Occam’s Razor and Entropy

I was trying to understand Occam’s Razor, specifically I wanted to know its justification.  There are posts over at Wikipedia and the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy worth looking at, but neither left me satisfied.

Instead, I came up with “Death Implies Economy”.  What this means is that we are fundamentally limited in time and resources, and hence we cannot afford to waste what little we have on unnecessary complication.  DIE is a metaphysical justification of ontological parsimony:  regardless of how we come to the knowledge of death, the principle only requires that we are fundamentally limited and is agnostic as to how we come to understand this of ourselves.  [One may revise the principle to ‘Demise Implies Economy’ without problem or changing acronym.]

Now, the reason I wanted to figure out Occam’s Razor was because I thought it might help me understand entropy better.  Entropy seems to be this force or cause that basically is always at work and does whatever we don’t want it to.  Jerk.  Of course the universe has no reason to conform to our way of doing things, or worse, my way of viewing the world, but entropy just seems to be excessive:  why should our physical science be subject to a form of energy loss?  This makes me think it is our fault.  No, not ‘fault’, but intrinsic part of how we go about our science.  My apologies to the universe for calling it a jerk.

So, back to Occam’s Razor and DIE.  If DIE underpins Occam’s Razor, then we are metaphysically bound to proceed in a piecemeal manner.  Even our most radical theories are not developed by immortals with no care for time.  So, in some sense, our theories are also fundamentally limited and hence will always admit some unknown factors as a metaphysical consequence.

It is fair to ask if this is all just a fancy way of stating pessimistic induction, “Since we haven’t gotten theories perfect in the past, we shouldn’t expect to in the future”?  How can I make the claim that we will never succeed in this scientific endeavor?

My answer is that these questions raise legitimate issues, but the specific question at hand is not to speculate on what will happen with future theory but how we are to understand entropy and simplicity now.  And to question whether our adherence to ontological parsimony has the theoretical consequence of an unresolvable force.   Since we must believe the theories we have, at least to some extent, whatever these theories do not describe must be left in an accordingly deep mystery– as the result of an unexplained force at least as powerful as the forces we do explain. Therefore I have to conclude that, given a metaphysical understanding of Occam’s Razor such as DIE, there is a legitimate concern of inevitable unresolvable causal consequences which could manifest as various forms of entropy.

Posted in economics, ontology, philosophy, physics, science.

One Response