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Abstract

In this paper, I argue that theoretical simplicity is not an epistemic virtue. Therefore, we need not prefer the simpler explanation of two competing scientific theories. First, I clarify the concept of theoretical simplicity as it figures into discussions in the philosophy of science. Next, I evaluate the strongest arguments in favor of this view as a criterion of theory selection. Then, I present two instances where theoretical simplicity is not preferable as such a criterion. Lastly, I show that while there may be a number of nonepistemic criteria of theory choice, including simplicity, none of them bears upon truth. So, if our aim is truth, the appraisal of scientific theories should depend upon empirical evidence alone.

Faculty Mentor

David McNaron, Ph.D.

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