Real patterns and indispensability

Synthese 198 (5):4315-4330 (forthcoming)
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Abstract
While scientific inquiry crucially relies on the extraction of patterns from data, we still have a far from perfect understanding of the metaphysics of patterns—and, in particular, of what makes a pattern real. In this paper we derive a criterion of real-patternhood from the notion of conditional Kolmogorov complexity. The resulting account belongs to the philosophical tradition, initiated by Dennett :27–51, 1991), that links real-patternhood to data compressibility, but is simpler and formally more perspicuous than other proposals previously defended in the literature. It also successfully enforces a non-redundancy principle, suggested by Ladyman and Ross, that aims to exclude from real-patternhood those patterns that can be ignored without loss of information about the target dataset, and which their own account fails to enforce.
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2019
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SURPA-4
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Archival date: 2019-07-22
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2019-07-21

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