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Saving the Phenomenon and Ockham's Razor

Posted by kristobaldude on June 12, 2012

A Med School Odyssey

I ran across an interesting article this morning discussing deductive reasoning and comparing diagnosis to detective work, part of the appeal which medicine has for me.  In particular, the discussion of Ockham’s Razor was particularly enlightening, since I had never heard a satisfactory explanation of what the term “razor” applied to:

The term razor is used to highlight shaving away unnecessary assumptions to get to [the] simplest explanation.

I was first introduced to this principle as an undergraduate during an introductory astrophysics course.  The professor introduced it as part of a discussion on how the Greeks had attempted to explain some apparently bizarre celestial motion, notably the retrograde motion of Mars and Venus.  Ockham’s Razor is commonly stated:

When competing hypotheses are equal in other respects, the principle recommends selection of the hypothesis that introduces the fewest assumptions and postulates the fewest entities while still sufficiently answering the question…

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