Tag Archives: Occam’s Razor

Footnotes to Occam’s Razor and the Heart Sutra

I made reference to the principle of Occam’s razor in a post the other day. Here is some additional information on that principle:

Occam’s razor is a logical principle attributed to the mediaeval philosopher William of Occam (or Ockham). The principle states that one should not make more assumptions than the minimum needed. This principle is often called the principle of parsimony. It underlies all scientific modelling and theory building. It admonishes us to choose from a set of otherwise equivalent models of a given phenomenon the simplest one. In any given model, Occam’s razor helps us to “shave off” those concepts, variables or constructs that are not really needed to explain the phenomenon. By doing that, developing the model will become much easier, and there is less chance of introducing inconsistencies, ambiguities and redundancies. Though the principle may seem rather trivial, it is essential for model building because of what is known as the “underdetermination of theories by data”. For a given set of observations or data, there is always an infinite number of possible models explaining those same data. This is because a model normally represents an infinite number of possible cases, of which the observed cases are only a finite subset. The non-observed cases are inferred by postulating general rules covering both actual and potential observations.

Much more to be found at: Occam’s Razor

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Exposition and Explanations, In General

Did you ever notice that the shortest statements always seem to result in the longest dissertations attempting to explain the “inner truths” of those short statements? Take, for example, the Buddhist Heart Sutra. It is approximately, in its Sanskrit original, 30 lines. I have in front of me a discourse on that short document that takes up 57 pages. Is it any wonder that the world is in such a state? What about the following is that difficult to understand, that one would require a Guru or some other illuminated person to demonstrate it, if one were to apply one’s own mind and experience (or maybe, think a little bit beyond those):

Form does not differ from voidness
and void does not differ from form.
Form is voidness and the void is form;
the same is true for feeling, conception, volition and consciousness.

Anyone who has looked at a pitcher of water, noticed that the worthiness of the vessel is made manifest by the amount of empty space inside it, and also observed that empty, or with water inside, the walls pretty much remain the same … could understand clearly the lack of demarcation between form and void, and that they are intimately and intricately connected.

It’s like Christian preaching, if you ask me. If you’ve got the Book, if you’ve read the text and thought about it, how many preacher’s interpretations and reminders and so on do you really need? If hearing the Word isn’t good enough, what good is the Word? I wonder long and often about those who claim to be teachers, of any philosophic persuation. Isn’t the point to make yourself dispensable? If your philosophy doesn’t speak for itself, it can’t be very good. Likewise, if it does speak for itself, why are you still talking?

Ah, but I digress. Only those who are asking the questions will appreciate the answers.
Am I the only one who feels it necessary to shave with Occam’s Razor on a regular basis?

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