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Simplicity is a more qualitative word connected to simple. It is a property, condition, or quality which things can be judged to have. It usually relates to the burden which a thing puts on someone trying to explain or understand it. Something which is easy to understand or explain is simple, in contrast to something complicated. In some uses, simplicity can be used to imply beauty, purity or clarity. .Simplicity may also be used in a negative connotation to denote a deficit or insufficiency of nuance or complexity of a thing, relative to what is supposed to be required.^ Depending on the Promotion, we may also collect an Internet email address or other Information and, depending on the Information collected, the user may also be required to confirm his or her agreement to this Privacy Policy and the Terms of Use Agreement.
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The concept of simplicity has been related to truth in the field of epistemology. .According to Occam's razor, all other things being equal, the simplest theory is the most likely to be true.^ A true Christian may not agree with Homosexuality, but would never judge a gay person like all these people in here.
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In the context of human lifestyle, simplicity can denote freedom from hardship, effort or confusion. Specifically, it can refer to a simple living lifestyle.
Simplicity is a theme in the Christian religion. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, God is infinitely simple. The Roman Catholic and Anglican religious orders of Franciscans also strive after simplicity. .Members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) practice the Testimony of Simplicity, which is the simplifying of one's life in order to focus on things that are most important and disregard or avoid things that are least important.^ Get a life people and get outraged about more important things!!!!
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In MCS cognition theory, simplicity is the property of a domain which requires very little information to be exhaustively described. The opposite of simplicity is complexity.


Simplicity in the philosophy of science

Simplicity is a meta-scientific criterion by which to evaluate competing theories. See also Occam's Razor and references. The similar concept of Parsimony is also used in philosophy of science, that is the explanation of a phenomenon which is the least involved is held to have superior value to a more involved one.

