Ockham's Razor is enormously popular. Russell, for example, calls Ockham's Razor "the maxim that inspires all scientific philosophizing." Yet it has rarely been subjected to rigorous, critical assessment; even the motivation for the Razor is a mystery. Is its use supposed to help us winnow out false theories in favor of true ones? Or is it a pragmatic principle that aids in the generation of easier to use (and thus preferable) theories? Depending on how the principle is interpreted, it is argued that Ockham's Razor is either impossible to apply, trivially true, or false. Attention to the numbers of entities in either global ontologies or local theories neither aids in the search for truth nor ensures ease of use. Whatever the principles are that we should adopt to guide our choice of theories, Ockham's Razor is not one of them."Ockham's Disposable Razor"

Steven D. Hales

The Role of Pragmatics in Contemporary Philosophy: Contributions of the Austrian Ludwig Wittgenstein Society

Paul Weingartner, Gerhard Schurz, and Georg Dorn, eds.

Vienna: Hoelder-Pichler-Tempsky, 1997

pp. 356-361

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