Friday, 26 April 2013

William of Ockham

Following on from yesterday's crowdpleasing rant (a record 7 'likes' on my alter ego's facebook page) I've decided to abuse my new found popularity to shoehorn in some philosophy and hopefully lose some of the late-to-the-game hangers-on that have started lurking around the site and go back to the days when it was just me and ubilol harping on about Bertrand Russell.

Regular readers have heard all about the origins of Finnginn, but few will know that it was this fiction of my pre-school self that first led me to encounter Ockham's Razor.

About 25 years before I was to name a blog about procrastination after him, I was convinced of Fiengins's existence (Fiengins was his real name, I just couldn't pronounce it, so adults thought I was saying Finnginn). At that age I was unable to distinguish between reality and fantasy. On a good day, I still can't.

I expect the two of you who have bothered to read this far are wondering, 'But where does William of Ockham fit into all of this?' Whenever I would blame Fiengins for some minor misdemeanour, my Father would say, "Avoid the needless multiplication of entities," and, upon observing the look of puzzlement on my cherubic face, would add, mystifyingly: "Ockham's Razor."  

Nearly three decades and a philosophy degree later I finally understand what this means. Ockham was the first person to point out that when looking for an explanation the simplest is most likely to be the correct one.

For instance, if an Easter Egg that I had been specifically told was to be saved for after dinner got eaten while I was in the house and everyone else was in the garden, there are two possible explanations:

1: I ate it.

2: A friend of mine that nobody else can see ate it.

Ockham sports the tonsured look.

On a good day, I recently found myself speculating whether an Orangutan had broken into my bathroom and deposited lots of two inch long ginger hairs into the plughole filter. But, remembering Ockham, I stopped myself invoking plurality and had a look in the  mirror. Maybe Ockham and I have something other than philosophy in common... 


  1. Usually spelt Occam when referring to the razor, or am I out of date? I enjoyed that, and not just because it is nearly always satisfying to read about oneself.

    1. Assuming you are not Bertrand Russell or William of Ockham... so Hi Dad! Have you joined the anarchist hacker collective Anonymous? Either spelling is acceptable they weren't too fussy in the Fourteenth Century.