Simplicity in philosophy

The definition provided by Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is that "Other things being equal simpler theories are better."
There is a widespread philosophical presumption that simplicity is a theoretical virtue. This presumption that simpler theories are preferable appears in many guises. Often it remains implicit; sometimes it is invoked as a primitive, self-evident proposition; other times it is elevated to the status of a ‘Principle’ and labeled as such (for example, the ‘Principle of Parsimony’). However, it is perhaps best known by the name ‘Occam's (or Ockham's) Razor.’ Simplicity principles have been proposed in various forms by theologians, philosophers, and scientists, from ancient through medieval to modern times. Thus Aristotle writes in his Posterior Analytics,
  • We may assume the superiority ceteris paribus of the demonstration which derives from fewer postulates or hypotheses. [Aristotle, Posterior Analytics, transl. McKeon, [1963, p. 150].]
Moving to the medieval period, Aquinas writes
  • If a thing can be done adequately by means of one, it is superfluous to do it by means of several; for we observe that nature does not employ two instruments where one suffices (Aquinas 1945, p. 129).
Kant—in the Critique of Pure Reason—supports the maxim that "rudiments or principles must not be unnecessarily multiplied (entia praeter necessitatem non esse multiplicanda)" and argues that this is a regulative idea of pure reason which underlies scientists' theorizing about nature (Kant 1950, pp. 538–9). Both Galileo and Newton accepted versions of Occam's Razor. Indeed Newton includes a principle of parsimony as one of his three ‘Rules of Reasoning in Philosophy’ at the beginning of Book III of Principia Mathematica.
  • Rule I: We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances.
Newton goes on to remark that "Nature is pleased with simplicity, and affects not the pomp of superfluous causes" (Newton 1972, p. 398). Galileo, in the course of making a detailed comparison of the Ptolemaic and Copernican models of the solar system, maintains that "Nature does not multiply things unnecessarily; that she makes use of the easiest and simplest means for producing her effects; that she does nothing in vain, and the like" (Galileo 1962, p. 397). Nor are scientific advocates of simplicity principles restricted to the ranks of physicists and astronomers. Here is the chemist Lavoisier writing in the late 18th Century
  • If all of chemistry can be explained in a satisfactory manner without the help of phlogiston, that is enough to render it infinitely likely that the principle does not exist, that it is a hypothetical substance, a gratuitous supposition. It is, after all, a principle of logic not to multiply entities unnecessarily (Lavoisier 1862, pp. 623–4).
Compare this to the following passage from Einstein, writing 150 years later.
  • The grand aim of all science…is to cover the greatest possible number of empirical facts by logical deductions from the smallest possible number of hypotheses or axioms (Einstein, quoted in Nash 1963, p. 173).
Editors of a recent volume on simplicity sent out surveys to 25 recent Nobel laureates in economics. Almost all replied that simplicity played a role in their research, and that simplicity is a desirable feature of economic theories (Zellner et al. 2001, p.2).
Within philosophy, Occam's Razor (OR) is often wielded against metaphysical theories which involve allegedly superfluous ontological apparatus. Thus materialists about the mind may use OR against dualism, on the grounds that dualism postulates an extra ontological category for mental phenomena. Similarly, nominalists about abstract objects may use OR against their platonist opponents, taking them to task for committing to an uncountably vast realm of abstract mathematical entities. The aim of appeals to simplicity in such contexts seem to be more about shifting the burden of proof, and less about refuting the less simple theory outright.
The philosophical issues surrounding the notion of simplicity are numerous and somewhat tangled. The topic has been studied in piecemeal fashion by scientists, philosophers, and statisticians. The apparent familiarity of the notion of simplicity means that it is often left unanalyzed, while its vagueness and multiplicity of meanings contributes to the challenge of pinning the notion down precisely. [Compare Poincaré's remark that "simplicity is a vague notion" and "everyone calls simple what he finds easy to understand, according to his habits." (quoted in Gauch [2003, p. 275]).] A distinction is often made between two fundamentally distinct senses of simplicity: syntactic simplicity (roughly, the number and complexity of hypotheses), and ontological simplicity (roughly, the number and complexity of things postulated). [N.B. some philosophers use the term ‘semantic simplicity’ for this second category, e.g. Sober [2001, p. 14].] These two facets of simplicity are often referred to as elegance and parsimony respectively. For the purposes of the present overview we shall follow this usage and reserve ‘parsimony’ specifically for simplicity in the ontological sense. .However, the terms ‘parsimony’ and ‘simplicity’ are used virtually interchangeably in much of the philosophical literature.^ All use of such applications or features is governed by Additional Terms as set forth in the Virtual Reality Applications - Terms .
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Philosophical interest in these two notions of simplicity may be organized around answers to three basic questions; (i) How is simplicity to be defined? [Definition] (ii) What is the role of simplicity principles in different areas of inquiry? [Usage] (iii) Is there a rational justification for such simplicity principles? [Justification]
Answering the definitional question, (i), is more straightforward for parsimony than for elegance. Conversely, more progress on the issue, (iii), of rational justification has been made for elegance than for parsimony. The above questions can be raised for simplicity principles both within philosophy itself and in application to other areas of theorizing, especially empirical science.
With respect to question (ii), there is an important distinction to be made between two sorts of simplicity principle. .Occam's Razor may be formulated as an epistemic principle: if theory T is simpler than theory T*, then it is rational (other things being equal) to believe T rather than T*.^ I wonder if some of the rather nasty posts (on this and other sites)are being placed by Mars reps who know that "any publicity is good publicity!"
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Or it may be formulated as a methodological principle: if T is simpler than T* then it is rational to adopt T as one's working theory for scientific purposes. These two conceptions of Occam's Razor require different sorts of justification in answer to question (iii).
In analyzing simplicity, it can be difficult to keep its two facets—elegance and parsimony—apart. Principles such as Occam's Razor are frequently stated in a way which is ambiguous between the two notions, for example, "Don't multiply postulations beyond necessity." Here it is unclear whether ‘postulation’ refers to the entities being postulated, or the hypotheses which are doing the postulating, or both. The first reading corresponds to parsimony, the second to elegance. Examples of both sorts of simplicity principle can be found in the quotations given earlier in this section.
While these two facets of simplicity are frequently conflated, it is important to treat them as distinct. One reason for doing so is that considerations of parsimony and of elegance typically pull in different directions. Postulating extra entities may allow a theory to be formulated more simply, while reducing the ontology of a theory may only be possible at the price of making it syntactically more complex. For example the postulation of Neptune, at the time not directly observable, allowed the perturbations in the orbits of other observed planets to be explained without complicating the laws of celestial mechanics. .There is typically a trade-off between ontology and ideology—to use the terminology favored by Quine—in which contraction in one domain requires expansion in the other.^ Depending on the Promotion, we may also collect an Internet email address or other Information and, depending on the Information collected, the user may also be required to confirm his or her agreement to this Privacy Policy and the Terms of Use Agreement.
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This points to another way of characterizing the elegance/parsimony distinction, in terms of simplicity of theory versus simplicity of world respectively.[4] Sober [2001] argues that both these facets of simplicity can be interpreted in terms of minimization. In the (atypical) case of theoretically idle entities, both forms of minimization pull in the same direction; postulating the existence of such entities makes both our theories (of the world) and the world (as represented by our theories) less simple than they might be.


  • "Things should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler."—Albert Einstein (1879–1955)
  • "You can always recognize truth by its beauty and simplicity."—Richard Feynman (1918–1988)
  • "Our lives are frittered away by detail; simplify, simplify."—Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)
  • "Simplicity divides into tools, which are used by Beorma as Royal Highness."—Duke of Beorma
  • "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."—Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519)
  • "If you can't describe it simply, you can't use it simply."—Anon
  • "Simplicity means the achievement of maximum effect with minimum means."—Koichi Kawana, architect of botanical gardens
  • "Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."—Antoine de Saint Exupéry
  • "Simplicity is the direct result of profound thought."—Anon

