Occam's razor(redirected from Ockham)
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A maxim that the simplest theory should be applied to a situation or experiment first. This concept is named for its ardent defender, 14th-century philosopher William of Occam. I think our initial hypothesis is too complex. Occam's razor would suggest we consider the simplest possible explanation.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
Occam's razorthe principle that in explaining something no more assumptions should be made than are necessary.
This principle takes its name from the English philosopher and Franciscan friar William of Occam ( c .1285–1349 ): the image is that of the razor cutting away all extraneous assumptions.
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
The simplest explanation of something is apt to be the correct one. This principle is named for the English scholar William of Occam (or Ockham), who lived from 1280 to 1349. A Franciscan monk, he so angered Pope John XXII through both his writings on the nature of knowledge and his defense of his order’s vow of poverty that he was excommunicated. William, whom his colleagues called Doctor Singularis et Invincibilis (“singular and invincible doctor”), put his principle in Latin: Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem, “Entities should not be unnecessarily multiplied.” In effect, he held that any unnecessary parts of a subject being analyzed should be eliminated. Obviously, this could simply be called Occam’s Principle, and indeed, the razor did not enter into it until a French philosopher, Etienne Bonnot de Condillac, in 1746 called it Rasoir des Nominaux, “the razor of the nominalists,” that is, cutting through complicated arguments to reach the truth. In 1836 Sir William Hamilton, lecturing on metaphysics and logic, put the two ideas together, saying, “We are therefore entitled to apply Occam’s razor to this theory of causality.” While some may believe that this phrase, with its ancient and rather abstruse origin, is obsolete, novelist Archer Mayor clearly disagreed, for he entitled his 1999 murder mystery Occam’s Razor.
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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