Razor (philosophy)

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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.[1]

Razors include:

  • Occam's razor: When faced with competing hypotheses, select the one that makes the fewest assumptions. Do not multiply entities without necessity.
  • Grice's razor: A principle of parsimony that prefers conversational implications over semantic context for linguistic explanations.[2]
  • Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.[3]
  • 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."[4][5]
  • Hitchens's razor: The burden of proof or onus in a debate lies with the claim-maker, and if he or she does not meet it, the opponent does not need to argue against the unfounded claim.
  • Newton's flaming laser sword (or Alder's razor): If something cannot be settled by experiment or observation then it is not worthy of debate.
  • Rand's razor: Concepts are not to be multiplied beyond necessity—the corollary of which is: nor are they to be integrated in disregard of necessity.[6]
  • Popper's falsifiability principle: For a theory to be considered scientific, it must be falsifiable

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Garg, A. (17 May 2010). "Occam's razor". A.Word.A.Day. Retrieved 2014-02-25. 
  2. ^ Hazlett, A. (2007). "Grice's razor". Metaphilosophy 38 (5): 669.  Text "doi:10.1111/j.1467-9973.2007.00512.x" ignored (help)
  3. ^ "Hanlon's Razor". The Jargon File 4.4.7. Retrieved 2014-02-25. 
  4. ^ Miles, M. (2003). Inroads: Paths in Ancient and Modern Western Philosophy. University of Toronto Press. p. 543. ISBN 978-0802037442. 
  5. ^ Forrest, P. (2001). "Counting the cost of modal realism". In Preyer, G.; Siebelt, F. 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. 
  6. ^ "Rand's Razor". The Ayn Rand Lexicon. Retrieved 2015-05-30.