Reasoning with Partial Knowledge

51 Pages Posted: 28 Feb 2008

See all articles by Laszlo Polos

Laszlo Polos

Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM)

Michael Hannan

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Date Written: May 2000 7,


We investigate how sociological argumentation differs from the 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 does not overturn conclusions in an argument. The cause of nonmonotonicity is the need to derive conclusions from partial knowledge. We identify meta-principles 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 paves the way towards a complete classical theory.

Keywords: logic of theory building, non-monotonicity, social science methodology, organizational mortality respectively

JEL Classification: M, M10, L2

Suggested Citation

Polos, Laszlo and Hannan, Michael, Reasoning with Partial Knowledge (May 2000 7,). ERIM Report Series Reference No. ERS-2000-30-ORG, Available at SSRN:

Laszlo Polos (Contact Author)

Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM) ( email )

P.O. Box 1738
3000 DR Rotterdam

Michael Hannan

Stanford Graduate School of Business ( email )

655 Knight Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5015
United States
650-723-1511 (Phone)
650-725-7692 (Fax)

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics