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Ockham's Razor, Truth, and Information Kevin T. Kelly

Summary: Ockham's Razor, Truth, and Information
Kevin T. Kelly
Department of Philosophy
Carnegie Mellon University
December 10, 2007
In science, one faces the problem of selecting the true theory from a range of al-
ternative theories. The typical response is to select the simplest theory compatible
with available evidence, on the authority of "Ockham's Razor". But how can a
fixed bias toward simplicity help one find possibly complex truths? A short survey
of standard answers to this question reveals them to be either wishful, circular, or
irrelevant. A new explanation is presented, based on minimizing the reversals of
opinion prior to convergence to the truth. According to this alternative approach,
Ockham's razor does not inform one which theory is true but is, nonetheless, the
uniquely most efficient strategy for arriving at the true theory, where efficiency is
a matter of minimizing reversals of opinion prior to finding the true theory.
1 Introduction
Suppose that several or even infinitely many theories are compatible with the infor-
mation available. How ought one to choose among them, if at all? The traditional


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


Collections: Mathematics