Occam's Razor

(redirected from Parsimonious explanation)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical.
Related to Parsimonious explanation: law of parsimony, Parsimony Principle

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 ?
In this particular case, it seems that other explanations can provide more parsimonious explanations of the observations.
The most parsimonious explanation may be derived from a consideration of the known positions of the ice margin in Michigan during the last deglaciation episodes.
Identifying the source and mechanism of psi are pervasive problems, with experimenter effects perhaps providing the most parsimonious explanation and the clearest motivation for distinguishing the treatment and control groups in healing studies.
While some will contend that their research shows him to be incorrect, many will object less on the grounds that the theory is wrong and more on the basis that the grand, relatively parsimonious explanation is incomplete.
Finally, the book's finely detailed description does not add up to a coherent and parsimonious explanation. Devoting 668 pages largely to describing who said what to whom is far from an analysis that systematically identifies the critical influences which doomed Clinton's effort.
Political structures, bureaucracies, and ideas and beliefs can all play a role in shaping policy, and structural explanations often provide no more than a starting point for analyzing state behavior.(13) Still, for those scholars who accept the power of a structural paradigm, the most parsimonious explanation of a country's foreign policy behavior is not found in the psychology of its leaders, its regime type, or its political ideology; instead, it is located in the relative position of the state in the anarchic international system, as measured by its capabilities - its capacity for independent action.
(1983) concluded that the single-origin hypothesis was a more parsimonious explanation than multiple origins of the tetraploid because a multiple origins hypothesis must assume that (1) a complex series of parallel independent mutations occurred between geographically distant tetraploid populations; and (2) northeastern and southern tetraploids arose simultaneously from geographically distant diploid populations, followed by a third, much later, origin from H.
Using standard karyotypic data, Patton (1967) and Williams (1978) suggested that the most parsimonious explanation of chromosomal evolution in Chaetodipus was primarily by Robertsonian events and tandem fusions.
They suggested there were a number of potential interpretations of these fossils and that being a human ancestor was by no means the simplest, or most parsimonious explanation.
Clarkson (Chapter 3) demonstrates that reduction intensity provides a parsimonious explanation of scraper form; and that the typology of scraper classes does not effectively describe the actual reduction sequence.
"The most parsimonious explanation is climate," say Chris D.
The easiest, most parsimonious explanation for the makeup of the team is that differential practice and motivation have caused some young people to excel in this special area.