Philosophical razor

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In philosophy, a razor is a principle or rule of thumb that allows one to eliminate ("shave off") unlikely explanations for a phenomenon, or avoid unnecessary actions.[1]

Razors include:

  • Occam's razor: Simpler explanations are more likely to be correct; avoid unnecessary or improbable assumptions.
  • Grice's razor: As a principle of parsimony, conversational implications are to be preferred over semantic context for linguistic explanations.[2][3]
  • Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.[4]
  • Hume's razor: "If the cause, assigned for any effect, be not sufficient to produce it, we must either reject that cause, or add to it such qualities as will give it a just proportion to the effect."[5][6]
  • Hitchens' razor: "What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence."
  • Newton's flaming laser sword: If something cannot be settled by experiment or observation, then it is not worthy of debate.[7]
  • Popper's falsifiability principle: For a theory to be considered scientific, it must be falsifiable.
  • Sagan standard: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
  • Rand's razor: Prior to philosophizing, the philosopher needs to identify their initial, irreducible, primary axioms.[8][9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Garg, A. (17 May 2010). "Occam's razor". A.Word.A.Day. Archived from the original on 2014-03-09. Retrieved 2014-02-25. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  2. ^ Hazlett, A. (2007). "Grice's razor". Metaphilosophy. 38 (5): 669. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9973.2007.00512.x.
  3. ^ "Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Implicature". Implicature, 5. Gricean Theory. Archived from the original on 2016-12-11. Retrieved 2016-12-27. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  4. ^ "Hanlon's Razor". The Jargon File 4.4.7. Archived from the original on 2011-04-30. Retrieved 2014-02-25. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  5. ^ Miles, M. (2003). Inroads: Paths in Ancient and Modern Western Philosophy. University of Toronto Press. p. 543. ISBN 978-0802037442.
  6. ^ Forrest, P. (2001). "Counting the cost of modal realism". In Preyer, G.; Siebelt, F. (eds.). Reality and Humean Supervenience: Essays on the Philosophy of David Lewis. Studies in Epistemology and Cognitive Theory. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 93. ISBN 978-0742512016.
  7. ^ Mike Alder (2004). "Newton's Flaming Laser Sword". Philosophy Now. 46: 29–33. Archived from the original on 2017-12-04. Retrieved 2018-01-26. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
    Also available as Mike Alder (2004). "Newton's Flaming Laser Sword" (PDF). Mike Alder's Home Page. University of Western Australia. Archived from the original on 14 November 2011. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: unfit url (link)
  8. ^ Ryan, Scott (27 January 2003). "Appendix: Theism, Rationalism, and Objective Idealism". Objectivism and the Corruption of Rationality: A Critique of Ayn Rand's Epistemology. iUniverse. ISBN 978-0595267330. Retrieved 16 June 2019. ‘Rand’s Razor’—that is, ‘state your irreducible primaries’ [Journals of Ayn Rand, pp. 699-700]
  9. ^ Peikoff, Leonard (1993). Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. The Ayn Rand Library. VI. Meridian. p. 139. ISBN 0-452-01101-9. ‘Rand’s Razor’…Rand’s Razor is addressed to anyone who enters the field of philosophy. It states: name your primaries. Identify your starting points, including the concepts you take to be irreducible, and then establish that these are objective axioms. Put negatively: do not begin to philosophize in midstream. Do not begin with some derivative concept or issue, while ignoring its roots, however much such issue interests you.