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When is parsimony a virtue

Philosophical Quarterly 59 (235):216-236 (2009)

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  1. Ontologically Simple Theories Do Not Indicate the True Nature of Complex Biological Systems: Three Test Cases.Michael Fry - 2020 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 42 (2):1-44.
    A longstanding philosophical premise perceives simplicity as a desirable attribute of scientific theories. One of several raised justifications for this notion is that simple theories are more likely to indicate the true makeup of natural systems. Qualitatively parsimonious hypotheses and theories keep to a minimum the number of different postulated entities within a system. Formulation of such ontologically simple working hypotheses proved to be useful in the experimental probing of narrowly defined bio systems. It is less certain, however, whether qualitatively (...)
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  • Dualism: How Epistemic Issues Drive Debates About the Ontology of Consciousness.Brie Gertler - forthcoming - In Uriah Kriegel (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Consciousness. Oxford University Press.
    A primary goal of this chapter is to highlight neglected epistemic parallels between dualism and physicalism. Both dualist and physicalist arguments employ a combination of empirical data and armchair reflection; both rely on considerations stemming from how we conceptualize certain phenomena; and both aim to establish views that are compatible with scientific results but go well beyond the deliverances of empirical science. -/- I begin the chapter by fleshing out the distinctive commitments of dualism, in a way that illuminates the (...)
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  • Bayesianism and Inference to the Best Explanation.Leah Henderson - 2014 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 65 (4):687-715.
    Two of the most influential theories about scientific inference are inference to the best explanation and Bayesianism. How are they related? Bas van Fraassen has claimed that IBE and Bayesianism are incompatible rival theories, as any probabilistic version of IBE would violate Bayesian conditionalization. In response, several authors have defended the view that IBE is compatible with Bayesian updating. They claim that the explanatory considerations in IBE are taken into account by the Bayesian because the Bayesian either does or should (...)
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  • Explanatory Consolidation: From 'Best' to 'Good Enough'.Finnur Dellsén - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    In science and everyday life, we often infer that something is true because it would explain some set of facts better than any other hypothesis we can think of. But what if we have reason to believe that there is a better way to explain these facts that we just haven't thought of? Wouldn't that undermine our warrant for believing the best available explanation? Many philosophers have assumed that we can solve such underconsideration problems by stipulating that a hypothesis should (...)
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  • Quantitative Parsimony: Probably for the Better.Lina Jansson & Jonathan Tallant - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 68 (3):781–803.
    ABSTRACT Our aim in this article is to offer a new justification for preferring theories that are more quantitatively parsimonious than their rivals. We discuss cases where it seems clear that those involved opted for more quantitatively parsimonious theories. We extend previous work on quantitative parsimony by offering an independent probabilistic justification for preferring the more quantitatively parsimonious theories in particular episodes of theory choice. Our strategy allows us to avoid worries that other considerations, such as pragmatic factors of computational (...)
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  • Systematizing the Theoretical Virtues.Michael Keas - 2018 - Synthese 195 (6):2761-2793.
    There are at least twelve major virtues of good theories: evidential accuracy, causal adequacy, explanatory depth, internal consistency, internal coherence, universal coherence, beauty, simplicity, unification, durability, fruitfulness, and applicability. These virtues are best classified into four classes: evidential, coherential, aesthetic, and diachronic. Each virtue class contains at least three virtues that sequentially follow a repeating pattern of progressive disclosure and expansion. Systematizing the theoretical virtues in this manner clarifies each virtue and suggests how they might have a coordinated and cumulative (...)
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  • Ontological Innocence.Katherine Hawley - 2014 - In A. J. Cotnoir & Donald L. M. Baxter (eds.), Composition as Identity. Oxford University Press. pp. 70-89.
    In this chapter, I examine Lewis's ideas about ontological innocence, ontological commitment and double-counting, in his discussion of composition as identity in Parts of Classes. I attempt to understand these primarily as epistemic or methodological claims: how far can we get down this route without adopting radical metaphysical theses about composition as identity?
