Occam’s razor blunted

There are many definitions of Occam’s razor, but two strike me.

–       “pluritas non est ponenda sine necessitate”, or “nature likes things as simple as possible.”

–       the principle that entities should not be multiplied needlessly; the simplest of two competing theories is to be preferred

The one is a law of nature, the other a principle.


The human tendency to multiply, to diversify, to spin off, to find other points of view, to tear down and rebuild, to endlessly theorise, to generate endless legislation… It’s all distracting, self-justifying, time-consuming, and does a good job filling in that awkward time between birth and death.

The second definition keeps its focus narrow, avoids the every day. It tidies Occam and his razor away into a philosophical or scientific sphere, where I know it does a good job.

The first, the original definition, is Occam’s. Nature takes the simple route. It’s a principle that should apply to the wider world, to everyday life, but such is the crazy untameable force of the human mind that nature doesn’t stand a chance.

Occam got it right. We need to step back, tame our minds, and be more a part of nature, recognise its slower pace, focus on the way it does things simply.

Occam is due for a revival.

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