Science, reductionism, & Occam

joanna bujes joanna.bujes at
Fri May 25 10:20:35 PDT 2001

At 05:08 AM 05/25/2001 -0400, you wrote:
>I am not sure what all this has to do with Occam's razor. The injunction not
>multiply entities unnecessarily, or, translated into our terms, to choose
>the simpler of otherwise explanatorily equal theories, is just good
>scientific practice. It's obviously not an injunction not to avoid
>explantorily necessary or useful entities and causes. This hasn't anything
>to do with analytical philosophy or logical positivism. It's just what good
>scientists do. If you have a specific explanation that calls for posits
>others reject (say "value" or "class" or whatever), make a case that they
>are necessary, that they do some work. Then you won;t be violating Occam's
>razor to posit them. Occam's razor doesn't tell you that you must inhabit an
>intellectual desert, just that what you plant has to have roots and do work.

"Not multiplying entities unnecessarily" is the most generous interpretation of Occam's razor I have heard. The way it was presented the me in school was more like the principle of the absolute exclusive OR. Something is X _OR_ it is Y. There is no third way. And this way of looking at things, it seems to me, makes it impossible to do a lot of modern physics: is light a wave or is it a particle?

I think I'm with Einstein: "Make it simple, but not too simple."

Joanna B.

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