Journal of Philosophical Logic 39 (6):679-712 (2010)

Kevin Kelly
Carnegie Mellon University
Conor Mayo-Wilson
University of Washington
Ockham’s razor is the principle that, all other things being equal, scientists ought to prefer simpler theories. In recent years, philosophers have argued that simpler theories make better predictions, possess theoretical virtues like explanatory power, and have other pragmatic virtues like computational tractability. However, such arguments fail to explain how and why a preference for simplicity can help one find true theories in scientific inquiry, unless one already assumes that the truth is simple. One new solution to that problem is the Ockham efficiency theorem, which states that scientists who heed Ockham’s razor retract their opinions less often and sooner than do their non-Ockham competitors. The theorem neglects, however, to consider competitors following random strategies and in many applications random strategies are known to achieve better worst-case loss than deterministic strategies. In this paper, we describe two ways to extend the result to a very general class of random, empirical strategies. The first extension concerns expected retractions, retraction times, and errors and the second extension concerns retractions in chance, times of retractions in chance, and chances of errors
Keywords Philosophy
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s10992-010-9145-3
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 51,480
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas S. Kuhn - 1962 - University of Chicago Press.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas S. Kuhn - 1962 - University of Chicago Press.
Causation, Prediction, and Search.Peter Spirtes, Clark Glymour & Richard Scheines - 1996 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 47 (1):113-123.
The Scientific Image.Michael Friedman - 1982 - Journal of Philosophy 79 (5):274-283.

View all 57 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles


Added to PP index

Total views
57 ( #162,866 of 2,330,807 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
2 ( #395,593 of 2,330,807 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes