Occam's Razor

This is a basic principal of philosophical thought. This principal is used to measure different logistical dilemmas and arrive at the most likely possibility, by eliminating the least probable solutions. This is used in philosophy, science, medicine, architecture, and engineering to quickly determine the most likely posibilities and predict the best solution without needing to try them all.

William of Ockham, a Franciscan friar who studied logic in the 14th century, first made this principle well known. In Latin it is sometimes called lex parsimoniae, or "the law of briefness". William of Ockham supposedly wrote it in Latin as:

  • Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem.

This translates literally as:

  • More things should not be used than are necessary.


Example: Two trees have fallen down during a windy night. Think about these two possible explanations:

  1. The wind has blown them down.
  2. Two meteorites have each taken one tree down, and after that hit each other and removed any trace of themselves.

Even though both are possible, several other unlikely things would also need to happen for the meteorites to have knocked the trees down (they would have to hit each other and also not leave any marks). In addition, meteorites are fairly rare. Since this second explanation needs several assumptions to all be true, it is probably the wrong answer. Occam's razor tells us that the wind blew the trees down, because that is the simplest answer and therefore probably the right one.

Occam's razor also comes up in medicine. When there are many explanations for symptoms, the simplest diagnosis is the one to test first. If a child has a runny nose, it probably has the common cold rather than a rare birth defect. Medical students are often told, "When you hear hoof beats, think horses, not zebras".


Using Occam's Razor, compare the two different scenarios;

Science will tell us that we are going 1040 mph standing still upon the planet as we spin on our axis, though it can be argued that this speed is canceled out during half the day if the Earth is moving around the sun in the opposite direction you are traveling on the surface of Earth.. The Earth travels around the sun at 66, 666 mph. The Sun (along with our solar system) rotates around the center of the Milky Way at between 420, 000 and 540, 000 mph. Finally, it is believed that the Milky Way is traveling or moving around a "local group" of galaxies at 2, 237, 000 mph. If we total these figures, we are moving through a physical universe comprised of solid objects all in motion where science also claims no two atoms ever touch, at a speed of roughly 2,804,706 mph.

Is it possible that this entire universe is all instead, just a hologram?

Is the world made of thought, and the physical is an illusion? Or are we actually standing upside down on a big blue, brown and green rock in the middle of space hurtling towards our inevitable demise which would naturally be a severe collision, at a speed of 2,804,706 mph?

Which idea in your opinion, is the simplest explanation for our current predicament? What does Occam's Razor point to?