Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Occam’s Bloody Razor

In accordance with correct Scientific Method, the theories the author presented in his previous post have been challenged and rigorously analysed. They are repeated here for the sake of convenience:

Axiom A: There’s almost nothing better than a walk in beautiful scenery

Axiom B: There’s almost nothing worse than a walk in beautiful scenery accompanied by a constant running commentary

Axiom A has been called into question as a General Theory, as some people – “outliers”, to be sure, but still part of the “population” – might consider many things to be better than A Walk In Beautiful Scenery: reading Harry Potter books, crazy golf, browsing Helen Mirren’s underwear drawer... whatever. The author therefore withdraws it as a general theorem but resubmits it as a Special Theory: it’s special to the author, he can think of very few things better and those things are just too esoteric to publish in a work of this nature.

Axiom A (Special): There’s almost nothing better than a walk in beautiful scenery

Axiom B must also be resubmitted as a Special Theory for the same reasons. But it can be challenged still further. The phrase “almost nothing” implies a quantity of vanishing smallness. And yet, there is running commentary that the author suggests would enhance the putative Walk: that of the BBC’s Test Match Special team, of which he will be deprived during this Ashes summer. Had it been just a one-off Twenty20 fixture at Edgebaston it might be counted as “vanishingly small”, but the tour comprises 5 tests and 7 ODIs, and we're gonna win all of them. So, Axiom B (Special) must be modified to account for the fact that the commentary must be an unwelcome one. This was the author's first attempt:

Axiom B (Special): There’s almost nothing worse than a walk in beautiful scenery accompanied by a constant f**king running commentary

That’s good enough, many people would think, but logicians everywhere will be wagging their fingers and scratching their acne. The word “f**king” may be stronger than is necessary. I therefore apply Occam’s Razor. William of Ockham (c. 1288 - c. 1348) ran the chip shop in his local monastery (no, he was a “Franciscan friar” – Ed.) and is best known for the Principle of Parsimony which bears his name – the metaphorical “razor” shaves away all that is unnecessary. His mottos were “Pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate" (“plurality should not be posited without necessity”), “Frustra fit per plura quod potest fieri per pauciora” (“It is futile to do with more things that which can be done with fewer”) and “Caesar adsum fish ‘n’ chips forte” (“Caesar had some fish ‘n’ chips for tea”). In accordance with these principles, we require the word “f**king” to be replaced with the mildest possible expletive that still attributes sufficient sense of unwantedness to the commentary in question. There are so many splendid ones in Anglo-Saxon, but the author claims he's found the one that really has no meaning at all except the negativity it conveys:

Axiom B (Special): There’s almost nothing worse than a walk in beautiful scenery accompanied by a constant bloody running commentary


Gorilla Bananas said...

These theorems always look much better with a lemma. Do you have a spare lemma you could adduce? Is "adduce" the right word?

Lulu LaBonne said...

We could weigh up the relative merits of Axiom B and Axiom C; "A chap out on an over-commentated walk is relatively likely to develop over-complicated theories to drown out the noise going on outside his head."

Gaw said...

Wow. Very funny but ground-breaking stuff. I'm not sure how I ever managed to go for a walk without the assistance of theory. There'll be a whole new level of intellectual enjoyment next time I pop down the park.

Ana said...

Gadj -- incredibly funny! I'm going to try to apply Occam's Razor to something today. I'll check back in and let you know how it went.

inkspot said...

A particularly rich post, Gadj. I feel sure that you will appreciate the following adumbrations.

Axioms are the assumptions you make at the start, theorems are different, they're what you deduce from the axioms.

Btw, special in Einstein's special theory of relativity refers to a flat Lorentzian space-time, while general refers to an arbitrary, curved, Lorentzian space-time. Trust me, curved is more fun.

Oh, and Axiom A refers to the dynamics of certain diffeomorphisms.

Gaw said...

Just read your title again and an image of Occam having cut himself shaving came to mind. Should have used a Bic Sensitive.

Ana said...

Just now, in class, instead of saying, "Sit the F*&K down, you lazy-a#$ed pr*&K," I instead said, "Take your seat, young man." Good, huh?

Scarlet-Blue said...

Erm... can you buy these razors in Boots?

Madame DeFarge said...

As someone who wandered through the joys of medieval philosophy during my university years, it was a joy to see good old Razor Bill employed in such an insightful manner.

You are, as always, an education.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Bananas, I dunno, I'm more a linguist than a logician so "lemma" means something different to me, or possibly even that small furry animal that throws itself off cliffs.

Lulu, yes, I've always wondered why I had all that noise going on inside my head, and I think you've just put your finger on the reason!

