Why Ockham’s Razor should be preferred to the Laser

Philosophical Studies 177 (12):3679-3694 (2020)
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Ockham’s Razor advises us to not multiply entities without necessity. Recently, Jonathan Schaffer and Karen Bennett have argued that we ought to replace Ockham’s Razor with the Laser, the principle that only advises us to not multiply fundamental entities without necessity. In this paper, I argue that Ockham’s Razor is preferable to the Laser. I begin by contending that the arguments offered for the Laser by Schaffer and Bennett are unpersuasive. Then I offer two cases of theory assessment that I believe the Razor handles better than the Laser. Finally, I argue that accepting the Laser gives rise to a difficult explanatory challenge: It is difficult to explain why fundamental entities and non-fundamental entities ought to be treated differently in ontological parsimony assessments. A recurring secondary theme of the paper is that the most tempting ways of responding to my arguments frequently result in the Laser losing much of its significance for debates about ontology. Thus, not only is it difficult to defend a preference for the Laser over the Razor, but it is especially difficult to do so while maintaining the Laser’s dialectical significance.



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Author's Profile

Dean Da Vee
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

References found in this work

Writing the Book of the World.Theodore Sider - 2011 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
A World of States of Affairs.D. M. Armstrong - 1997 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
On what grounds what.Jonathan Schaffer - 2009 - In David Manley, David J. Chalmers & Ryan Wasserman (eds.), Metametaphysics: New Essays on the Foundations of Ontology. Oxford University Press. pp. 347-383.
Making Things Up.Karen Bennett - 2017 - New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

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