common. Schematron can cause quite some intended inference.

Reasoning is the general verb to achieve anything on a logical whole (of assertions, axiom and playrules).

I don’t think it’s true that reasoning in general needs a consistency check. But since reasoning on inconsistent data leads to conclusions without any garantuee and doesn’t even garantuee the correct termination of the process, ‘good’ reasoners check for consistency before starting the heavy work.

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