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Sorin Sabou

Letter to the Romans, Nicomachean Ethics, and more

Ockham's razor

Even if it is attributed to him, the affirmation ‘don’t multiply entities beyond necessity’ is not found in the surviving writings of William Ockham. He made use of it, even if he is not the first to do this (Durand de Saint-Pourcain used it before him). This concern for ‘ontological parsimony’ was characteristic for his work in the area metaphysics (Spade, Panaccio, 2011). This principle ‘gives precedence to simplicity’ (EB, 2013). Ockham used this ‘razor’ to dispense with relations, with efficient causality, with motion, with psychological powers, and with the presence of ideas in the mind of the Creator (cf. EB, 2013). For Ockham the ‘only true necessary entity is God’ (Spade, Panaccio, 2011).
This principle of simplicity helps in interpreting the facts of science; if something can be interpreted without assuming other hypothetical entities there is no ground for assuming them (cf. Russell, 2009). Even if ‘the simpler theory is more likely to be true’ (Kaye, 2007) this principle does not tells us which theory is true. There is no objective way to determine which of two theories is simpler (Kaye, 2007). With the help of Ockham’s razor we can reduce the risk of error, and such an affirmation is based on the assumption of the unicity of truth.


Sharon Kaye. www.iep.utm.edu/ockham/#H2
"Ockham's razor." Encyclopædia Britannica. Ultimate Reference Suite. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, 2013.
Russell, Bertrand. History of Western Philosophy. London and New York, Routlege. 2009.
Spade, Paul Vincent and Panaccio, Claude, "William of Ockham", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .
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