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Jul 04, 2019 23:44:18

Occam's Razor

by @keenencharles | 214 words | 7🔥 | 466💌

Keenen Charles

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I've been thinking about Occam's razor recently. It's commonly stated as "the simplest explanation is usually the right one". Today I learned that that's actually not a form of Occam's razor but the law of parsimony or simplicity.

It's commonly used when dealing with competing hypotheses for some phenomena. It's used particularly in science but the common references to it ascribe it to almost anything. It got me thinking if a principle that works well for science can also work well for human behaviour.

Scientific problems usually have logical explanations. There might be various hypotheses and most will be proven false, but they will all be rooted in logic extrapolated from existing facts and theories.

Human behaviour, on the other hand, isn't so logical. The actions we take can't be traced back to specific circumstances and factors. Our reactions can vary in the same situations. Our decisions can be illogical and a result of emotion in specific situations.

When then assessing a person's behaviour, is the simplest explanation usually right?

In some cases it is but how often are we shocked by someone's rationale for their actions?

Maybe if we could have the data that scientists get to validate their theories we could truly tell what the "simplest" explanation is. But that's pretty unlikely.

  • 1

    @keenencharles interesting that you mentioned Occam's Razor. I just read an article explaining how "the history of physics clearly shows that many simple theories have had to be abandoned in favour of more complex and ‘ugly’ ones." Might be worth a read as part of this musing :)

    Jason Leow avatar Jason Leow | Jul 05, 2019 20:00:58
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      @jasonleow good read. I think it shows an innate human desire for simple and beautiful explanations. Maybe it's something we should be more conscious of.

      Keenen Charles avatar Keenen Charles | Jul 05, 2019 12:40:55
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    @keenencharles You don't trust psychology? On the contrary, I think human behavior can be traced back to root causes. Maybe not as systematically as "true" science, but with time you can get results.

    Basile Samel avatar Basile Samel | Jul 05, 2019 08:49:28
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      @keenencharles @basilesamel Psychology refers to the study of the human psyche, and there's a lot I personally disagree with about psychology. Lots of unscientific theories and bad practices. I've also noticed that many psychologists lean towards a subjectivist view of reality to the point that they deny any commonality between individuals because each case is unique. Or that "there's no truth, only how you see it." (I'm of the "there is a truth, but you live by how you see it" camp).

      But I do agree with human behavior having root causes, and the challenge today has a lot with having multiple variables to consider and not all these variables are evident to an outside observer, so it's hard to truly identify what variables are at play.

      Haider Al-Mosawi avatar Haider Al-Mosawi | Jul 05, 2019 10:31:14
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      @basilesamel @haideralmosawi you sum up my view perfectly Haider. I think there are root causes for all behavior but to gather the evidence you need to find that root cause is difficult.

      Keenen Charles avatar Keenen Charles | Jul 05, 2019 00:45:29
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