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  • Quantitative Parsimony and the Metaphysics of Time: Motivating Presentism.Jonathan Tallant - 2013 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 87 (3):688-705.
    In this paper I argue that presentism —the view that only present objects exist—can be motivated, at least to some degree, by virtue of the fact that it is more quantitatively parsimonious than rival views.
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  • Ontological Parsimony, Erosion, and Conservatism.Thomas Metcalf - 2016 - Metaphilosophy 47 (4-5):700-718.
    This article presents a novel argument against a common principle of parsimony in philosophy. First, it identifies a widely employed principle of positive ontological parsimony, according to which we should, ceteris paribus, prefer smaller ontologies to larger ontologies. Next, it shows how this principle is used as part of a strategy by which to argue for antirealist positions in many subfields of philosophy: the ockhamistic antirealist strategy. Third, it argues that this principle commits its adherents to an implausible epistemological thesis—the (...)
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  • The Dualist’s Dilemma: The High Cost of Reconciling Neuroscience with a Soul.Keith Augustine & Yonatan I. Fishman - 2015 - In Keith Augustine & Michael Martin (eds.), The Myth of an Afterlife: The Case against Life After Death. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 203-292.
    Tight correlations between mental states and brain states have been observed time and again within the ethology of biologically ingrained animal behaviors, the comparative psychology of animal minds, the evolutionary psychology of mental adaptations, the behavioral genetics of inherited mental traits, the developmental psychology of the maturing mind, the psychopharmacology of mind-altering substances, and cognitive neuroscience more generally. They imply that our mental lives are only made possible because of brain activity—that having a functioning brain is a necessary condition for (...)
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  • Hume and a Worry About Simplicity.Stewart Duncan - 2009 - History of Philosophy Quarterly 26 (2):139-157.
    I discuss Hume's views about whether simplicity and generality are positive features of explanations. In criticizing Hobbes and others who base their systems of morality on self interest, Hume diagnoses their errors as resulting from a "love of simplicity". These worries about whether simplicity is a positive feature of explanations emerge in Hume's thinking over time. But Hume does not completely reject the idea that it's good to seek simple explanations. What Hume thinks we need is good judgment about when (...)
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  • Against Simplicity.M. B. Willard - 2014 - Philosophical Studies 167 (1):165-181.
    Sometimes metaphysicians appeal to simplicity as a reason to prefer one metaphysical theory to another, especially when a philosophical dispute has otherwise reached a state of equilibrium. In this paper, I show that given a Quinean conception of metaphysics, several initially plausible justifications for simplicity as a metaphysical criterion do not succeed. If philosophers wish to preserve simplicity as a metaphysical criterion, therefore, they must radically reconceive the project of metaphysics.
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  • Mereological Nihilism and Theoretical Unification.Andrew Brenner - 2015 - Analytic Philosophy 56 (4):318-337.
    Mereological nihilism (henceforth just "nihilism") is the thesis that composition never occurs. Nihilism has often been defended on the basis of its theoretical simplicity, including its ontological simplicity and its ideological simplicity (roughly, nihilism's ability to do without primitive mereological predicates). In this paper I defend nihilism on the basis of the theoretical unification conferred by nihilism, which is, roughly, nihilism's capacity to allow us to take fewer phenomena as brute and inexplicable. This represents a respect in which nihilism enjoys (...)
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  • The New A-Theory of Time.Jonathan Tallant - 2015 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 58 (6):537-562.
    The New A-theory of Time is the view, to be elaborated and defended in this article, that many times exist, and that time is real in virtue of every moment in time bearing each of the so-called A-properties: past, present and future. I argue that TNAT is at least as theoretically virtuous as mainstream views in the philosophy of time and may have some claim to being our best theory of time. I show that the properties ‘past’, ‘present’ and ‘future’ (...)
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  • Simplicity as a Criterion of Theory Choice in Metaphysics.Andrew Brenner - 2017 - Philosophical Studies 174 (11):2687-2707.
