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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.[1] 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.

Some other information[edit]

In some contextual uses, "simplicity" can imply beauty, purity, or clarity. In other cases, the term may have negative connotations, as when referring to people as simpletons.

In philosophy of science[edit]

The concept of simplicity has been related to in[clarification needed] the field of epistemology[clarification needed] and philosophy of science.[clarification needed]

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.[by whom?] 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.[2]

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. I think it is worth while insisting on these vague terms - for instance, on the use of word rather. One cannot tell exactly how "simple" simple is. [...] Simplicity is largely a matter of historical background, of previous conditioning, of antecedents, of customary procedures, and it is very much a function of what is explained by it.[3]

In religion[edit]

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 for personal simplicity. Members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) practice the Testimony of Simplicity, which involves simplifying one's life to focus on what is important and disregard or avoid what is least important. Simplicity is tenet of Anabaptistism, and some Anabaptist groups like the Bruderhof, make an effort to live simply.[4][5]


In the context of human lifestyle, simplicity can denote freedom from excessive material consumption and psychological distractions.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 2009, p. 481.
  2. ^ Baker, Alan (2010-02-25). "Simplicity". In Zalta, Edward N. (ed.). Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2013 ed.). Retrieved 2015-04-26. 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). [...] These two facets of simplicity are often referred to as elegance and parsimony respectively. [...] The terms 'parsimony' and 'simplicity' are used virtually interchangeably in much of the philosophical literature.
  3. ^ von Neumann, John (1955). "Method in the Physical Sciences". In Leary, Lewis (ed.). The Unity Of Knowledge. N.J.: Garden City.
  4. ^ "Life Among The Bruderhof". The American Conservative. Retrieved 2017-12-07.
  5. ^ "BBC - Inside The Bruderhof - Media Centre". Retrieved 2019-10-26.
  • 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", Br. J. Philos. 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.
  • Hickey, Rich (2011) Simple Made Easy
  • 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.
  • Sarkar, S. Ed. (2002). The Philosophy of Science—An Encyclopedia. London, Routledge. simplicity
  • Schmölders, Claudia (1974). Simplizität, Naivetät, Einfalt – Studien zur ästhetischen Terminologie in Frankreich und in Deutschland, 1674–1771. PDF, 37MB (in German)
  • Scott, Brian(1996) "Technical Notes on a Theory of Simplicity", Synthese 109 281–289.
  • Simon, Herbert A (1962). "The Architecture of Complexity" (PDF). Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society. 106 (6): 467–482. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-03-10.
  • 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.
  • If Not God, Then What? (2007) by Joshua Fost, p. 93

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