Abductive reasoning in neural-symbolic systems

Artur S. D'Avila Garcez, Dov M. Gabbay, Oliver Ray, John Woods

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Abduction is or subsumes a process of inference. It entertains possible hypotheses and it chooses hypotheses for further scrutiny. There is a large literature on various aspects of non-symbolic, subconscious abduction. There is also a very active research community working on the symbolic (logical) characterisation of abduction, which typically treats it as a form of hypothetico-deductive reasoning. In this paper we start to bridge the gap between the symbolic and sub-symbolic approaches to abduction. We are interested in benefiting from developments made by each community. In particular, we are interested in the ability of non-symbolic systems (neural networks) to learn from experience using efficient algorithms and to perform massively parallel computations of alternative abductive explanations. At the same time, we would like to benefit from the rigour and semantic clarity of symbolic logic. We present two approaches to dealing with abduction in neural networks. One of them uses Connectionist Modal Logic and a translation of Horn clauses into modal clauses to come up with a neural network ensemble that computes abductive explanations in a top-down fashion. The other combines neural-symbolic systems and abductive logic programming and proposes a neural architecture which performs a more systematic, bottom-up computation of alternative abductive explanations. Both approaches employ standard neural network architectures which are already known to be highly effective in practical learning applications. Differently from previous work in the area, our aim is to promote the integration of reasoning and learning in a way that the neural network provides the machinery for cognitive computation, inductive learning and hypothetical reasoning, while logic provides the rigour and explanation capability to the systems, facilitating the interaction with the outside world. Although it is left as future work to determine whether the structure of one of the proposed approaches is more amenable to learning than the other, we hope to have contributed to the development of the area by approaching it from the perspective of symbolic and sub-symbolic integration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-49
Number of pages13
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Abduction
  • Abductive logic programming
  • Connectionist modal logic
  • Neural networks


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