    Metaphysicians frequently appeal to the idea that theoretical simplicity is truth conducive in metaphysics, in the sense that, all other things being equal, simpler metaphysical theories are more likely to be true. In this paper I defend the notion that theoretical simplicity is truth conducive in metaphysics, against several recent objections. I do not give any direct arguments for the thesis that simplicity is truth conducive in metaphysics, since I am aware of no such arguments. I do argue, however, that (...)
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  • Non‐Humean Theories of Natural Necessity.Tyler Hildebrand - 2020 - Philosophy Compass 15 (5):1-1.
    Non‐Humean theories of natural necessity invoke modally‐laden primitives to explain why nature exhibits lawlike regularities. However, they vary in the primitives they posit and in their subsequent accounts of laws of nature and related phenomena (including natural properties, natural kinds, causation, counterfactuals, and the like). This article provides a taxonomy of non‐Humean theories, discusses influential arguments for and against them, and describes some ways in which differences in goals and methods can motivate different versions of non‐Humeanism (and, for that matter, (...)
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  • A Theory of Constitutive Tropes.Anthony Parisi - 2019 - Dissertation, University of Iowa
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  • A Theory of Constitutive Tropes.Anthony Parisi - 2019 - Dissertation, University of Iowa
    The purpose of this work is to provide a metaphysical theory of properties and scientific laws. This sentence will require some unpacking. By a ‘metaphysical’ theory here, I mean a theory of what exists in the world. In this investigation I am primarily concerned with a theory of what properties there are in the world and the role they play in scientific laws. This may be contrasted with a linguistic or epistemic project, as it is not primarily about our language, (...)
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  • Mathematical Explanation by Law.Sam Baron - 2019 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 70 (3):683-717.
    Call an explanation in which a non-mathematical fact is explained—in part or in whole—by mathematical facts: an extra-mathematical explanation. Such explanations have attracted a great deal of interest recently in arguments over mathematical realism. In this article, a theory of extra-mathematical explanation is developed. The theory is modelled on a deductive-nomological theory of scientific explanation. A basic DN account of extra-mathematical explanation is proposed and then redeveloped in the light of two difficulties that the basic theory faces. The final view (...)
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  • Carnap’s Epistemological Critique of Metaphysics.Darren Bradley - 2018 - Synthese 195 (5):2247-2265.
    Many who take a dismissive attitude towards metaphysics trace their view back to Carnap’s ‘Empiricism, Semantics and Ontology’. But the reason Carnap takes a dismissive attitude to metaphysics is a matter of controversy. I will argue that no reason is given in ‘Empiricism, Semantics and Ontology’, and this is because his reason for rejecting metaphysical debates was given in ‘Pseudo-Problems in Philosophy’. The argument there assumes verificationism, but I will argue that his argument survives the rejection of verificationism. The root (...)
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  • Inference to the Best Explanation and the Challenge of Skepticism.Bryan C. Appley - unknown
    In this dissertation I consider the problem of external world skepticism and attempts at providing an argument to the best explanation against it. In chapter one I consider several different ways of formulating the crucial skeptical argument, settling on an argument that centers on the question of whether we're justified in believing propositions about the external world. I then consider and reject several options for getting around this issue which I take to be inadequate. I finally conclude that the best (...)
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  • The Explosion of Being: Ideological Kinds in Theory Choice.Peter Finocchiaro - 2019 - Philosophical Quarterly 69 (276):486-510.
    In this paper, I develop a novel account of ideological kinds. I first present some conceptual territory regarding the use of Occam’s Razor in minimizing ontological commitments. I then present the analogous device for minimizing ideological commitments, what I call the Comb. I argue that metaphysicians ought to use both or none at all. This means that those who endorse a principle of ontological parsimony ought to also endorse some principle of ideological parsimony, where we ought to prefer the metaphysical (...)
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  • Occam’s Razor, Dogmatism, Skepticism, and Skeptical Dogmatism.Mark Walker - 2016 - International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 6 (1):1-29.
