Contact Us    
Ockham's Razor

Concluding one series and announcing another.

by Everett Wilson
December 9, 2006

Bookmark and Share
Ockham's Razor
Once I learned what Ockham's Razor was, I realized that I had been living by it, or trying to, most of my adult life. A wordy rendition of it is, "Plurality is not to be assumed without necessity," but I prefer a more terse definition, in keeping with the term's intent: "Keep it simple, Stupid."
Ockham's Razor, skillfully applied, cuts away the extraneous but recognizes the necessary. It neither simplifies the properly complex, nor complicates the purely simple.
William of Ockham was an English theologian at the turn of the fourteenth century, so he wielded the razor for the same reasons that I do.   Of all who walk the earth, theologians seek to express "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." When they are using Ockham's Razor they try to exclude not only untruth, but also the unnecessary; equally, to include all that is necessary. 
In theology, but likely also in those areas where you have a vital interest, mistakes in understanding or execution happen when you err by making things too complicated on the one hand, or too simple on the other. Theology has errors on both sides. If the errors have the effect of doing   permanent damage if   continued, they are called heresy. They may be heresies of fact or heresies of relevance, but either way they are not incidental.
Some of my readers may tune out when they hear the word "heresy." They think it pejorative and never in order, certainly in bad taste. Such use of language violates an unwritten but firm code. Instead of K.I.S.S. (Keep it simple, Stupid) they prefer K.I.N.D. (Keep it nice, Dude.) They remind me of this wonderful exchange from Born Yesterday, which goes like this, as I recall it:
A Senator--upon hearing the young reporter use the word "Bribery" in connection with a deal the Senator was involved in--says indignantly, "Be careful when you use the word "bribery" around me, young man!" Whereupon Billie Dawn, the simple heroine who was "born yesterday" in contrast to all of those who say they aren't, says to the Senator, "Eighty thousand dollars you got. What word do you want him to use?"
It is itself heresy to call anything heresy that is not, or to call people heretics when they are no more than people who disagree with you. But you are not "calling names" when actual heresy exists. You are simply using an historic word appropriately.
In. everyday life, here are some examples of what happens when we forget to use Ockham's Razor, and real harm to truth is the consequence.
1. Almost any euphemism.
2, Almost any oxymoron, such as "fat-free half and half."
3. "As good as" applied to substitutes, especially in edibles.
4. Scatological speech that substitutes insult for information.
Examples of Number Four are not offered because they are unprintable.
This column ends the series titled "Favorite Things." At least it will join Barnabas in hiatus, if not full retirement. Beginning next time I will write about Simple Things, with the subtitle "Making the Rough Places Plain." I will be wielding Ockham's razor more openly, sometimes to trim away the unnecessary, and sometimes surgically reconstructing some precious truths that have lapsed because their custodians traded simplicity for simple-mindedness. I hope you will join me, and invite your friends along.

Post a Comment

Send Us Your Opinion
(Comments are moderated.)
Your Name:*

Your E-Mail Address:*
(Confidential. Will not be published.)


Note: In order to control automated spam submissions, URLs are no longer permitted in this form.

Please type the letters you see above.


Bookmark and Share

Real Things
A novel.
Published January 2, 2008
Temporarily Unavailable

Real Things first appeared in serialized form on the Partial Observer in 2001. It is now available in print for the first time.

Over thirty years after a senseless crash redefined his life, Greg Thompson and his family finally learn why.

More Information
RSS Feed for Everett Wilson: RSS Feed for Everett Wilson
Sign up to receive an e-mail notice when new articles by this author are published. Your address remains confidential, and you may cancel at any time. A confirmation email will be sent.

Your e-mail address:
po Books
Now Available!

Teachings of a Three Year Old... Turned Tyke,
by Hal Evan Caplan.

A father learns from the wisdom of his toddler.

More Information.

More by Everett Wilson
Necessary Things, A Companion and Sequel to Real Things
Available from Amazon Books, Amazon Kindle, and Me!
by Everett Wilson, 2/16/15
Until Barrett is Free, Neither Are We
Freedom of the Press is not a whim of the state
by Everett Wilson, 2/26/14
Why the United States Will not Get Competent Universal Health Care in my Lifetime
Six Obvious Reasons
by Everett Wilson, 11/15/13
An Open Letter to Congressman Jeff Fortenberry
Clean Sweep Time
by Everett Wilson, 10/2/13
An Open Letter to Congressman Jeff Fortenberry
Clean Sweep Time
by Everett Wilson, 10/1/13
Excerpt from my new novel, Scoundrels and Fools
Chapter 5: Ellis Johnson
by Everett Wilson, 7/12/13
The Rev. Marjorie Drickey's Last Message to a Dying World
And all the trumpets sounded for her on the other side.
by Everett Wilson, 2/14/13
» Complete List (151)

RSS Feed for Everett Wilson: RSS Feed for Everett Wilson

Recently Published
View Article My Girl Friday
A toast to all administrative assistants
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 6/11/21
Two Giant Hands in Tulsa
Praying for forgiveness and healing
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 6/4/21
To a Field of Dreams
Memorial Day ponderings
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 5/28/21
Don't Mask! Don't Tell!
It's about time for about face
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 5/21/21
Liz Cheney's Not Lon Chaney
Why recent events on Capitol Hill resemble a horror show
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 5/14/21
A Mothers' Day Hymn
Remembering our moms with gratitude to our Heavenly Father
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 5/7/21
A Crumbling Foundation
What are we to make of Bill and Melinda Gates' divorce?
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 5/4/21

Get the Partial Observer's
'recently published' headlines via RSS.

RSS Feed for Recently Published PO Articles    What is RSS?
Reproduction of original material from The Partial Observer without written permission is strictly prohibited.
The opinions expressed by site contributors do not necessarily reflect those of the editors.
Copyright ©2000-2021 partialobserver.com. All rights reserved.
Home · Site Map · Top