Midnight Perambulation of Thought: Appearance & Occam’s Razor

But, first(!) an apology: I’ve not been updating actively…, or, rather, at all for the last couple of months. Learning to cope with my new environment, and taking thought for the Big Plans, have required all my attention. That, and I was slow in implementing an alternative access method, so that I could post and edit essays. Please, excuse my absence, and let’s re-engage.

While I’ve been contemplating discussion of appearance and Occam’s Razor for several days, it wasn’t until my midnight rising this evening that I decided, “…right now…” to be the time to compose this, hence my title.

When trying to decide what the true nature of some phenomenon is, after having a long history of incomplete and inconclusive thoughts about it, one may easily confuse oneself as to what are assumptions and what are observations, as well as between the latter and delusions or illusions. The use of Occam’s Razor to shave away this kind of cruft is warranted, and, perhaps surprisingly, easy.

We are warranted in accepting what we observe as being Reality unless we have good reason to reject the simple observation. The prima facie choice is between what we observe, and what we observe plus what makes Reality fool us. Without any further requirement, the first has only one entity, and the second has two. Choosing that we are being fooled, without necessity, violates the guidance of the Razor, by multiplying entities.

Of course, when there are further observations that make the first conclusion, the first acceptance, improbable or even untenable, we must be willing to abandon the simpler modeling of Reality, to admit the more complex understanding. To hominids living in the savannah, understanding the Earth to be flat (other than those occasional bumps and folds) is acceptable modeling. To those who lift up their eyes from mere survival to the objects in the day and night skies, and to the features below the surface, such a model is not, because observations beyond the movements of prey herds require an increasingly more complex (curved, round, balled, spherical, spheroid, tectonic) model of the Earth.

But, in accepting an observation for what it is, one must watch for unwarranted assumptions, very often inculcated since childhood. Were one to observe a luminous but diaphanous object, one should not be warranted to conclude having seen a ghost, since that should be multiplying entities. A simple acceptance of the sight of a glowing thing is sufficient, unless other observations, or lack thereof by others, calls for further explanation.

Similarly, concluding an appearance of god upon observing any particular phenomenon is unwarranted, multiplying entities, unless required. Such requirement may be felt, due to social conditioning since childhood, but feelings and Reality are often two different things.

…Ah… my hour is up. Time to return to slumber. Perhaps this time, I’ll not find myself in an out-of-control vehicle.

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