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][2][3]

Razors include:

  • Occam's razor: Simpler explanations are more likely to be correct; avoid unnecessary or improbable assumptions.
  • Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.[4]
  • Hitchens's razor: That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.[5]
  • Hume's guillotine: What ought to be cannot be deduced from what is. "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."[6][7]
  • Alder's razor (also known as Newton's Flaming Laser Sword[8]): If something cannot be settled by experiment or observation, then it is not worthy of debate.[8]
  • Sagan standard: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
  • Popper's falsifiability principle: For a theory to be considered scientific, it must be falsifiable.[9]
  • Grice's razor (also known as Giume's razor): As a principle of parsimony, conversational implications are to be preferred over semantic context for linguistic explanations.[10][11]

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.
  2. ^ Downie, R. S. (November 1989). "Moral Philosophy". In Eatwell, John; Milgate, Murray; Newman, Peter (eds.). The Invisible Hand. Palgrave MacMillan. pp. 213–222. ISBN 9781349203130.
  3. ^ McLean, Sheila A. M., ed. (2013). First do No Harm: Law, Ethics and Healthcare. Ashgate. ISBN 9781409496199.
  4. ^ "Hanlon's Razor". The Jargon File 4.4.7. Archived from the original on 2011-04-30. Retrieved 2014-02-25.
  5. ^ Ratcliffe, Susan, ed. (2016). Oxford Essential Quotations: Facts. Oxford Reference (4 ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780191826719. Retrieved 4 November 2020. What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.
  6. ^ Miles, M. (2003). Inroads: Paths in Ancient and Modern Western Philosophy. University of Toronto Press. p. 543. ISBN 978-0802037442.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ a b 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.
    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 web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  9. ^ Popper, Karl (1972). The Logic of Scientific Discovery. Hutchinson. ISBN 9780091117207.
  10. ^ Hazlett, A. (2007). "Grice's razor". Metaphilosophy. 38 (5): 669. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9973.2007.00512.x.
  11. ^ "Implicature, 6. Gricean Theory". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Archived from the original on 2016-12-11. Retrieved 2016-12-27.