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Ockham's Razor, Empirical Complexity, and Truth-finding Kevin T. Kelly

Summary: Ockham's Razor, Empirical Complexity, and Truth-finding
Kevin T. Kelly
Department of Philosophy
Carnegie Mellon University
May 9, 2007
The nature of empirical simplicity and its relationship to scientific truth are
long-standing puzzles. In this paper, empirical simplicity is explicated in terms
of empirical effects, which are defined in terms of the structure of the inference
problem addressed. Problem instances are classified according to the number of
empirical effects they present. Simple answers are satisfied by simple worlds. An
efficient solution achieves optimum worst-case cost over each complexity class with
respect to such costs such as the number of retractions or errors prior to con-
vergence and elapsed time to convergence. It is shown that always choosing the
simplest theory compatible with experience and hanging onto it while it remains
simplest is both necessary and sufficient for efficiency.
1 The Simplicity Puzzle
Machine learning, statistics, and the philosophy of science all recommend the selec-


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


Collections: Mathematics