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Occam’s Razor

December 15th, 2018 by Michael Dyet

A red bright laser ray on black background

Hmmm, in a world where complexity multiplies with every passing day, is it possible that simplicity remains our greatest instrument?

Recently, I came across a couple of references to the principle of Occam’s Razor. If you have not heard of this concept, it is a problem solving principle which holds that the simplest solution tends to be the correct one. It follows that if you are faced with a problem, you should select the solution with the fewest assumptions.

The principle is credited to William of Occam – a 13th century English Franciscan friar, philosopher and theologian. However, the research I did suggested that Occam was not the creator of the concept.

It seems to date back as far as ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle who was known for the phrase The more perfect a nature is, the fewer means it requires for its operation.

Occam captured the essence of the principle and stated it in a way that was more readily understood. However, his statement of the principle was still rather complicated and was stated in Latin. The principle has been abridged over the years to what we know today.

The articles I read assert that Occam’s Razor has over the years formed the basis of humanity’s investigation into the universe. The way we see our environment is largely based upon it. We use it as a laser beam to illuminate the mysteries of our world.

Occam’s Razor has a particular appeal to me. I have a natural inclination to search out simplicity. In a world of bewildering complexity where change is the only constant, simplicity is my saving grace and place of refuge. I strive to strip back the layers of modern life to find the simple truth that lies at its core, although that is not an easy thing to accomplish.

Truth in our time is an elusive commodity. It is often said that there are two sides to every story. In my experience, you are lucky if there are only two sides. Most stories have multiple sides each with varying degrees of validity.

Some would argue that this deeper truth is irrelevant. Those who hold and wield power in our society like to believe that truth is whatever they chose to make it – and the rest of us must get on board with that idea or be swept aside. But that is a subject for another post.

My attraction to Occam’s Razor derives in part from the fact that there is a metaphor embedded in it – namely, that the razor edge of truth is found in the simplest explanation. Metaphors have a tendency to endure. This particular principle, and the metaphor within it, has survived for over 600 years and is likely to be around for another 600, assuming humanity lasts that long.

I am fully confident that Occam’s Razor will survive my lifetime and I found that quite comforting. No matter what else changes or evolves of mutates, I can always rely on the Razor to remain sharp, true and immutable.

~ Now Available Online from Amazon, Chapters Indigo or Barnes & Noble: Hunting Muskie, Rites of Passage – Stories by Michael Robert Dyet

~ Michael Robert Dyet is also the author of Until the Deep Water Stills – An Internet-enhanced Novel which was a double winner in the Reader Views Literary Awards 2009. Visit Michael’s website at www.mdyetmetaphor.com or the novel online companion at www.mdyetmetaphor.com/blog.

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