PreBabel Wiki

Day forty-one -- PreBabel epistemology: the Occam's razor.

      From Tienzen Gong: The PreBabel is a building and construction project. That is, it does not truly have the issue of right or wrong but has the issue of success or failure. However, during the construction, many engineering issues must be discussed, and most of those issues do have truth and false values. Thus, it is the time now for us to reach an agreement on what truth is. So, I am putting my understanding as below and looking forward to all your ideas.

      Epistemology is the discipline of dealing with the issue of how to distinguish a truth from a falsity, and it is a big subject. For our purpose, I would like to make it simple, with only two points.
          o Point 1: Occam's razor.
          o Point 2: the interplay of theory and its experimental verification.
               1. The ontology of a theory -- what does a theory constitute?
               2. The metaphysics of experimental verification -- what are the genuine tests? not phony, bogus and pseudo.
      Today, I will only talk about the Occam's razor. What is Occam's razor? You can find the answer in thousands websites, and each one will give you the answer with their own language. Thus, I will try my two cents here with my own language.
      Case 1:
      Statement A is accepted as truth.

      Statement B is identical to Statement A in substance but differs only with languages. Yet,
      Statement B is made "after" Statement A, then,
      Statement B is false under Occam's razor.

      Case 2:
      Statement A was accepted as truth.

      Statement B encompasses Statement A, and Statement B contains more substances than Statement A (that is, Statement A is a "proper" subset of Statement B), and
         1. Statement B is accepted as truth,
         2. Statement B is made "after" Statement A,
      Then, Statement A is, "now", false.

      In all senses, this Occam's razor is not logical in common sense. Yet, it is the razor used by the academic world to distinguish the truth from the false. However great the Newton was and still is, his theory is now, at best, a "partial" truth after the inception of Relativity theory and Quantum physics. Newton is simply too great for us to cut him up with the Occam's razor. Yet, not everyone has Newton's prestige. Pulleyblank's and Baxter's works are, indeed, great and should be read by anyone who is interested in Chinese written language. Yet, under Occam's razor, their works are simply false.

      Question -- from "svld" -- No, Occam's razor DOES NOT distinguish truth from falsehood. It tells no truth but only usefulness when the subjects are equally true.

      Question -- from "erratio" -- ... sometimes simplicity, ... And I don't think that it's about true or false so much as useful. ...

            Answer -- There are thousands of websites on Occam's razor, and 95% of them are written for the layman.

            Who is the judge for "usefulness"? What is the standard of the usefulness? For 99% of people, Newton's laws are much more useful than Relativity Theories, the calculation of flight time, space travel, the Sun and Moon eclipses, and most of the whatnots. And, those calculations can be done with algebra for Newton's laws while the Tensor Analysis is needed for the General Relativity theory. Who is the judge for the easiness and simplicity?

            The Occam's razor is not a logic, not a philosophy. It is a razor to decide who is the winner and gets the credit and awards (including the Nobel Prize). My description of it is the only procedure for how the Occam's razor functions and operates.

      Question -- from "erratio" -- ... unless your theory can not only do everything Pulleyblank's and Baxter's but do it in a simpler way, they don't necessarily need to be thrown out completely.

            Answer -- You missed the issue of "horse vs the horse's head." That everything a horse can do, the horse's head can do too. Seemingly, you also failed to notice the issue of "o-blob vs t-blob". The o-blob is a "proper" subset of the t-blob. As the domain of Pulleyblank's and Baxter's works is (o-blob, o-plop and o-glob), it is the "proper" subset of (t-blob, t-plop and t-glob), and thus this issue is settle.

      Question -- from "svld" --
      1+1=2 (in arabic number and mathematical symbols)
      one plus one is two (1+1=2 in English)
      Which one is true
         1. (of a statement) concurring with a given set of facts; factually correct.
         2. (logic) A state in Boolean logic that indicates an affirmative or positive result. "A and B" is true if and only if "A" is true and "B" is true.
         3. Loyal, faithful. He’s turned out to be a true friend. (See below, "Compound Words and Terms") etc..

            Answer -- Occam's razor does not deal with this kind of issues.

            In the early 1970s, the search for the Charm quark (the J-particle) was intense. Finally, the CERN group's paper was postmarked two weeks before the Chicago group's. In 1976, the Nobel Prize on Physics went to the CERN group.

            I am now 50 years old is a fact, a truth, nothing but the truth. This truth may have some importance in a court proceeding but is no interest of any kind for Occam's razor.

            Occam's razor is not a logic, not a philosophy but is an imposed rule and is accepted by the academic world. Occam's razor is the supreme court for judging "truths" and for giving out the sentence that one truth is truth and the others are false. The winner gets the credit. The loser stays out of the "hall of fame truth". Only "truths" have the right to enter into the court of Occam's razor for a judgement. If a theory is proved to be not true already, it has no chance of facing Occam's razor. In short, only "theory based" truths can face the Occam's razor.

Signature --
PreBabel is the true universal language, it is available at