Occam’s Razor – Does it help Overthinking?

When an event occurs, it is only natural to wonder “Why did it happen?”

For example, you texted your romantic partner, and they didn’t reply. There are many possible reasons why they did not reply to your message.

  • They might’ve been busy.
  • The phone battery may have died.
  • They might have been angry with you for some reason that you have no idea about.
  • They might be cheating on you. (Ooh! That would be sad.)

For every possible reason you assume there are various assumptions you need to make to believe it is true.

Occam’s Razor says “Non sunt multiplicanda entia sine necessitate” meaning “Entities must not be multiplied without necessity.” The simplest answer, that is, the answer that requires the least number of assumptions is ‌generally the correct one.

In the above example, you can assume any number of reasons and all of them have many assumptions. The simplest answer or reason with the least number of assumptions would be, that your partner’s phone battery might have died.

If you choose to believe that your partner might be cheating on you, it is followed by more questions. Why are they cheating? Who are they cheating with? Is it something you have done? Did they do it before? so on and so forth. 

Every question then brings in more assumptions. Thus complicating the issue even more.

On contrary, if you could choose the simplest answer with the least number of assumptions unless proven otherwise, you can put the matter to rest and focus on the work at hand.

The simple answer puts your mind to rest, hence avoiding overthinking.

When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras.

Occam’s Razor or Ockham’s Razor, also known as the Principle of Parsimony or the Law of Parsimony, is the problem-solving principle attributed to English Franciscan friar William of Ockham (1285–1349), a philosopher and theologian.

The Razor refers to the “shaving off” of unnecessary assumptions.

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