Occam's Razor


Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Idioms, Wikipedia.

Occam's Razor

(philosophy)
The English philosopher, William of Occam (1300-1349) propounded Occam's Razor:

Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem.

(Latin for "Entities should not be multiplied more than necessary"). That is, the fewer assumptions an explanation of a phenomenon depends on, the better it is.

For example, some claim that God caused himself to exist and also caused the universe to exist - he was the "first cause" - whereas Occam's Razor suggests that if one accepts the possibility of something causing itself then it is better to assume that it was the universe that caused itself rather than God because this explanation involves fewer entities.

The negation of Occam's Razor would suggest that an arbitrarily complex explanation is just as good as the simplest one. (E.g. God and his cat created a robot called Sparky who built the universe from parts bought from a shop in another dimension).

See also KISS Principle.
References in periodicals archive ?
If anti-HSV-2 agents are not Occam's razor, (1) then the only thing that could become Occam's razor is a vaccine.
But hey, let's follow the example of the DJs, and apply Occam's Razor for a moment.
Occam's razor says, if it seems like there is mocking:
Of course, Occam's razor would suggest that men and women are exaggerating and downplaying their bedpost notches, respectively.
Applying Occam's Razor to the so-called "symptoms" of subjective disorders, we could say "I'm feeling sad because my best friend moved away.
We've argued that the Occam's razor explanation for this trend is that overregulation and lawsuits have tipped the balance in favor of private management for many investors.
Occam's razor is in effect here,'' said Brandon Gray, president of Box Office Mojo.
Although Occam's Razor encourages one to look closely at the simplest explanation first, investigators must avoid becoming myopic.
As for Occam's razor being a better argument for the nonexistence of god, Carlson is missing the point: Euthyphro's dilemma is not meant as an argument for the nonexistence of god, but as one for his irrelevance to moral questions (of course, once gods become irrelevant to morality, why bother with them at all?
Other observations: First, for accounting purposes, applying Occam's Razor (the simplest theory is preferred to the more complex) would lead to the return of cash basis accounting (because it is much simpler than accrual accounting), but I doubt many accountants would view that as an improvement.
Mylroie appears never to have absorbed the implications of Occam's Razor, the basic philosophical and scientific principle generally understood to be: "Of two competing theories or explanations, all other things being equal, the simpler one is to be preferred.