Induction, Algorithmic Learning Theory, and Philosophy
Volume 9 of the series Logic, Epistemology, and the Unity of Science pp 111143
How Simplicity Helps You Find the Truth without Pointing at it
 Kevin T. KellyAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, Carnegie Mellon University
Abstract
It seems that a fixed bias toward simplicity should help one find the truth, since scientific theorizing is guided by such a bias. But it also seems that a fixed bias toward simplicity cannot indicate or point at the truth, since an indicator has to be sensitive to what it indicates. I argue that both views are correct. It is demonstrated, for a broad range of cases, that the Ockham strategy of favoring the simplest hypothesis, together with the strategy of never dropping the simplest hypothesis until it is no longer simplest, uniquely minimizes reversals of opinion and the times at which the reversals occur prior to convergence to the truth. Thus, simplicity guides one down the straightest path to the truth, even though that path may involve twists and turns along the way. The proof does not appeal to prior probabilities biased toward simplicity. Instead, it is based upon minimization of worstcase cost bounds over complexity classes of possibilities.
 Title
 How Simplicity Helps You Find the Truth without Pointing at it
 Book Title
 Induction, Algorithmic Learning Theory, and Philosophy
 Book Part
 I
 Pages
 pp 111143
 Copyright
 2007
 DOI
 10.1007/9781402061271_4
 Print ISBN
 9781402061264
 Online ISBN
 9781402061271
 Series Title
 Logic, Epistemology, and the Unity of Science
 Series Volume
 9
 Publisher
 Springer Netherlands
 Copyright Holder
 Springer
 Additional Links
 Topics
 eBook Packages
 Editors

 Michèle Friend ^{(15)}
 Norma B. Goethe ^{(16)}
 Valentina S. Harizanov ^{(17)}
 Editor Affiliations

 15. George Washington University
 16. National University of Cordoba
 17. George Washington University
 Authors

 Kevin T. Kelly ^{(18)}
 Author Affiliations

 18. Department of Philosophy, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburg, PA 15213, U.S.A.
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