Journal Article

Quantitative Parsimony

Daniel Nolan

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 48, issue 3, pages 329-343
Published in print September 1997 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online September 1997 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/48.3.329
Quantitative Parsimony

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In this paper, I motivate the view that quantitative parsimony is a theoretical virtue: that is, we should be concerned not only to minimize the number of kinds of entities postulated by our theories (i. e. maximize qualitative parsimony), but we should also minimize the number of entities postulated which fall under those kinds. In order to motivate this view, I consider two cases from the history of science: the postulation of the neutrino and the proposal of Avogadro's hypothesis. I also consider two issues concerning how a principle of quantitative parsimony should be framed.

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Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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