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Occam’s Razor

September 24th, 2009

Occam’s Razor (law of parsimony)

Occam’s Razor is the principle that one should not multiply the agents in a theory beyond what’s necessary ( “non sunt multiplicanda entia praeter necessitatem” )

What does that mean? If two competing theories explain a single phenomenon, and they both generally reach the same conclusion, and they are both equally persuasive and convincing, and they both explain the problem or situation satisfactorily, the logician should always pick the less complex one. The one with the fewer number of moving parts, so to speak, is most likely to be correct. The idea is always to cut out extra unnecessary bits, hence the name “razor.”

Don’t speculate about extra hypothetical components if you can find an explanation that is equally plausible without them. All things being equal, the simpler theory is more likely to be correct, rather than one that relies upon many hypothetical additions to the evidence already collected.

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Categories: Logic