Occam’s Razor

Occam’s Razor: one should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything. Via Wikipedia:

Occam’s razor (also written as Ockham’s razor and in Latin lex parsimoniae) is a problem-solving principle devised by William of Ockham (c. 1287–1347), who was an English Franciscan friar and scholastic philosopher and theologian. The principle states that among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. Other, more complicated solutions may ultimately prove correct, but—in the absence of certainty—the fewer assumptions that are made, the better.

The application of the principle can be used to shift the burden of proof in a discussion. However, Alan Baker, who suggests this in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, is careful to point out that his suggestion should not be taken generally, but only as it applies in a particular context, that is: philosophers who argue in opposition to metaphysical theories that involve allegedly “superfluous ontological apparatus”. Baker then notices that principles, including Occam’s Razor, are often expressed in a way that is not clear regarding which facet of “simplicity” — parsimony or elegance — is being referred to, and that in a hypothetical formulation the facets of simplicity may work in different directions: a simpler description may refer to a more complex hypothesis, and a more complex description may refer to a simpler hypothesis.

Solomonoff’s theory of inductive inference is a mathematically formalized Occam’s Razor: Shorter computable theories have more weight when calculating the probability of the next observation, using all computable theories which perfectly describe previous observations.

In science, Occam’s Razor is used as a heuristic (discovery tool) to guide scientists in the development of theoretical models rather than as an arbiter between published models. In the scientific method, Occam’s Razor is not considered an irrefutable principle of logic or a scientific result; the preference for simplicity in the scientific method is based on the falsifiability criterion. For each accepted explanation of a phenomenon, there is always an infinite number of possible and more complex alternatives, because one can always burden failing explanations with ad hoc hypothesis to prevent them from being falsified; therefore, simpler theories are preferable to more complex ones because they are better testable and falsifiable.

Wabi Sabi

Japanese Aesthetic principle: Wabi-sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It is the beauty of things modest and humble. It is the beauty of things unconventional. Material characteristics of wabi-sabi: suggestion of natural process, irregular, intimate, unpretentious, earthy,simple.

From UTNE Reader:

According to Japanese legend, in the sixteenth century Sen no Rikyu sought to learn the Way of Tea. He went to tea-master Takeeno Joo, who tested the younger man by asking him to tend to his garden. Rikyu cleaned up debris and raked the ground until it was perfect, then scrutinized the immaculate garden. Before presenting his work to the master, he shook a cherry tree, causing a few flowers to spill randomly onto the ground.

Later, when he had become one of Japan’s most revered tea-masters, Rikyu served under Toyotomi Hikeyoshi, a warrior known for his ostentatious taste. One day the ruler went to visit Rikyu’s famed morning glory garden and was shocked to find it in shambles, all the flowers uprooted. He entered Rikyu’s humble teahouse to find the master sitting in front of an alcove, where he had placed one perfect morning glory in a clay pot.

To this day, the Japanese revere Rikyu as one who understood to his very core an elusive cultural thread known as wabi-sabi. Emerging in the fifteenth-century as a reaction to the prevailing aesthetic of lavishness, ornamentation, and rich materials, wabi-sabi is the art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in earthiness, of revering authenticity above all. In Japan, the concept is now so deeply ingrained that it’s difficult to explain to Westerners; no direct translation exists.

Broadly, wabi-sabi is everything that today’s sleek, mass-produced, technology saturated culture isn’t. It’s flea markets, not department stores; aged wood, not Pergo; rice paper, not glass; one single morning glory, not a dozen red roses. Wabi-sabi understands the tender, raw beauty of a Decembral landscape devoid of color and life, the aching elegance of an abandoned hut on a wintry shore. It celebrates cracks and crevices and rot and all the other marks that time and weather and use leave behind. To discover wabi-sabi is to spend time finding the singular beauty in something that may present itself as decrepit and ugly.

Wabi-sabi reminds us that we are all but transient beings on this planet–that our bodies, as well as the material world around us, are in the process of returning to the dust from which we came. Nature’s cycles of growth, decay, and erosion are embodied in liver spots, rust, frayed edges. Through wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace both the glory and the impersonal sadness of these blemishes, and the march of time they represent.

Garrison Kellior: A true friend

Garrison Kellior: A true friend is someone you could call up and say, “I’m a wreck and I’m coming over and staying with you for a couple days.” Or you could say, “I’m sorry to call you at 3 a.m. but I’m sitting in a truck stop confused and missing my pants and need you to come get me.”

‘Cambrian Explosion’

Remember when you were a kid, and all of the sudden, for no apparent reason, you shot up several inches one summer? Like growth wasn’t a slow, glacial process but an abrupt one? Sort of like some of the theories on evolution that suggest mutations aren’t as gradual as we think. (A Cambrian Explosion, per Jim C.)

Although, when you look closely at the theories, the idea of a real ‘explosion’ is probably a misnomer:

The Cambrian explosion, or Cambrian radiation, was the relatively rapid appearance, around 542 million years ago, of most major animal phyla, as demonstrated in the fossil record.[1][2] This was accompanied by major diversification of other organisms.[note 1] Before about 580 million years ago,[note 2] most organisms were simple, composed of individual cells occasionally organized into colonies. Over the following 70 or 80 million years, the rate of evolution accelerated by an order of magnitude[note 3] and the diversity of life began to resemble that of today.[5] All present phyla appeared within the first 20 million years of the period,[6] with the exception of Bryozoa who made its earliest known appearance in the upper Cambrian.[7]