The Logic of Scientific Discovery

By Karl R. Popper | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
SIMPLICITY

THERE seems to be little agreement as to the importance of the so-called 'problem of simplicity'. Weyl said, not long ago, that 'the problem of simplicity is of central importance for the epistemology of the natural sciences'.1 Yet it seems that interest in the problem has lately declined; perhaps because, especially after Weyl's penetrating analysis, there seemed to be so little chance of solving it.

Until quite recently the idea of simplicity has been used uncritically, as though it were quite obvious what simplicity is, and why it should be valuable. Not a few philosophers of science have given the concept of simplicity a place of crucial importance in their theories, without even noticing the difficulties to which it gives rise. For example, the followers of Mach, Kirchhoff, and Avenarius have tried to replace the idea of a causal explanation by that of the 'simplest description'. Without the adjective 'simplest' or a similar word this doctrine would say nothing. As it is supposed to explain why we prefer a description of the world with the help of theories to one with the help of singular statements, it seems to presuppose that theories are simpler than singular statements. Yet few have ever attempted to explain why they should be simpler, or what is meant, more precisely, by simplicity.

If, moreover, we assume that theories are to be used for the sake of simplicity then, clearly, we should use the simplest theories. This is how Poincaré, for whom the choice of theories is a matter of convention, comes to formulate his principle for the selection of theories: he chooses the simplest of the possible conventions. But which are the simplest?

____________________
1
Cf. Weyl, op. cit., p. 115f.; English edition p. 155. See also section 42 below.

-136-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Logic of Scientific Discovery
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
/ 480

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.