See also


  • Craig, E. Ed. (1998) Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. London, Routledge. simplicity (in Scientific Theory) p.780–783
  • Dancy, J. and Ernest Sosa, Ed.(1999) A Companion to Epistemology. Malden, Massachusetts, Blackwell Publishers Inc. simplicity p. 477–479.
  • Dowe, D. L., S. Gardner & G. Oppy (2007), "Bayes not Bust! Why Simplicity is no Problem for Bayesians", Brit. J. Phil. Sci., Vol. 58, Dec. 2007, 46pp. [Among other things, this paper compares MML with AIC.]
  • Edwards, P., Ed. (1967). The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. New York, The Macmillan Company. simplicity p.445–448.
  • Kim, J. a. E. S., Ed.(2000). A Companion to Metaphysics. Oxford, Blackwell Publishers. simplicity, parsimony p.461–462.
  • Maeda, J., (2006) Laws of Simplicity, MIT Press
  • Newton-Smith, W. H., Ed. (2001). A Companion to the Philosophy of Science. Malden, Massachusetts, Blackwell Publishers Ltd. simplicity p.433–441.
  • Richmond, Samuel A.(1996)"A Simplification of the Theory of Simplicity", Synthese 107 373-393.
  • Scott, Brian(1996) "Technical Notes on a Theory of Simplicity", Synthese 109 281-289.
  • Sarkar, S. Ed. (2002). The Philosophy of Science—An Encyclopedia. London, Routledge. simplicity
  • Wilson, R. A. a. K., Frank C., (1999). The MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences. Cambridge, Massachusetts, The MIT Press. parsimony and simplicity p.627–629.

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Simplicity is the property, condition, or quality of being simple or un-combined. It often denotes beauty, purity, or clarity. Simple things are usually easier to explain and understand than complicated ones.



  • Simplicity is the most deceitful mistress that ever betrayed man.
  • Numquam ponenda est pluralitas sine necessitate.
    • Plurality ought never be posited without necessity.
    • William of Occam, Quaestiones et decisiones in quattuor libros Sententiarum Petri Lombardi (ed. Lugd., 1495), i, dist. 27, qu. 2, K
    • Commonly paraphrased as Occam's razor:
      • Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem.
        • Entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity.
  • If you can’t reduce a difficult engineering problem to just one 8-1/2 x 11-inch sheet of paper, you will probably never understand it.
    • Ralph Brazelton Peck, as quoted by John Dunnicliff and Nancy Peck Young (2007). Ralph B. Peck, Educator and Engineer - The Essence of the Man. BiTech Publishers Ltd, Vancouver. p. 114. ISBN 0-921095-63-5.  
  • Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)

Reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).
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  • "Blessed are the poor in spirit." Blessed are they who are stripped of every thing, even of their own wills, that they may no longer belong to themselves.
  • God would behold in you a simplicity which will contain so much the more of His wisdom as it contains less of your own.^ If you believe that the Site contains elements that infringe your copyrights in your work, please follow the procedures set forth in our Copyright Compliance Policy .
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    ^ And for gods sakes, make sure your kids dont eat Snickers, because you know what that will do to them.
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  • True simplicity regards God alone; it has its eye fixed upon Him, and is not drawn toward self; and it is as pleased to say humble as great things. All our uneasy feelings and reflections arise from self-love, whatever appearance of piety they may assume. The lack of simplicity inflicts many wounds. Go where we will, if we remain in ourselves, we shall carry everywhere our sins and our distresses. If we would live in peace, we must lose sight of self, and rest in the infinite and unchangeable God.
    • Madame Guyon, p. 544.
  • He sows June fields with clover, and the world
    Broadcasts with little common kindnesses.
    .The plain good souls He sends us, who fulfill
    Life's homely duties in the daily path
    With cheerful heart, ambitious of no more
    Than to supply the wants of friend and kin,
    Yet serve God's higher love to human hearts;
    Giving a secret sweetness to the home,
    The hidden fragrance of a kindly heart,
    The simple beauty of a useful life,
    That never dazzles, and that never tires.
    ^ Kino no Tabi: the Beautiful World - life goes on (Movie) .
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    • Samuel Longfellow, p. 544.
  • Simpler manners, purer lives; more self-denial; more earnest sympathy with the classes that lie below us, nothing short of that can lay the foundations of the Christianity which is to be hereafter, deep and broad.
  • Simplicity and purity are the two wings by which a man is lifted above all earthly things. Simplicity is in the intention — purity in the affection. Simplicity tends to God,— purity apprehends and tastes Him.
  • As to our friend, I pray God to bestow upon him a simplicity that shall give him peace. Happy are they indeed who can bear their sufferings in the enjoyment of this simple peace and perfect acquiesence in the will of God.
  • If our love were but more simple,
    We should take Him at His word;
    And our lives would be all sunshine
    In the sweetness of the Lord.
  • If you wish to be like a little child, study what a little child could understand — nature; and do what a little child could do — love.


  • I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time. —Blaise Pascal
This quote has been also attributed to Mark Twain, T.S. Eliot, Cicero, and others besides.

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:
Look up simplicity in Wiktionary, the free dictionary

Citable sentences

Up to date as of December 27, 2010

Here are sentences from other pages on Kiss, which are similar to those in the above article.

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