Dr David Makinson

Honorary Associate Professor

School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry
Faculty of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences


Born in Sydney Australia, 1941. Educated at North Sydney High, then Sydney University (B.A. in Philosophy, first class honours). Commonwealth Scholarship to Oxford University UK,leading to D.Phil. 1965 with thesis on "Rules of truth for modal logic". From 1965 to 1982 worked at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon (Assistant, Associate, Full Professor in the Philosophy Department), then from 1980 to 2000 as Programme Specialist in Unesco (Philosophy Division). From 2001 to 2006 Professor at King's College London (Computer Science Department), then from 2007 to 2019 Guest Professor in the Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method, London School of Economics (LSE). Currently living in Paris, and since September 2022 Honorary Associate Professor in the School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry, University of Queensland.

An intellectual autobiography entitled "A tale of five cities" was published in S.O. Hansson ed., David Makinson on Classical Methods for Non-Classical Problems (Series: Outstanding Contributions to Logic) Springer 2014, pp 19-32, with recollections also in an interview in The Reasoner 2014, also available at personal website mentioned below..

Research Interests

  • Areas of research
    In general, my research has been in logic and its relations with neighbouring disciplines. Most recent Currently, I am working mainly on relevance-sensitive truth-trees, and in some topics in the history of logic concerning Boole, Frege, and Orlov. In recent years I have also returned to topics that had for a long time been on shelves at the back of my mind. These include Gödel's 'master argument' for his first incompleteness theorem, and a semantic study of intelim rules for classical connectives. Logic of uncertain reasoning In this area, my research has followed three main lines. One was directed to clarifying the logical patterns to be found in qualitative uncertain reasoning, commonly known as nonmonotonic inference. Another established the basic relationships between nonmonotonic inference and belief revision. More recently, I have investigated the relations between qualitative and probabilistic approaches to uncertain reasoning, the concept of a lossy inference rule, and conditional probability in the light of qualitative belief change. Logic of belief change Perhaps the most frequently cited work is the creation of the so-called AGM account of the logic of belief change, with Carlos Alchourrón and Peter Gärdenfors. This was done in a variety of converging forms: postulational, in terms of partial meet operations, relations of epistemic entrenchment, and safe contraction, with also a paper reviewing the ways in which the logics of belief change and uncertain reasoning have led to new ways of doing logic. More recent papers in this area, with George Kourousias, examine the question of relevance in belief change in the light of the finest splitting theorem. Logic of norms and normative systems In the logic of norms (also known as deontic logic), earlier publications analyse the Hohfeld classification of rights relationships and its application to real-life rights claims (particularly collective rights). More recent work reconstructs the logic of norms in accord with the philosophical position that norms lack truth values, developing into a general theory of input/output logics as a framework for conditional directives and permissions. Other areas of logic Some of my work does not fall squarely into any of the above categories. One paper separates combinatorial from decision-theoretic components in Arrow's impossibility theorem and the closely related Blair/Bordes/Kelly/Suzumura theorem in the theory of collective preference, providing a particularly elegant proof of those results. Another articulates the fascinating concept of logical friendliness, studying its implicit manifestations in the literature of the last hundred and fifty years, as well as its properties. A third formulates the concept of parallel interpolation and continues Parikh's analysis of splitting in classical propositional logic. Early work in modal logic Early work focussed largely on modal logic. Perhaps the most cited contribution in this area was the adaptation, in my1965 D.Phil. thesis and a following publication, of the maximal consistent set method, then well-known in classical propositional and predicate logic (Lindenbaum, Henkin), to serve as a tool for establishing completeness results in modal and other non-classical logics, where it is now a standard procedure. Also often mentioned is the discovery of the first simple and natural propositional logic lacking the finite model property; and formulation of a generalised notion of relational model for modal logic, bringing the relational account into harmony with the algebraic one. Another item, quite ignored at the time of its publication in 1971 but often cited in recent years, proves the first (and still the main) embedding theorem for modal logics.

Research Impacts

My work has always been in mathematical logic and its relations with neighbouring disciples, notably philosophy and computer science. Its direct impact is on professionals in those disciplines and a generation or two of undergraduate and graduate students, mainly in philosophy but also in computing and mathematics, helping them structure their thinking and work in those disciplines on sound logical bases.


  • Doctor of Philosophy, Oxf.


  • Badia, Guillermo and Makinson, David (2023). First-order friendliness. Review of Symbolic Logic, 1-13. doi: 10.1017/S175502032300014X

View all Publications


Journal Article

  • Badia, Guillermo and Makinson, David (2023). First-order friendliness. Review of Symbolic Logic, 1-13. doi: 10.1017/S175502032300014X