I really like this concept in philosophy, and it is used quite often to trim the fat and get to the gut/core of a dialog/dialectic. I am posting this for sharing; not interested in debating this or anything like that, just thought it was a fine tool for sharing, and/or possibly working in your personal process of sadhana - if you see a way that 'this somehow does something for you' - as Richard says often (or something like that). Here is a long quote about Ockham's Razor, and it is sourced from my philosophy master. Yes, I have a master (guru if you like) for study in dialog and dialectic (Paul Newall - owner of "The Galilean Library"). It pays to develop ones 'skill' in the articulation of our Heart, and all the ways it loves to communicate through us. By the way, my name at the linked forum is "Da Fire". Enjoy and God bless.
QUOTE FROM LINK ABOVE
Ockham’s Razor, otherwise called the principle of the economy of thought, is invoked often in debate, usually to discount one or more theories on the basis that another exists which is simpler or more parsimonious. In this essay we shall consider this principle, its domain of application and some associated philosophical concerns, using examples from the history of science to illustrate some of the points at issue.
The Simplest Explanation
The principle of parsimony is typically stated as Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem ("Entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity"). Although referred to as Ockham’s Razor after William of Ockham, a Franciscan living at the turn of the fourteenth century, this version has not be found in any of his extant works. The closest match (Frustra fit per plura quod potest fieri per pauciora or "It is pointless to do with more what can be done with fewer") may have been written in quoting others, and indeed the general principle was common among Aristotelians. In brief, the advice is that we should not invoke entities in explaining a phenomenon or developing a theory that are not necessary to do so.
For example, some people suspect that crop circles are due in some way to extraterrestrial influence, whether directly or otherwise. Others suggest that the patterns are the work of dedicated artists or hoaxers and very much an earthly occurrence. On the face of it, then, especially given that the latter group have been able to demonstrate the construction of a crop circle, there is no need to posit aliens to account for why farmer’s fields are routinely invaded in this fashion. If we wish to hold to economy of thought, we should pick the simpler explanation.
Ockham’s Razor is a principle; that is, it does not tell us that the simplest explanation is true (or what there is); but instead that we ought to prefer it on methodological grounds. We are counselled to adopt theories which are minimally efficient, insofar as they can do the same with less. Note that there is apparently no reason why we should do so: a direct route to a destination is neither better nor worse than a diversion unless we include the criterion that we wish to get there by the most direct route (and even then it may not be, so we will return to this analogy later.) Nevertheless, it seems plain enough that we are inclined to favour the simpler explanation, other things being equal. It is this assumption that we shall now examine.
Applying Ockham’s Razor
Perhaps the best-known example of two competing theories between which a decision had to be made was the seventeenth century controversy over astronomical systems. The long-standing Ptolemaic/Aristotelian model of the heavens was challenged by the Copernicans, who insisted that heliocentrism was simpler than geocentrism. (Note that the question of geostaticism – or the fixed (or otherwise) nature of the Earth itself – was a separate issue.) Since that time much effort has gone into demonstrating (or refuting) the claim that either system was more parsimonious than the other.
Although Copernicus had believed that a sun-centred universe consisting in circular orbits was the most beautiful that could be created, he did so on the basis of thematic assumptions derived from his neo-platonic influences and not as a result of any new observations, of which there were none until some years later. (Max Jammer has shown that Copernicus’ reasoning resulted in his being faced with having to reject either geocentrism or the Aristotelian conception of space. Having no metaphysical substitute for the latter, he was forced to dispense with the former. Ptolemy had actually considered the possibility of circular motion but dismissed it precisely because it did not agree with what was seen in the night sky.) On making the change to heliocentrism, Copernicus found that he still required the assistance of devices like epicycles to save the phenomenon; that is, to make the predictions of his theory agree with what was actually discerned by astronomers. The issue of comparative simplicity has subsequently been reduced by some commentators to counting epicycles but for our purposes this is beside the point: neither the Ptolemaic nor Copernican system was empirically adequate, leading Kepler to produce another.
The basic error inherent in the counting approach is to consider theories in isolation. A theory includes a host of ancillary presuppositions and exists within a metaphysical system. A comparison with an alternative implicitly or otherwise assumes that all other things are equal (called a ceteris paribus clause in Latin) when they are not (or, at the very least, no attempt is made to show that this requirement is satisfied). Copernicus himself was wary of asserting the truth of his system and only received a copy of his De revolutionibus orbium celestium on his deathbed. When the issue was forced during the so-called "Galileo Affair", a judgement was sought between two systems whose empirical base was the same and whose practical utility was identical at that time. Galileo sought to delay any choice by invoking the Augustinian principle that it would be folly to ground theological certainties on physical propositions that may subsequently be shown to be false, but his pleas were not heard.
There are several lessons to take from this historical episode. In the first place, we have two competing theories with the same content, and thus a prime candidate for the application of Ockham’s razor. Upon consideration, however, we immediately note that the ceteris paribus clause was not satisfied, and for many reasons. The theological consequences were (ostensibly) very different; the political outcome moreso, particularly against the backdrop of the Reformation; the implications for morality were easy to predict but harder to judge; and the metaphysical fallout was just beginning to be investigated. The decision made on this basis did not count the number of postulated entities (which were the same to all intents and purposes) and did not include a conclusion on the relative economies of each theory, since they were also equivalent. In any event, Copernicanism was rejected with scarcely a mention of William of Ockham.
We know now, of course, that a variant of heliocentrism eventually won the day. Galileo’s warning to the Church was not heeded and its choice to assert the reality of geocentrism had catastrophic results for its authority and – later - its credibility. Nevertheless, the history of this change is also illustrative: at no time was there an invocation of the "decisive experiment" of myth, dreamt of by many a philosopher of science. When Foucault’s experiments with his pendulum showed the movement of the Earth, confidence in geocentrism had already been slowly eroded over the years. At the only stage in this entire episode that a comparison between rival theories had been insisted upon, the question was decided by "non-scientific" means (notwithstanding the anachronism implying the inverted commas) with Ockham’s Razor playing no part.
The general point raised by this brief study is that Copernicanism required time to develop. Attempting to make a straightforward comparison was disastrous for the Church and for astronomy (and subsequently science) in Italy. Kepler was able to refine the basic Copernican insight because the theory was not limited to the narrow domain in which it was judged.