Why is simpler better?

Elliott Sober, Aeon, May 09, 2016
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Elliott Sober is one of the more well-known and well-regarded philosophers today, and it is on the strength of work like this that he deserves his reputation. In a relatively short and crystal-clear essay he explains our historical preference for simplicity in science, and explains some of the theoretical underpinnings for that preference. In the end, as he says, "there is in the end no unconditional and presuppositionless justification for Ockham’s Razor," is is still nonetheless relevant to making decisions about scientific theories. It would be interesting to see, by contrast, what a comparable essay for a 'middle ground' between simple and complex theories would look like. After all, science is at least in part an art, and in art, simplicity is not necessarily a virtue, as Gaudi so aptly demonstrates. Via Leiter.

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