It is well established doctrine to apply Occam's razor to scientific theoretical development. The basis for which may range over the demonstrated practical success of the principle, to a vocational/psychological aversion for making assumptions. But Science aside:

What would Plato and/or Aristotle say if you suggested Occam's razor to him?

EDIT Found this (close) duplicate Do any philosophers disagree with Occam's razor?

  • "It is well established doctrine to apply Occam's razor to scientific theoretical development" ? Highly debatabel ... it is more a kind of "common sense" principle. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Oct 24 '18 at 13:09
  • Okay, "... well established common sense principle..." then. What would Plato say should you suggest he apply Occam's razor to his philosophy or methodology? Implicitly, is Occam's razor compatible with some of the great names in philosophy? – christo183 Oct 24 '18 at 13:23
  • See Ockham's Razor : "Ockham's “nominalism” is often viewed as derived from a common source: an underlying concern for ontological parsimony. This is summed up in the famous slogan known as “Ockham's Razor,” often expressed as “Don't multiply entities beyond necessity.” Although the sentiment is certainly Ockham's, that particular formulation is nowhere to be found in his texts. Moreover, as usually stated, it is a sentiment that virtually all philosophers, medieval or otherwise, would accept; no one wants a needlessly bloated ontology." – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Oct 24 '18 at 14:37
  • 1
    This writer, Toni V. Carey, traces it to Aristotle. philosophynow.org/issues/81/… – Gordon Oct 24 '18 at 15:06
  • It is a philosophical principle and just as relevant in philosophy.as anywhere else. As Frank notes it goes back at least to Aristotle. There is also the issue that metaphysics is the attempt to reduce the world to principles, ideally just one, so parsimony is the name of the game. – user20253 Oct 25 '18 at 11:41

According to Wikipedia, Aristotle may have favored something like Occam's razor:

Aristotle writes in his Posterior Analytics, "We may assume the superiority ceteris paribus [other things being equal] of the demonstration which derives from fewer postulates or hypotheses."

Based on that, a search on the Internet Archive found this in Posterior Analytics: (page 147)

It may be assumed that, given the same conditions, that form of demonstration is superior to the rest which depends upon fewer postulates or hypotheses or premisses...

The Wikipedia article surveys various positions related to Occam's razor and even mentions "anti-razors" presented by Leibniz and Kant.


Aristotle, Posterior Analytics, Translated by Octavius Freire Owen https://archive.org/details/posterioranalytics

Wikipedia, "Occam's razor" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam%27s_razor

| improve this answer | |
  • What is Aristotle doing here? Epistemology, Philosophy-of-Science, Science, or Philosophy generally? Good lead, I'll dig into it. – christo183 Oct 24 '18 at 14:29
  • @christo183 He is discussing his "term logic" or syllogisms. – Frank Hubeny Oct 24 '18 at 14:56
  • But the title of the post is "Does Philosophy benefit from parsimony ?" Thus, I would read it as follows "Does A applies O's razor to his own phil ?" – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Oct 24 '18 at 14:58
  • @MauroALLEGRANZA I agree that the title is broader than Plato or Aristotle in the specific question. That is why I included the reference to Leibniz and Kant. There is more going on with Occam's razor. Aristotle is discussing syllogisms. I don't see how you could separate his philosophy from his term logic. – Frank Hubeny Oct 24 '18 at 15:02
  • 1
    @MauroALLEGRANZA You, and Frank, are right of course, I do tend to title a broad question and then trim it to a more specific, and hopefully exemplary query. Just my luck here to choose Aristotle who as Gordon points out above may well be the originator of the idea. Another way to pose the question: Is Occam's razor appropriate to the same degree for Philosophy as for Science. – christo183 Oct 25 '18 at 8:26

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.