Journal Article

Quantitative Parsimony and Explanatory Power

Alan Baker

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 54, issue 2, pages 245-259
Published in print June 2003 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online June 2003 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI:
Quantitative Parsimony and Explanatory Power

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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

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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