    _ Source: _Page Count 29 Underdetermination arguments for skepticism maintain that our common sense view of the external world is no better, evidentially speaking, than some skeptical competitors. An important and well-known response by dogmatists, those who believe our commonsense view is justified, appeals to abduction or inference to the best explanation. The predominant version of this strategy, going back at least to Locke, invokes Occam’s razor: dogmatists claim the common sense view is simpler than any of its skeptical alternatives (...)
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  • Analysing Causation.Morgan Jennifer Margaret - unknown
    This thesis will survey several prominent approaches to analysing causation, discuss their differences and similarities, and look at a number of problems which are common to all of them. I will be arguing for the following claims about how we should approach the process of analysing causation. Firstly, I will be arguing that a reductive analysis is desirable, since if we can reductively analyse causation in terms of something empirically accessible, we can explain how it is possible to know anything (...)
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  • Does Science Presuppose Naturalism ?Yonatan I. Fishman & Maarten Boudry - 2013 - Science & Education 22 (5):921-949.
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  • Kategorioiden metametafysiikka: vastaus Hakkaraiselle ja Keinäselle.Tuomas E. Tahko - 2016 - Ajatus 73:269-278.
    The Metametaphysics of Categories: Replies to Hakkarainen and Keinänen (in Finnish). Part of a book symposium on my An Introduction to Metametaphysics.
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  • Explanationist Aid for the Theory of Inductive Logic.Michael Huemer - 2009 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 60 (2):345-375.
    A central problem facing a probabilistic approach to the problem of induction is the difficulty of sufficiently constraining prior probabilities so as to yield the conclusion that induction is cogent. The Principle of Indifference, according to which alternatives are equiprobable when one has no grounds for preferring one over another, represents one way of addressing this problem; however, the Principle faces the well-known problem that multiple interpretations of it are possible, leading to incompatible conclusions. I propose a partial solution to (...)
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  • Coherence and Probability: A Probabilistic Account of Coherence.Roche William - 2013 - In M. Araszkiewicz & J. Savelka (eds.), Coherence: Insights from philosophy, jurisprudence and artificial intelligence. Dordrecht: Springer. pp. 59-91.
    I develop a probabilistic account of coherence, and argue that at least in certain respects it is preferable to (at least some of) the main extant probabilistic accounts of coherence: (i) Igor Douven and Wouter Meijs’s account, (ii) Branden Fitelson’s account, (iii) Erik Olsson’s account, and (iv) Tomoji Shogenji’s account. Further, I relate the account to an important, but little discussed, problem for standard varieties of coherentism, viz., the “Problem of Justified Inconsistent Beliefs.”.
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  • Philosophers Should Prefer Simpler Theories.Darren Bradley - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (12):3049-3067.
    Should philosophers prefer simpler theories? Huemer (Philos Q 59:216–236, 2009) argues that the reasons to prefer simpler theories in science do not apply in philosophy. I will argue that Huemer is mistaken—the arguments he marshals for preferring simpler theories in science can also be applied in philosophy. Like Huemer, I will focus on the philosophy of mind and the nominalism/Platonism debate. But I want to engage with the broader issue of whether simplicity is relevant to philosophy.
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  • Systematizing the Theoretical Virtues.Michael N. Keas - 2017 - Synthese:1-33.
    There are at least twelve major virtues of good theories: evidential accuracy, causal adequacy, explanatory depth, internal consistency, internal coherence, universal coherence, beauty, simplicity, unification, durability, fruitfulness, and applicability. These virtues are best classified into four classes: evidential, coherential, aesthetic, and diachronic. Each virtue class contains at least three virtues that sequentially follow a repeating pattern of progressive disclosure and expansion. Systematizing the theoretical virtues in this manner clarifies each virtue and suggests how they might have a coordinated and cumulative (...)
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  • Dynamic Humeanism.Michael Townsen Hicks - 2018 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 69 (4):983-1007.
