Saturday, July 28, 2018

Tool Fool

I was reading a piece, doesn't matter what about, when I ran across this:

...William of Ockham--of Occam's razor fame--would disagree.  The simplest solution is usually the right one.

This is wrong.  What Occam's razor insists is you shouldn't needlessly multiply factors in explaining something.  This makes sense, since each factor could be wrong, so the more of them you depend on, the more likely it may be your reasoning is in error.

But this doesn't mean the simplest explanation is usually right.  I would guess it usually isn't.  If you know nothing else, I suppose you should prefer the simplest explanation over any other (though not over all others combined).  But often things are complex, and you may have good reason to posit a complex explanation.

Occan's razor is a useful logical tool, but let's get it right first.


Blogger brian said...

This is a very common misstatement of his "razor"'
Plurality must never be posited without necessity.
Wikipedia says exactly the "simplest solution is usually the right one" which could I suppose be considered a corollary. The first time I heard it was in med school and this simplest= right was the formulation again. (It sounded wring then; I mean why did you need eight years of schools if simple was always best?) As you state plurality is often necessary as many situations and problems are multifactorial in etiology. However we often also encounter overly complex explanations things. Using Occam's Razor we should shave away the unnecessary plurality.

4:48 PM, July 28, 2018  

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