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A Close Shave with Realism: How Ockham's Razor Helps Us Find the Truth1

Summary: A Close Shave with Realism:
How Ockham's Razor Helps Us Find the Truth1
Kevin T. Kelly
Department of Philosophy
Carnegie Mellon University
October 28, 2002
This is a circulation draft subject to revision without notice. Comments are most welcome.
The author is indebted to Joseph Ramsey, Oliver Schulte, Clark Glymour, Mark Ravaglia,
Peter Tino, Julia Pfeiffer, Marion Ledwig, and Noriko Nagata for helpful comments on drafts
of this paper.
Many distinct theories are compatible with current experience. Scientific realists recom-
mend that we choose the simplest. Anti-realists object that such appeals to "Ockham's
razor" cannot be truth-conducive, since they lead us astray in complex worlds. I ar-
gue, on behalf of the realist, that always preferring the simplest theory compatible
with experience is necessary for efficient convergence to the truth in the long run, even
though it may point in the wrong direction in the short run. Efficiency is a matter of
minimizing errors or retractions prior to convergence to the truth.


Source: Andrews, Peter B. - Department of Mathematical Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University


Collections: Mathematics