Occam's Razor Says the Simplest Explanation Is Usually the Right One

The 14th-century Franciscan friar and logician William of Ockham (or Occam, in the Latin spelling) once wrote, "Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate." Known as Occam's Razor, this phrase translates to "entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily." In other words, the simplest explanation is best.

Though this principle might seem obvious, it underpins virtually every scientific discovery ever made. For example, Einstein's theory of special relativity and the Lorentz ether theory both sought to explain phenomena related to the space-time continuum, such as how things tend to slow down the closer they get to moving at the speed of light. Lorentz's theory required a belief in "the ether," an invisible substance believed to connect everything in the universe, which had never been proven to exist. Such complications weren't necessary for Einstein's theory to work, so it's the one we use today. In everyday life, this is a good rule of thumb for anything that seems strange or inexplicable. Learn more about Occam's Razor and other philosophical principles below.

Why Is The Simplest Explanation Usually Right?

The philosophy behind Occam's Razor.

The Philosophical Concept of Impossibility

Philosophers distinguish between the physically impossible and the logically impossible.

What Is Epistemic Skepticism?

This philosophical concept shows up a lot in Internet comments.

Leibniz's Law

A principle that is crucial to much of philosophy, most notably metaphysics.

Written by Ashley Hamer August 5, 2016

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