Occam’s Razor states: “Non sunt multiplicanda entia praeter necessitatem”
are not to be multiplied beyond necessity” or “the simplest explanation
which accounts for all of the facts is most probably correct.” This basic
principle has been adopted by many without understanding the context of
The repetition of the common paraphrase of the statement that Medieval
Scholastics called “the Razor” is both ahistorical and unjustified.
The faulty paraphrase unfortunately is much better known than the context
is, which has lead to all kinds of errors that William of Ockham would
have found baffling.
The context was Scholastic theology, the attempt to reconcile Scriptural
revelation with rational knowledge such as Aristotle’s discoveries. What
Ockham proposed was a methodology, not an all-purpose reality test. Ockham
proposed a methodology that posited a rational agenda for investigation,
not a substitute for it.
The misunderstood core of the Razor is that what Ockham really
proposed was: if there is a universe of possible causes or explanations,
as a matter of efficient methodology, it made sense to investigate
by other means the most simple first, NOT because it was more likely
to be true, but because it would be easier to disprove!
Let me repeat that. Ockham NEVER posited that a simple explanation
was more likely to be correct. He posited that it would be easier
to analyze. Really.
AND, when you realize that the kinds of things that were actively under
discussion, such as the nature of the Real Presence in the consecrated Eucharist,
were usually otherworldly in the extreme, the paraphrase of the Razor is
doubly a canard.
Because the context is so far off, I will not make
any effort to try to apply the real core of Ockham’s Razor to the situation
at hand, that is, where Earhart ended up, because I sincerely believe
that it is not an appropriate methodological tool.
FAQ by John Marks