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



Published 24-05-2016
Billy Wheeler


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. 

How to Cite

Wheeler, B. (2016). Simplicity, Language-Dependency and the Best System Account of Laws. THEORIA. An International Journal for Theory, History and Foundations of Science, 31(2), 189–206.
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laws of nature, best system account, natural properties, algorithmic information theory, invariance theorem.