What is Occam’s Razor?

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Occam's Razor is a philosophical and problem-solving principle that recommends seeking explanations constructed with the smallest possible set of elements. It is also known as the principle of parsimony or the law of parsimony. The principle suggests that the simplest explanation—meaning the one that requires the fewest assumptions—is usually the best one1. The term "Occam's Razor" is attributed to William of Ockham, an English Franciscan friar, theologian, and influential medieval philosopher who lived from around 1287 to 1347. Although Ockham did not invent this principle, it is associated with him due to the frequency and effectiveness with which he used it1. The term "razor" in this context refers to the act of "shaving away" unnecessary assumptions or distinguishing between two similar conclusions. A strong version of Occam's Razor is known as ontological parsimony, also referred to as the Rule of Simplicity1. Occam's Razor is applied in various fields, including science, medicine, and logic. For instance, in medicine, a variation of Occam's Razor known as the "Zebra" suggests that a physician should reject an exotic medical diagnosis when a more commonplace explanation is more likely1. However, it's important to note that Occam's Razor is more of a logical guideline than a law. It doesn't prescribe oversimplification, and if a more complex theory better explains the facts, then the more complex theory should be preferred5. The principle is a heuristic, a rule of thumb, to suggest which hypothesis is most likely to be true. It doesn't prove or disprove; it simply leads you down the path that's most likely to be correct6.
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