The apricity of William of Ockham

1 Apr

On This Day In History: William Of Ockham Secretly Leave Avignon ...

The other day I mentioned Occam’s razor, a conceptual test dear to the hearts of scientists and epistemologists for evaluating competing explanations of observable phenomena. My usage prompted this from Jon, a much loved pal last seen at his St Ives home in the summer of 2018:

One of the most engaging aspects of your scribblings is my regular need of a good dictionary, encyclopaedia or indeed in this day and age Wiki. Today had me grunting across the table ‘ Occam’s f……..g razor’ . What the f…is he on about now ?!

Truly, only you could insert a medieval Franciscan’s law of parsimony into the text. Cracking work and now I am the wiser in acknowledging a theory I have subscribed to for years.

Here’s another lovely word – Apricity, the warmth of the winter sun. It might technically be spring but that east wind do cut through you a tad, lovely in a sheltered spot. Stay well. X from Cornwall

I googled of course …

… before replying:

Apricity I hadn’t heard before Jon. And it is indeed a lovely word, with a ring both of April and apricot about it. Some new words I look up and make a note to forget immediately on grounds that (a) I find it ugly and (b) there are perfectly acceptable alternatives.

Apricity I shall remember and find an occasion for.

Occam’s razor is an extremely useful test. Allied, as you say, with the scientific principle of parsimony and the more everyday one of simplicity.

Stay well x


4 Replies to “The apricity of William of Ockham

  1. Occam’s razor may be a useful tool when used legitimately but I have seen it referenced too often on comment threads by those who have already decided on the entire matter in advance but wish to present their illegitimate presumptions under a self-congratulatingly “rational” veneer. And so whenever someone mentions Occam, I tend to just skip. Indeed – I find it tiresome to be given a lecture on the true scientific or logical method, only to find this patter dressed up to sneak past unjustified conclusions.

    In the spirit of Dylan’s “Let us not talk falsely now”, it’s not too difficult to note the posts that aren’t worth reading. Verbosity, abusiveness, convoluted language etc. Although obviously I should try to avoid the same pitfalls myself! (And beware of hypocrisy!)

    • Indeed. Agreed that simple certainly does not mean simplistic or negate equally valid observations such as the devil being in the detail.

      I found this to be useful over the years:

      You can usually spot such characters not only by their use of unsupported and unsubstantiated assertions masquerading as solid conclusions but also by their reluctance to see the need to even provide hard evidence to back up such assertions. Particularly when diverting attention from that practice by caricaturing examples which seek to rectify such omissions.

      • Agreed. the “all things being equal” bit is the key. Without that being certain, true and without error, Occam has no razor, only a bludgeon.

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