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The Perils of Parsimony

Journal of Philosophy 115 (9):485-505 (2018)

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  1. How to Tell When Simpler, More Unified, or Less Ad Hoc Theories Will Provide More Accurate Predictions.Malcolm Forster & Elliott Sober - 1994 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 45 (1):1-35.
    Traditional analyses of the curve fitting problem maintain that the data do not indicate what form the fitted curve should take. Rather, this issue is said to be settled by prior probabilities, by simplicity, or by a background theory. In this paper, we describe a result due to Akaike [1973], which shows how the data can underwrite an inference concerning the curve's form based on an estimate of how predictively accurate it will be. We argue that this approach throws light (...)
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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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  • Simplicity.Alan Baker - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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  • Inference to the Best Explanation Made Incoherent.Nevin Climenhaga - 2017 - Journal of Philosophy 114 (5):251-273.
    Defenders of Inference to the Best Explanation claim that explanatory factors should play an important role in empirical inference. They disagree, however, about how exactly to formulate this role. In particular, they disagree about whether to formulate IBE as an inference rule for full beliefs or for degrees of belief, as well as how a rule for degrees of belief should relate to Bayesianism. In this essay I advance a new argument against non-Bayesian versions of IBE. My argument focuses on (...)
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  • How Explanation Guides Confirmation.Nevin Climenhaga - 2017 - Philosophy of Science 84 (2):359-68.
    Where E is the proposition that [If H and O were true, H would explain O], William Roche and Elliot Sober have argued that P(H|O&E) = P(H|O). In this paper I argue that not only is this equality not generally true, it is false in the very kinds of cases that Roche and Sober focus on, involving frequency data. In fact, in such cases O raises the probability of H only given that there is an explanatory connection between them.
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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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  • A New Solution to the Puzzle of Simplicity.Kevin Kelly - 2007 - Philosophy of Science 74 (5):561-573.
    Explaining the connection, if any, between simplicity and truth is among the deepest problems facing the philosophy of science, statistics, and machine learning. Say that an efficient truth finding method minimizes worst case costs en route to converging to the true answer to a theory choice problem. Let the costs considered include the number of times a false answer is selected, the number of times opinion is reversed, and the times at which the reversals occur. It is demonstrated that (1) (...)
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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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  • The Logic of Explanatory Power.Jonah N. Schupbach & Jan Sprenger - 2011 - Philosophy of Science 78 (1):105-127.
    This article introduces and defends a probabilistic measure of the explanatory power that a particular explanans has over its explanandum. To this end, we propose several intuitive, formal conditions of adequacy for an account of explanatory power. Then, we show that these conditions are uniquely satisfied by one particular probabilistic function. We proceed to strengthen the case for this measure of explanatory power by proving several theorems, all of which show that this measure neatly corresponds to our explanatory intuitions. Finally, (...)
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  • Explanation and Scientific Understanding.Michael Friedman - 1974 - Journal of Philosophy 71 (1):5-19.
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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 Principle of Indifference and Inductive Scepticism.Robert Smithson - 2015 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:axv029.
    Many theorists have proposed that we can use the principle of indifference to defeat the inductive sceptic. But any such theorist must confront the objection that different ways of applying the principle of indifference lead to incompatible probability assignments. Huemer ([2009]) offers the explanatory priority proviso as a strategy for overcoming this objection. With this proposal, Huemer claims that we can defend induction in a way that is not question-begging against the sceptic. But in this article, I argue that the (...)
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  • The Role of Explanatory Considerations in Updating.Igor Douven & Jonah N. Schupbach - 2015 - Cognition 142:299-311.
    There is an ongoing controversy in philosophy about the connection between explanation and inference. According to Bayesians, explanatory considerations should be given weight in determining which inferences to make, if at all, only insofar as doing so is compatible with Strict Conditionalization. Explanationists, on the other hand, hold that explanatory considerations can be relevant to the question of how much confidence to invest in our hypotheses in ways which violate Strict Conditionalization. The controversy has focused on normative issues. This paper (...)
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  • The Abductivist Reply to Skepticism.James R. Beebe - 2009 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 79 (3):605-636.
    Abductivists claim that explanatory considerations (e.g., simplicity, parsimony, explanatory breadth, etc.) favor belief in the external world over skeptical hypotheses involving evil demons and brains in vats. After showing how most versions of abductivism succumb fairly easily to obvious and fatal objections, I explain how rationalist versions of abductivism can avoid these difficulties. I then discuss the most pressing challenges facing abductivist appeals to the a priori and offer suggestions on how to overcome them.
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  • Cognitive Attitudes and Values in Science.Kevin Elliott & David Willmes - unknown
    We argue that the analysis of cognitive attitudes should play a central role in developing more sophisticated accounts of the proper roles for values in science. First, we show that the major recent efforts to delineate appropriate roles for values in science would be strengthened by making clearer distinctions among cognitive attitudes. Next, we turn to a specific example and argue that a more careful account of the distinction between the attitudes of belief and acceptance can contribute to a better (...)
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  • Abductive Philosophy.Timothy Williamson - 2016 - Philosophical Forum 47 (3-4):263-280.
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  • Inference to the Best Explanation Made Coherent.Igor Douven - 1999 - Philosophy of Science 66 (Supplement):S424-S435.
    Van Fraassen (1989) argues that Inference to the Best Explanation is incoherent in the sense that adopting it as a rule for belief change will make one susceptible to a dynamic Dutch book. The present paper argues against this. A strategy is described that allows us to infer to the best explanation free of charge.
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  • Explanation and Epistemology.William G. Lycan - 2002 - In Paul K. Moser (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Epistemology. Oxford University Press. pp. 413.
    Second, there is a form of ampliative inference that has come to be called ‘inference to the best explanation,’ or more briefly ‘explanatory inference.’ Roughly: From the fact that a certain hypothesis would explain the data at hand better than any other available hypothesis, we infer with some degree of confidence that that leading hypothesis is correct. There is no question but that this inference is often performed. Arguably, every human being performs it many times in a day, perhaps without (...)
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  • Explanation, Conjunction, and Unification.Philip Kitcher - 1976 - Journal of Philosophy 73 (8):207-212.
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  • Simply the Best: A Case for Abduction.Stathos Psillos - 2002 - In Computational Logic: Logic Programming and Beyond : Essays in Honour of Robert A. Kowalski, Part Ii. Springer Berlin. pp. 83-93.
    This paper formulates what I think is the basic problem of any attempt to characterise the abstract structure of scientific method, viz., that it has to satisfy two conflicting desiderata: it should be ampliative (contentincreasing) and it should confer epistemic warrant on its outcomes. Then, after two extreme solutions to the problem of the method, viz., Enumerative Induction and the Method of Hypothesis, are examined, the paper argues that abduction, suitably understood as Inference to the Best Explanation, offers the best (...)
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