occam economy choice simplify

 

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“I have tried in my way to be free”

 

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Leonard Cohen

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Ok.

 

Occam’s Razor. You know … “the simplest explanation is usually the best one.”

 

clueless clever-but-we-are-clueless

 

Developed by 14th-century English Franciscan friar William of Ockham, Ockam’s Razor <more commonly spelled Occam’s razor>, suggests one should seek the ‘more economical solution.’

 

What he actually wrote <in Summa Logicae 1323> was it is futile to do with more what can be done with fewer.”

 

Well.

 

This fabulous concept has been hijacked, twisted into a pretzel and, in general, bastardized under the insidious guise of ‘common sense’ logic.  It has been hijacked under the whole idea that ‘freedom’ is more often found in simplicity … or the simplest explanations … and , therefore, in a way those who use the concept in a misguided way are … well … bastardizing Life itself <and screwing up business in the business world>.

 

Yeah.

 

Somehow … somewhere … someone decided that good ole Occam’s razor could be used day in and day out as ‘common sense living.’

 

I would point out that Ockham himself, a philosopher, wasn’t a big fan of simplistic common sense.

I would further point out that Ockham’s razor theory was based on … all things being equal … the simplest explanation is usually the best one.

I would also point out that by “simple” … Occam’s razor is really referring to the theory with the fewest new assumptions.

 

And, in fact, I would also point out that inevitably there are times when the simplest explanation for a given set of observations is … well … wrong.

 

Occam’s razor never claims to determine the truth or untruth of something. It truth ambiguity -false-bothonly identifies the things we should logically consider and evaluate.

 

Common sense, under the guise of simplicity, far too often strips … well … an idea, a concept, a process & a theory … of the texture & hues of which they should be judged.

 

The truth is that black, or white, is overrated … as in ‘this is a black or white thing.” The most interesting things and, frankly, the most effective ordinary things & ideas are neither black nor white … nor even gray.

Complexity is a colorful idea & thought.

 

Therefore.

 

Should we view Occam’s Razor the way skeptics use it we would find that their ‘one explanation is more likely’ not only doesn’t mean it is a common sense black & white issue … but it also tends to mean that the ‘common sense solution is not only not common nor of sense’.

More importantly … it is also commonly suggests the incorrect solution.

 

Skeptics <or ‘simplify or die’ seekers>, in their attempt to simplify everything, treat Occam’s Razor as if it were an actual “Law of things” and use it to enable denying any rational claim, no matter how valid, based on … well … common sense.

 

Occam’s Razor is not a ‘law’ … simply a ‘rule’ of thought or a principle for which to think about things.

 

Look.

 

It was not meant to be anything associated with ‘common sense.’ Instead it was about making choices and deductions economically.

 

Occam’s razor was never meant for paring everything down to some beautiful simplistic core of truth.

 

The truth is that most things are, unfortunately, difficult and messy. And, yes, I can absolutely see why someone would gravitate to the good ole razor with the sense am i makingintent to simplify. But Ockham’s razor was not intended to cut away anything & everything or eliminate logic … it simply suggested that when everything is done, when everything has been thought of, and if all things were equal … you should look to the most economical solution as the one which made the most sense.

 

No, not common sense … but rather ‘the most sense.’

 

Or.

 

As Tao Ching said … “seek simplicity, grasp the essential.’

 

Occam’s razor does not mean eliminating the essential … no matter how complex or burdensome the essential it is.

 

Why?

 

Well.

 

We certainly do not want to make things more complicated than they need to be … but you also do not want to simplify so much that losing something essential ends up ‘under complicating’ things.

 

And this is where common sense and the whole simplicity thing really screws up good ole Occam & the razor.

 

Pretty much any great theory, any great concept, any great idea … has to incorporate what I would call ‘intentional simplification.’ And that is intentionally ignoring some things <some effects or causes of things> not because they do not exist or do not actually happen … but because they do not have any impact or much of an impact on the final outcome.

 

Conversely, this means some idiot <or a bunch of them> are going to wander around picking up all the non essential things and say “common sense suggests your conclusion is flawed because you ignored these things.”

 

WTF.

 

“I purposefully, intentionally, ignored them … as meaningless in the grander scheme of things.”

 

In some absurd version of their world their ‘simple common sense facts’ … well … over complicate things. They use Occam to … holy shit … complicate things.

 

Uh oh.

They actually use common sense to … holy shit part 2 … complicate things.

occam simplest clue deduce choice

As I said back in September 2013 when I first used Occam’s razor … sometimes what is … is … well … just is.

 

Yeah.

 

That may be the paradox that ‘common sense’ struggles with … sometimes the simplest explanation is complex.

 

Look.

 

Occam does not nor should it take sides on any given issue.

 

Occam does not nor should it shame a complex issue out of existence.

 

People who ignorantly wield Occam’s Razor often seem to be unaware of this.

 

To wield it incorrectly is a lazy tactic at best.

To wield it incorrectly is usually a reflection of ignoring the crucial question … whether there really is a need for the questioning.

 

Shit.

 

That alone is Occam’s largest suggestion … should I slice away questioning what is?

 

Anyway.

 

Where the lazy Occam users gain confidence is that Occam, at his core <albeit I did not know him personally> was a nominalist … maybe even a minimalist.

 

But even the most simplistic minimalist recognizes that analysis of anything truly worthwhile is likely to be incredibly complex … even at its simplest.

 

While I love simplicity … I will admit … the utility of Occam’s Razor is highly questionable. I fear that its misuse flippantly eliminates the useful by selecting over-simplified competitors.

 

Occam’s razor is simply a heuristic or rule of thumb which should be used to guide discussion but not to offer a solution.

 

All it does is to encourage us to favor, among otherwise equivalent theories or hypotheses, those that make the fewest unwarranted assumptions.

 

It is not a law.

 

It is not a scientific principle.

 

It cannot justify a position in and of itself.

 

simplicity meaningfulIt does not represent common sense.

 

Maybe everyone should remember only one thing about Occam’s razor that really matters … the razor analogy refers to “shaving off” or cutting from the theory those variables or concepts that are superfluous & non-essential and only create unnecessary complications.

Maybe everyone should remember before they invoke Occam’s Razor as common sense that it is more important to identify ‘the essential’ as true common sense decision making.

 

In the end?

 

“I have tried in my own way to be free.”

 

Far too often people do so by attempting to simplify. They assume, through common sense, that less is better … less is more. And, in some ways, that is true … but not at the expense of what is essential & needed. Complexity is a Life truth. Freedom of choice, of living or … well … almost anything is more often found in an “economical truth” and not in a ‘simplistic truth.’

 

Ponder that for a while.

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Written by Bruce