    Humean accounts of laws of nature fail to distinguish between dynamic laws and static initial conditions. But this distinction plays a central role in scientific theorizing and explanation. I motivate the claim that this distinction should matter for the Humean, and show that current views lack the resources to explain it. I then develop a regularity theory that captures this distinction. My view takes empirical accessibility to be one of the primary features of laws, and I identify features laws must (...)
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  • What Not to Multiply Without Necessity.Jonathan Schaffer - 2015 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 93 (4):644-664.
    The Razor commands us not to multiply entities without necessity. I argue for an alternative principle—The Laser—which commands us not to multiply fundamental entities without necessity.
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  • Purpose-Relativity and Ontology.Nurbay Irmak - 2014 - Dissertation, University of Miami
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  • The Presidential Address: Philosophical Scepticism and the Aims of Philosophy.Helen Beebee - 2018 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 118 (1):1-24.
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  • Dynamic Humeanism.Michael Townsen Hicks - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:axx006.
    Humean accounts of laws of nature fail to distinguish between dynamic laws and static initial conditions. But this distinction plays a central role in scientific theorizing and explanation. I motivate the claim that this distinction should matter for the Humean, and show that current views lack the resources to explain it. I then develop a regularity theory that captures this distinction. My view takes empirical accessibility to be one of the primary features of laws, and I identify features laws must (...)
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  • Parsimony and Quantum Mechanics: An Analysis of the Copenhagen and Bohmian Interpretations.Jhenna Voorhis - unknown
    Parsimony, sometime referred to as simplicity, is an effective criterion of theory choice in the case of Quantum Mechanics. The Copenhagen and Bohmian interpretations are rival theories, with the Bohmian interpretation being more parsimonious. More parsimonious theories have a higher probability of being true than less parsimonious rivals. The Bohmian interpretation should thus be preferred on these grounds.
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  • Metaphysical Nihilism and Necessary Being.Tyron Goldschmidt - 2012 - Philosophia 40 (4):799-820.
    This paper addresses the most fundamental question in metaphysics, Why is there something rather than nothing? The question is framed as a question about concrete entities, Why does a possible world containing concrete entities obtain rather than one containing no concrete entities? Traditional answers are in terms of there necessarily being some concrete entities, and include the possibility of a necessary being. But such answers are threatened by metaphysical nihilism, the thesis that there being nothing concrete is possible, and the (...)
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  • Optimus Prime: Paraphrasing Prime Number Talk.Jonathan Tallant - 2013 - Synthese 190 (12):2065-2083.
    Baker (Mind 114:223–238, 2005; Brit J Philos Sci 60:611–633, 2009) has recently defended what he calls the “enhanced” version of the indispensability argument for mathematical Platonism. In this paper I demonstrate that the nominalist can respond to Baker’s argument. First, I outline Baker’s argument in more detail before providing a nominalistically acceptable paraphrase of prime-number talk. Second, I argue that, for the nominalist, mathematical language is used to express physical facts about the world. In endorsing this line I follow moves (...)
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  • Inference to the Best Explanation, Coherence and Other Explanatory Virtues.Adolfas Mackonis - 2013 - Synthese 190 (6):975-995.
    This article generalizes the explanationist account of inference to the best explanation. It draws a clear distinction between IBE and abduction and presents abduction as the first step of IBE. The second step amounts to the evaluation of explanatory power, which consist in the degree of explanatory virtues that a hypothesis exhibits. Moreover, even though coherence is the most often cited explanatory virtue, on pain of circularity, it should not be treated as one of the explanatory virtues. Rather, coherence should (...)
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  • Aboutness and Ontology: A Modest Approach to Truthmakers.Arthur Schipper - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (2):505-533.
    Truthmaker theory has been used to argue for substantial conclusions about the categorial structure of the world, in particular that states of affairs are needed to play the role of truthmakers. In this paper, I argue that closely considering the role of aboutness in truthmaking, that is considering what truthbearers are about, yields the result that there is no good truthmaker-based reason to think that truthmakers must be states of affairs understood as existing entities, whether complex or simple. First, I (...)
