Author Archive

Elliott Sober: Ockham’s Razor — When is the Simpler Theory Better?

February 7, 2018 Leave a comment

(Note: this talk is different from the Elliott Sober talk on the following day, Feb 16, at Concordia)

The McGill Department of Philosophy, and the Montreal Philosophy of Science Network, present:

Elliott Sober (University of Wisconsin – Madison)

Time: Thursday February 15th 2018, 6:00pm

Location: McGill University, Department of Philosophy, Leacock Building, Room 927, Montreal.

Talk Title: Ockham’s Razor — When is the Simpler Theory Better?

Talk Abstract:

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.

This talk is free and open to all.