How Formal Logic Can Fail to be Useful for Modelling or Designing MAS

CPM Report No.: CPM-02-102
By: Bruce Edmonds
Date: 1st August 2002

This paper and the discussion from which it originated has lead to a special section of JASSS on this issue.  For information on the section and the CfP please see:

Published as: Edmonds, B. (2003) How Formal Logic Can Fail to be Usefu for Modelling or Designing MAS. In Lindeman, G. et al. (eds.) Proccedings of the International Workshop on Regulated Agent-Based Social Systems: Theories and Applications (RASTA'02). Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence, Springer Verlag.


There is a certain style of paper which has become traditional in MAS – one where a formal logic is introduced to express some ideas, or where a logic is extended on the basis that it then covers certain particular cases, but where the logic is not actually usedto make any substantial inferences and no application of the logic demonstrated.  I argue that although these papers do follow a certain tradition, that they are not useful given the state of MAS and should, in future, be rejected as premature (just as if one had simulation but never run it).  I counter the argument that theory is necessary by denying that the theory has to be so abstract.  I counter the argument that logic helps communication on the simple grounds that for most people it doesn’t.  I argue that the type of logic that tends to be used in these papers is inappropriate.  I finish with some suggestions as to useful ways forward.

Accessible as: