British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 54 (2):245-259 (2003)
|Abstract||The desire to minimize the number of individual new entities postulated is often referred to as quantitative parsimony. Its influence on the default hypotheses formulated by scientists seems undeniable. I argue that there is a wide class of cases for which the preference for quantitatively parsimonious hypotheses is demonstrably rational. The justification, in a nutshell, is that such hypotheses have greater explanatory power than less parsimonious alternatives. My analysis is restricted to a class of cases I shall refer to as additive. Such cases involve the postulation of a collection of qualitatively identical individual objects which collectively explain some particular observed phenomenon. Especially clear examples of this sort occur in particle physics. 1 Introduction 2 Particle physics: a case study 3 Three kinds of simplicity 4 Explanatory power 5 Explanation and non-observation 6 Parsimony and scientific methodology 7 Conclusions.|
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