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Principle of Parsimony

The Principle of Parsimony is a philosophical approach to logic that was devised by William of Ockham. As such, it is often commonly dubbed Occam’s Razor. Specifically, the Principle of Parsimony advises that any logical conclusion should be derived from as few guesses, assumptions, and hypotheses as possible. The purpose of this is to make sure that the logical conclusion or explanation considered stays within the realm of what is actually observed. In other words, speculation is removed or even outright eliminated from the pondering of a possible explanation.

This principle seeks to make sure that an explanation stays focused. It avoids examining tangents that deviate from the main, necessary components of an equation. Ultimately, adhering to the principle allows for the arrival at a more accurate conclusion. Lack of focus or consistency can prove very harmful to any logical deduction. The Principle of Parsimony provides a guide to arrive at such focus and consistency. As with anything else, the Principle of Parsimony does not exist in a vacuum.

It is one philosophical, logical approach among many. There will be other approaches that it complements and others that it clashes with. Two philosophical theories which have unique relationships with the Principle of Parsimony are dualism and identity theory. There is some controversy in this “relationship” since there is a prevalent belief that dualism is less parsimonious than identity theory. Actually, upon close examination, this is not really a controversial assessment.

Dualism strongly assesses that the relationship between the mind and the physical world is different than what most people assume. This is because the mind exists in the same way as physical objects exist. Identity theory, however, asserts that mental states possess many similarities to the state the brain might be in at a given moment. That is to say, there is nothing correlated between mind and body. Rather the mind shares a relationship with the physical world and not an entity entirely correlating to it.

As such, dualism is less parsimonious since it adds the abstraction of a “disembodied” mind to the equation. Per identity theory, this philosophy represents the addition of unnecessary addition to logical thought process equations. The relationship between the concept of the Principle of Parsimony and various mind/body theories is somewhat contentious. With substance mind/body theory, it would seem that parsimonious thought would be somewhat opposed to one another.

This is because the substance argument reflects the concept of a mind correlates with the physical world. Then, there are the other mind/body theories that are more parsimonious since they do make assessments that the mind reflects a body state and not a self-aware entity. Since materialism often plays an integral role as an “agitator” to the mind/theory, it is understandable that some may be dismissive of parsimonious thought and mind/body working together.

Regarding the claim “Since dualism and the identity theory both predict that mental events will be correlated with physical events, there is no way to choose between the two theories”; this is not necessarily a credible claim. Again, dualism and identity theory ask use to understand the mind/body relationship into our thought processes. This mind can not be separated from the equation during the application of ANY theory. However, how one regards or defines simplicity and its relationship to the mind will provide the basis for a logical choice.

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