Carnegie Mellon University
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Ockham's Razor, Empirical Complexity, and Truth-finding Efficiency

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journal contribution
posted on 2007-05-09, 00:00 authored by Kevin T. Kelly
The nature of empirical simplicity and its relationship to scientific truth are long-standing puzzles. In this paper, empirical simplicity is explicated in terms of empirical effects, which are defined in terms of the structure of the inference problem addressed. Problem instances are classified according to the number of empirical effects they present. Simple answers are satisfied by simple worlds. An efficient solution achieves optimum worst-case cost over each complexity class with respect to such costs such as the number of retractions or errors prior to convergence and elapsed time to convergence. It is shown that always choosing the simplest theory compatible with experience and hanging onto it while it remains simplest is both necessary and sufficient for efficiency.


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