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Simplicity (in scientific theories)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-Q095-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 20, 2024, from

Article Summary

In evaluating which of several competing hypotheses is most plausible, scientists often use simplicity as a guide. This raises three questions: what makes one hypothesis simpler than another? Why should a difference in simplicity make a difference in what we believe? And how much weight should simplicity receive, compared with other considerations, in judging a hypothesis’ plausibility? These may be termed the descriptive, the normative, and the weighting problems, respectively. The aesthetic and pragmatic appeal of more simple theories is transparent; the puzzle is how simplicity can be a guide to truth.

Citing this article:
Sober, Elliott. Simplicity (in scientific theories), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-Q095-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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