Metaphysics

Parsimony (In as few words as possible)

Toni Vogel Carey wonders whether nature loves simplicity.

Webster’s Ninth gives this definition of ‘parsimony’:

1) The quality of being careful with money or resources; the quality or state of being niggardly: stinginess. 2) Economy in the use of means to an end; economy of explanation in conformity with Occam’s razor.

It is the ‘explanatory’ meaning that is of primary interest to philosophers, although the line between it and means-end “principles of least effort” as Nicholas Rescher calls them, is rather fuzzy; and neither sense is far removed from thriftiness with a dollar (pound, euro, renminbi). All are principles of economy.

What Webster’s does not mention is the aesthetic aspect of parsimony, although it is conspicuous both in art and science.

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