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Sunday, October 7, 2018

William of Ockham and simplicity


Photo source: Wikimedia Commons, Moscarlop

Photo license: CC BY-SA 3.0


William of Ockham (1287-1347) was an English scholastic philosopher best known for Ockham's razor. Wikipedia says,


"In scholasticism, William of Ockham advocated reform in both method and content, the aim of which was simplification. William incorporated much of the work of some previous theologians, especially Duns Scotus." (Wikipedia: William of Ockham, 8.19.21 UTC 19:56)


The rest of this post is some quotes from William of Ockham.


Ockham's razor


"It is pointless to do with more what can be done with fewer." (Summa Logicae, 1323)


"Plurality is never to be posited without necessity." (Questiones et decisiones in quattuour libros Sententiarum Petri Lombardi)


"Simpler explanations are, other things being equal, generally better than more complex ones." (


"When you have two competing theories that make exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is the better." (


Reason and logic


"You see that I have set out opposing assertions in response to your question and I have touched on quite strong arguments in support of each position. Therefore consider now which seems the more probable to you." (Dialogus, 1494 posthumous)


"For nothing ought to be posited without a reason given, unless it is self-evident (literally known through itself) or known by experience or proved by the authority of Sacred Scripture." (


"Logic is the most useful tool of all the arts. Without it no science can be fully known." (Summa Logicae, 1323)