Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Occam's Razor

I've become interested in Occam's Razor because of the book Straight Man, by Richard Russo.

Quote from The Skeptic's Dictionary by Robert Todd Carroll.) " 'Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate' or "plurality should not be posited without necessity." The words are those of the medieval English philosopher and Franciscan monk William of Ockham (ca. 1285-1349). Like many Franciscans, William was a minimalist in this life, idealizing a life of poverty, and like St. Francis himself, battling with the Pope over the issue. William was excommunicated by Pope John XXII. He responded by writing a treatise demonstrating that Pope John was a heretic."

Ockham didn't invent this principle, but he used it so often that it was his name that was finally linked to it. The way the phrase is used now it means "Keep it simple."

Author F. Heylighen says that "one should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything." Or as the cops would say, the simplest solution is probably the correct solution. I like this explanation: "Of two alternative explanations for the same phenomena, the more complicated is more likely to have something wrong with it, and therefore, other things being equal, the more simple is the more likely to be correct." (William P. Clement)

Somehow, I have missed this principle being called Occam's Razor. I've heard of the general principle, but not this name for it. I'm too old to be so stupid. I should read more. A lot more.

I do have a couple of questions:
1. Would Pope Joe have excommunicated William of Ockham if he had been Pope at that time?
2. Is there a rock group named Occam's Razor? There should be.
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actonbell said...

lol. I think it was brilliant to name a dog after Ockham; can't get any less complicated than a dog!

Jamie Dawn said...

I will have to pass that rock group name along to my rock guitarist son. I think he'd like it.
I always opt for simple over complicated in just about everything.

AP3 said...

I never knew it was called "Occam's Razor" either. Interesting.

actonbell said...

oops, misspelled again...