Simplicity As Evidence of Truth (Aquinas Lecture) by Richard Swinburne

By Richard Swinburne

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25 This is an awesome result, when you first look at it. However the awe begins to disappear when you note that it will hold for any lower and any higher dimensional families whatever. 26 Any particular curve can serve as the sole member of a 0-dimensional family, and Akaike’s theorem will show that it will probably predict better than whatever turns out to be the member of some large family which is equally well fitting. Despite the title of Forster and Sober’s paper, Akaike’s theorem has no tendency whatever to show that simpler theories in my sense are more accurate predictors.

For Sober, the simplest theory is the most informative theory in the sense of the one with respect to which you need to obtain less additional information in order to be able to answer your questions. ”; whereas we need as well the information of where the swan lives before the second theory is able to answer that question. Sober claims that his account of simplicity allows us to discriminate between equally precise equations, such as y=3x+6, and y=5x4+4x2+75x+168. ” The first theory needs 22 Richard Swinburne no extra information to tell you this, whereas the second theory needs to have added to it the value of y (or x).

Is (other things being equal) more likely to be true than the latter theories, boils down to the criteria of yielding the data and of simplicity. 19 42 Richard Swinburne In holding simpler theories to be more probable than complex theories, the inquirer is holding it to be more probable that the world as a whole is simple than that it is complex. Hence we should postulate, on grounds of simplicity, as more likely to be true, that theory of a narrow region which makes our overall world theory the simplest for the total data.

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