more from Alex Orenstein

Single Idea 8457

[catalogued under 14. Science / B. Scientific Theories / 1. Scientific Theory]

Full Idea

The principle of conservatism in choosing between theories is a maxim of minimal mutilation, stating that of competing theories, all other things being equal, choose the one that violates the fewest background beliefs held.

Gist of Idea

The Principle of Conservatism says we should violate the minimum number of background beliefs


Alex Orenstein (W.V. Quine [2002], Ch.2)

Book Reference

Orenstein,Alex: 'W.V. Quine' [Princeton 2002], p.36

A Reaction

In this sense, all rational people should be conservatives. The idea is a modern variant of Hume's objection to miracles (Idea 2227). A Kuhnian 'paradigm shift' is the dramatic moment when this principle no longer seems appropriate.

Related Idea

Idea 2227 A miracle violates laws which have been established by continuous unchanging experience, so should be ignored [Hume]