Occam’s Razor in the Theory of Theory Assessment

August Fenk


From the point of view of theories as hypothetical representations, with predictive
success as their real touchstone, this paper argues in favour of a three-dimensional
model of theory assessment, including the dimensions generality, precision, and
parsimony. Are such virtues, in selfreferential ways, also applicable to those
meta-theories that have invented such criteria? The focus of the respective analysis
will be on lawlikeness which is most commonly viewed as a
precondition of both, prediction and anticipation as well as explanation and
reconstruction. Laws turn out to be mere projections of the relative frequencies
observed so far. Such projections can be justified - if at all, and irrespective of
the weakness of the “regularity” and the number of observations - by applying some
sort of Occam’s razor: Do without the assumption of a change as long as you can’t
make out any indication that a system’s output might change!


philosophy; 20th century philosophy; philosophy of science; evolutionary epistemology; epistemic virtue; parsimony; prediction; knowledge; law; uncertainty; explanation; probability

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