MTL PhilSci Net | Conférence « Ockham’s Razor – When is the Simpler Theory Better? » – Elliott Sober (University of Wisconsin, Madison)

Jeudi 15 février / Thursday 15 February 2018, 18:00 – 20:00
Elliott Sober, University of Wisconsin, Madison
“Ockham’s Razor – When is the Simpler Theory Better?”
Philosophy seminar room #927, 9th floor, Leacock building, McGill University (PLAN/MAP)
Conférence co-organisée avec / Talk co-organized with McGill’s Philosophy Department
Ockham’s razor, the principle of parsimony, says that a theory that postulates fewer entities, causes, or processes is “better” than a theory that postulates more, so long as the simpler theory is compatible with what we observe. But what does “better” mean? It is obvious that simpler theories are easier to remember, manipulate, and test. The hard problem is to say why the fact that one theory is simpler than another is relevant to deciding what the world is like. In this lecture I’ll describe two “parsimony paradigms” within which this hard problem can be solved. The first involves likelihoods; the second involves ideas from model selection in statistics.