Occam’s Razor … More things should not be used (or done) than are necessary.

Sounds very similar to: ‘Keep it simple.’ The principle of Occam’s Razor is helpful for all students; young and old.

Occam’s Razor is way of thinking named after an English Christian, ‘William of Ockham’. William was a Franciscan friar who studied logic in the 14th century. He argued that if you focus (e.g. study) on what is essentially important, you will become more effective, and consequently more likely to achieve what you were trying to achieve. He was a person who developed rigorous thought. He ‘shaved’ back the knowledge about something, until it was simple and true, hence the reference to Occam’s Razor.

“Doing more things does not drive faster or better results. Doing better things drives better results.” James Clear in “The Myth of Multitasking: Why Fewer Priorities Leads to Better Work”.

With the season of end of year tests and assignments, we can all take a leaf out of William’s book, by being intentionally discerning, giving priority attention to the things that matter. All students (regardless of age), can think like William, by asking themselves: What is it that is really important? It’s not about working harder and harder, it’s about working smarter and smarter. In law, the final judgement in some cases can be 100’s of pages long. Lawyer’s learn to look for the ‘ratio descidendi’, i.e. ‘the reason for the decision’. The ratio descidendi is usually very succinct and makes sense with clarity, all of the related arguments for a prosecution or equivalent win in a civil action. Lawyers are trained to shave information down to the simple facts.

I wonder what influenced William to dedicate himself to being so highly motivated, studying how to be rational. In a disciplined way, Willian of Occam encouraged and challenged others to ‘cut’ to the truth? It’s likely he was guided by seeking a greater understanding of God as a friar-in-training. His lifetime of work is reflected in the below scripture.

‘Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Saviour, and my hope is in you all day long.’ (Psalm 25:5)

Des Mitchell