Occams Razor

The Best Explanation Has The Fewest Assumptions



What is Occams Razor?

Occams razor is credited to William of Ockham, a 14th-century Franciscan friar, theologian and philosopher.

In philosophical debate a razor is an abductive rule of thumb or heuristic that infers that unlikely predictions, or explanations, are to be "shaved off" on balance of probability.

It is also referred to as a law of parsimony which is a principle that says that: ‘Entities should not be multiplied without necessity.’ (In Latin, Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem.)

However, it seems that William of Ockham never actually said this in any of his writings!

In plain modern english, Occams razor, or the law of parsimony, means that:

The best explanation is the one that requires you to make the fewest possible assumptions about what's involved.

  • It is important to note that the razor is only applied to competing hypothesis about the same prediction.
  • Occams razor will select the solution with the fewest assumptions.
  • Simpler hypotheses are preferable to more complex ones because they are more testable.
  • Occams razor is not meant to be a way of selecting hypotheses that make different predictions.
  • It can not be used as to establish an irrefutable principle of logic,
  • It can not be used to confirm the truth of a situation.
  • It is definitely not to be considered as a scientific proof.
  • It does not prescribe oversimplification, if a more complex theory is available that better explains the facts, then the more complex theory should be preferred.
  • It is a mental model to be used as a part of a toolbox or portfolio of thinking skills for making initial conclusions before the full scope of information can be obtained.



Exceptions To Occams Razor

There are exceptions to every rule:

  • Simplicity alone is not enough. A conclusion must be backed by empirical evidence.
  • Blind faith is not enough, no mental model shoudl be relied on when it is contradicted by logic, experience, or empirical evidence.
  • We must be aware of falling prey to cognitive biases.
  • Because the world is far more complicated than any of us can conceive, thus sometimes the simplest model just isn’t the correct one.



Praise For Occams Razor

Albert Einstein

“It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience.”

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

Stephen Hawking

"We could still imagine that there is a set of laws that determines events completely for some supernatural being, who could observe the present state of the universe without disturbing it. However, such models of the universe are not of much interest to us mortals. It seems better to employ the principle known as Occam’s razor and cut out all the features of the theory that cannot be observed."

Isaac Newton

"We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances.”




Applying Occams Razor





Return to: How To Think




















Chinese (Traditional)EnglishFrenchGermanItalianRussianSpanishVietnamese


Custom Site Search


3 Keys Solutions

Action -> Think = Change


LATEST ARTICLES

  1. Do Something Syndrome

    Apr 09, 21 12:00 AM

    When to step in and when to leave things alone? Iatrogenics is a term, drawn from the medical world but now used generically, that refers to any effect resulting from an intervention that causes more…

    Read More

  2. Rather Than Trying To Win, Focus On Avoiding Losses

    Apr 07, 21 04:51 AM

    "Amateurs win the game when their opponent loses points, experts win the game by gaining points." (Shane Parrish) Most of us are amateurs but we refuse to believe it. This is a problem because we’re o…

    Read More

  3. Not Confusing Activity With Accomplishment

    Apr 06, 21 12:00 AM

    “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.” [Warren Buffett] "You need to be able to distinguish between tasks t…

    Read More

  4. Avoiding Stupidity Is Easier Than Seeking Brilliance

    Apr 02, 21 05:46 AM

    "It is remarkable how much long term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent." [Charlie Munger] By simply thinking about…

    Read More

  5. How To Build Self Esteem - If You Don't Take Care Of You, Who Will?

    Mar 26, 21 04:47 AM

    Your self esteem is based on how you value and respect yourself and not on the opinions of others. Self esteem = Who you think you are. Mastery in self esteem = Who you know you are.

    Read More

  6. Mental Models - Help You Think Effectively

    Mar 25, 21 10:38 AM

    A mental model is a high level representation, or overview, of how something works. “...developing the habit of mastering the multiple models which underlie reality is the best thing you can do.” Our…

    Read More

  7. Cognitive Distortions - The Psychology of Human Misjudgment

    Mar 19, 21 07:16 PM

    Cognitive distortions are irrational thought patterns that cause you to to perceive reality inaccurately. Our focus in this article is the area of decision making in life in everyday situations and al…

    Read More

  8. Petulant Posing and Posturing - The Weaknesses Of Existentialism

    Mar 13, 21 04:49 AM

    Live authentically - rise above your circumstances, make your choices, accept total responsibility... Existentialism makes some interesting observations that contribute to your understanding of life…

    Read More

  9. You Are Not Your Thoughts - It's Not The Content But Your Relationship With Your Thoughts That Matters

    Mar 10, 21 12:00 AM

    There are four stages in dealing with your thoughts:

    # awareness of your thoughts;

    # understanding your thoughts;

    # accepting your thoughts; and,

    # living with your thoughts. Ultimately, what matters is n…

    Read More

  10. The Power Of Framing - Change Your Language To Change How You Feel

    Mar 08, 21 07:16 AM

    Framing is about how we define context, make associations, establish reference points and emotional touch points all designed and positioned to convey the sense and meaning that we want to convey. How…

    Read More




Support This Site