Summary
Simplicity is the state or quality of being simple. Something easy to understand or explain seems simple, in contrast to something complicated. Alternatively, as Herbert A. Simon suggests, something is simple or complex depending on the way we choose to describe it. In some uses, the label "simplicity" can imply beauty, purity, or clarity. In other cases, the term may suggest a lack of nuance or complexity relative to what is required. The concept of simplicity is related to the field of epistemology and philosophy of science (e.g., in Occam's razor). Religions also reflect on simplicity with concepts such as divine simplicity. In human lifestyles, simplicity can denote freedom from excessive possessions or distractions, such as having a simple living style. In some cases, the term may have negative connotations, as when referring to someone as a simpleton. 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'. According to Occam's razor, all other things being equal, the simplest theory is most likely true. In other words, simplicity is a meta-scientific criterion by which scientists evaluate competing theories. A distinction is often made by many persons between two senses of simplicity: syntactic simplicity (the number and complexity of hypotheses), and ontological simplicity (the number and complexity of things postulated). These two aspects of simplicity are often referred to as elegance and parsimony respectively. John von Neumann defines simplicity as an important esthetic criterion of scientific models: [...] (scientific model) must satisfy certain esthetic criteria - that is, in relation to how much it describes, it must be rather simple.
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