Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Writer's Notebook - 13 January 2015

Various epistemological "razors"

  • (William of) Occam's Razor: Among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. ("Plurality must never be posited without necessity")
  • (Christopher) Hitchens' Razor: "What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence"
  • (Robert J.) Hanlon's Razor: "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity"
  • (David) Hume's Razor: "If the cause, assigned for any effect, be not sufficient to produce it, we must either reject that cause, or add to it such qualities as will give it a just proportion to the effect"
  • (Mike) Alder's Razor (AKA "Newton's flaming laser sword"): "What cannot be settled by experiment is not worth debating."
  • (Ayn) Rand's Razor: "The requirements of cognition determine the objective criteria of conceptualization." (This is Occam's Razor with a corollary: Concepts are not to be multiplied beyond necessity nor are they to be integrated in disregard of necessity.)
  • (Albert) Einstein's razor: "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler." (possibly originally, "It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience.")

Quote of the day

"Mathematics stipulates structures by axioms: anything that satisfies the group axioms is a group, etc.. Programming takes given structures and builds new ones out of them, and the basic stock of building blocks is centrally important. Very different ways of thinking." -- Pat Hayes

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