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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
February 11, 2005
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 recommend
choosing 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 argue, 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.
0.1 Realism and Ockham's Razor


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


Collections: Mathematics