David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 54 (2):245-259 (2003)
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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