The Simplicity of Physical Laws

Abstract

Physical laws are strikingly simple, although there is no a priori reason they must be so. I propose that nomic realists of all types (Humeans and non-Humeans) should accept that simplicity is a fundamental epistemic guide for discovering and evaluating candidate physical laws. This principle of simplicity clarifies and solves several problems of nomic realism and simplicity. A consequence is that the often-cited epistemic advantage of Humeanism over non-Humeanism is exaggerated, undercutting an influential epistemological argument for Humeanism. Moreover, simplicity is shown to be more tightly connected to lawhood than to mere truth.

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Eddy Keming Chen
University of California, San Diego

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