Real patterns and indispensability

Synthese 198 (5):4315-4330 (2021)
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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.

Author Profiles

Abel Suñé
Universitat de Barcelona
Manolo Martínez
Universitat de Barcelona


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