Simplicity, Language-Dependency and the Best System Account of Laws

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THEORIA. An International Journal for Theory, History and Foundations of Science, ISSN: 0495-4548, Vol: 31, Issue: 2, Page: 189-206

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Billy Wheeler
UPV/EHU Press, Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea / Universidad del PaĆ­s Vasco
Arts and Humanities
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It is often said that the best system account of laws (BSA) needs supplementing with a theory of perfectly natural properties. The 'strength' and 'simplicity' of a system is language-relative and without a fixed vocabulary it is impossible to compare rival systems. Recently a number of philosophers have attempted to reformulate the BSA in an effort to avoid commitment to natural properties. I assess these proposals and argue that they are problematic as they stand. Nonetheless, I agree with their aim, and show that if simplicity is interpreted as 'compression', algorithmic information theory provides a framework for system comparison without the need for natural properties.

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