Principle of parsimony

Also called Ockham’s Razor.

Principle that one should not multiply entities unnecessarily, or make further assumptions than are needed, and in general that one should pursue the simplest hypothesis.

Adoption of this principle, though seemingly obvious, leads to problems about the role of simplicity in science, especially when we are choosing between hypotheses that are not (or are not known to be) equivalent.

There are often different and clashing criteria for what is the simplest hypothesis, and it is not clear whether a simpler hypothesis is pro tanto more likely to be true; and if not, what justification other than laziness there is for adopting it.

Philosophy of Science (1961); journal containing symposium on simplicity

Parsimony refers to the quality of economy or frugality in the use of resources.

Parsimony may also refer to

  • The Law of Parsimony, or Occam’s razor, a problem-solving principle
  • Maximum parsimony (phylogenetics), an optimality criterion in phylogenetics
  • Parsimony Press, a fine press brand ran by typographer Robert Norton

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