Hitchens's razor

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Hitchens's razor is a principle in epistemology (philosophical razor). It states that the burden of proof (onus) in a debate lies with the claim-maker and if he or she does not meet it then the opponent does not need to argue against the unfounded claim. It is named, in reference to Occam's Razor, for journalist and writer Christopher Hitchens (1949–2011), who formulated it thus in 2003:[1][2]

Hitchens's razor is actually a translation of the Latin proverb "Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur",[3] which has been widely used at least since the early 19th century,[4] but Hitchens's English rendering of the phrase has made it more widely known in the 21st century. It is used, for example, to counter presuppositional apologetics. This quotation appears by itself in God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, a book by Hitchens in 2007.[5]

Richard Dawkins, a fellow atheist activist of Hitchens, formulated a different version of the same law that has the same implication, at TED in February 2002:[6]

Dawkins used his version to argue against agnosticism, which he described as "poor" in comparison to atheism,[7] because it refuses to judge on claims that are, even though not wholly falsifiable, very unlikely to be true.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Christopher Hitchens, "Mommie Dearest" – slate.com. October 20, 2003.
  2. ^ Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (2007) p.150. Twelve Books, New York.
  3. ^ Jon R. Stone, The Routledge Dictionary of Latin Quotations (2005), p. 101.
  4. ^ e.g. The Classical Journal, Vol. 40 (1829), p. 312.
  5. ^ https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Christopher_Hitchens
  6. ^ Richard Dawkins, Militant Atheism – ted.com. February, 2002.
  7. ^ Richard Dawkins, "The Poverty of Agnosticism" in: The God Delusion (2006). Bantam Books, London.