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  • The Intrinsic Probability of Theism.Calum Miller - 2018 - Philosophy Compass 13 (10):e12523.
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  • Why Ockham’s Razor Should Be Preferred to the Laser.Dean Da Vee - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies:1-16.
    Ockham’s Razor advises us to not multiply entities without necessity. Recently, Jonathan Schaffer and Karen Bennett have argued that we ought to replace Ockham’s Razor with the Laser, the principle that only advises us to not multiply fundamental entities without necessity. In this paper, I argue that Ockham’s Razor is preferable to the Laser. I begin by contending that the arguments offered for the Laser by Schaffer and Bennett are unpersuasive. Then I offer two cases of theory assessment that I (...)
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  • What Can Phenomenology Bring to Ontology?Amie L. Thomasson - 2019 - Res Philosophica 96 (3):289-306.
    “Ontology” is understood and undertaken very differently in the phenomenological tradition than it is in the recent analytic tradition. Here I argue that those differences are not accidental, but instead reflect deeper differences in views about what the proper role and methods for philosophy are. I aim to show that, from a phenomenological perspective, questions about what exists can be answered ‘easily,’ whether through trivial inferences or by ordinary empirical means—seeing how our observations hang together. As a result, it can (...)
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  • Do Not Revise Ockham's Razor Without Necessity.Sam Baron & Jonathan Tallant - 2018 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (3):596-619.
    Ockham's razor asks that we not multiply entities beyond necessity. The razor is a powerful methodological tool, enabling us to articulate reasons for preferring one theory to another. There are those, however, who would modify the razor. Schaffer, for one, tells us that, ‘I think the proper rendering of Ockham's razor should be ‘Do not multiply fundamental entities without necessity’’. Our aim, here, is to challenge such re-workings of Ockham's razor.
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  • Concepts of Law of Nature.Brendan Shea - 2011 - Dissertation, University of Illinois
    Over the past 50 years, there has been a great deal of philosophical interest in laws of nature, perhaps because of the essential role that laws play in the formulation of, and proposed solutions to, a number of perennial philosophical problems. For example, many have thought that a satisfactory account of laws could be used to resolve thorny issues concerning explanation, causation, free-will, probability, and counterfactual truth. Moreover, interest in laws of nature is not constrained to metaphysics or philosophy of (...)
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  • Which Witch is Which? Exotic Objects and Intentional Identity.Alexander Sandgren - 2018 - Synthese 195 (2):721-739.
    This paper is about intentional identity, the phenomenon of intentional attitudes having a common focus. I present an argument against an approach to explaining intentional identity, defended by Nathan Salmon, Terence Parsons and others, that involves positing exotic objects. For example, those who adopt this sort of view say that when two astronomers had beliefs about Vulcan, their attitudes had a common focus because there is an exotic object that both of their beliefs were about. I argue that countenancing these (...)
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  • Thought Experiments Without Possible Worlds.Daniel Dohrn - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (2):363-384.
    The method of thought experiments or possible cases is widespread in philosophy and elsewhere. Thought experiments come with variegated theoretical commitments. These commitments are risky. They may turn out to be false or at least controversial. Other things being equal, it seems preferable to do with minimal commitments. I explore exemplary ways of minimising commitments, focusing on modal ones. There is a near-consensus to treat the scenarios considered in thought experiments as metaphysical possibilities. I challenge this consensus. Paradigmatic thought experiments (...)
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  • Metaphysics and Conceptual Negotiation.Amie L. Thomasson - 2017 - Philosophical Issues 27 (1):364-382.
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  • How to Be a Pluralist in Substance Ontology.Travis Dumsday - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-28.
    The four principal competing substance ontologies are substratum theory, bundle theory, primitive substance theory, and hylomorphism. Both historically and in the recent literature, most arguments pertaining to these four theories have been developed under the assumption that only one of them can be true. However there is room in this debate for various forms of pluralism: mild pluralism here refers to the view that while only one of these four theories is true of our world, there is at least one (...)
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