Mr Gaw, thanking you. A good walk can be enjoyed on all sorts of levels, and I bet the ducks in your local park are itching for a bit of intellectual stimulus!

Mmmmm Miss Ana, you are flattering me again. I suggest you apply Occam's Razor to their throats, in swift left-to-right movement.

Ah, my dear Mr Precision Handling, your adumbrations are indeed appreciated (though I feel you do yourself a disservice by not using the word "corrections"). I did know that axioms are different from theorems, but I'd already called them axioms, see, and my audience (with the honourable exception of yourself) is exclusively composed of Arts Graduates who wouldn't know their axiom from their elbow. Other than that I was busking it... I've seen curved space-time at the János Bolyai museum near where I live and, you're right, it's a bundle of fun.

Mr Gaw, makes you wonder if tried out his razor on himself or if he had some poor acne-bedeviled underling get his face chopped about each time.

Miss Ana, using phrasing like "Take your seat, young man" should instill civility into the worst wastrel. Then when you've got them looking at you with renewed awe and respect, finish your spiel with "M*th*rf*ck*r!!"

Scarley, yes, you can; they're in the gentlemen's section, and come with a free bottle of Averroës aftershave.

Madame, ha, "Razor Bill", I like it! (If you really have "wandered through medieval philosophy" at university you'll have spotted the flaws in my arguments, and I thank you for keeping schtum).

No Good Boyo said...

Don't forget the adage of Giraldus Cambrensis:

"Pluralitas non est punenda sine necessitate".

(“Don't try to shag more than one bird at a time unless you're involved in some elaborate wager”).

Anonymous said...

It is very good and funny at the same time !
I passed there almost by chance ,or the chance guided me,with an ulterior motive ... And then not ! Let us postpone the "quid pro quod " vaudevillesque !

"Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate" Occam's Razor ! This principle sometimes quoted under shape Latin as to give him an air of authenticity ...L'histoire semble se répéter !!
"We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances." [selon Newton ]

Amicalement , Crabtree

Gadjo Dilo said...

Boyo, ah, I shall remember that! Can one eat a packet of chips with curry sauce whilst on the job, though? (I seem to have wandered into Fat Slags territory here...)

Monsieur Crabbers, nothing is by chance, old son - you came here because it was destined. That's the simple solution, and simpler theories to more complex ones because, as Karl Popper wrote, "their empirical content is greater; and because they are better testable", but then he was high on amyl nitrite so what can you expect. Bon soir.

Gadjo Dilo said...

"...simpler theories are preferred to more complex ones..."

Anonymous said...

I understood well the message !!!
Maybe that as you I tend to read between lines !?
I leave the poppers to… Adeptes of the theory of the black hole! The trinitrine is well too flammable and explosive ! That it is preferable to move away from it. :)
Very little for me!

And as so definitely said it one of our journalist whose morals remain to define : "Having begun like simple grave-digger, it has since, makes its hole"

Very good day Monsieur Gadjo Dilo !
Amicalement Crabbers

No Good Boyo said...

In Wales we prefer curry 'alf-an-'alf - half chips and half rice - hence the url of my blog, Gadjo.

Try it some time. The chips form a barrier to prevent the curry spilling as your knees tremble.

Madame DeFarge said...

Gadjo - yes, I did indeed study Philosophy at Glasgow's finest university. It was a joy. Most useful in my current role as a public servant

Gadjo Dilo said...

Monsieur Crabbers, mon brave, you've changed your photo again, and you seem to grow more handsome each time. I guess we're all simple grave-diggers if you apply reductionism to the human condition and take it to its inevitable conclusion.

Boyo, is that what the "alf-an-alf" means?? I thought it was a Brains and light ale, or summat. I had a curry and chips in Abertillery, once. Happy days...

Madame, I feel I now want to apologise for my off-hand remark about arts graduates in my comment to Insport earlier on. I doff my cap to you.

Kevin Musgrove said...

One of my friends studied philosophy at Madame deFarge's alma mater. She now heads a team of money/debt advisors in a rough bit of the north.

It's well-known that the philosophy courses of the Scottish seats of learning include a module on public finance, referred to by the larkier types as "Plato On Prudence."

Gadjo Dilo said...

Kevin, ah, Scottish Universities do well teach those very best pieces of philosophy: "Ne'er a borrower nor a lender be", "Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days", "Daub yourself with honey, and you ne'er want for flies".

The Dotterel said...

I was going to say something but it got cut by Occam's razor - sorry!

Gadjo Dilo said...

Hi Dot, yes, it's like that!

SnoopyTheGoon said...

I know, Gadjo, that Occam's razor doesn't deal with peoples' unnecessary activities, but I am more than sure the old man would agree that any kind of walking is inferior to sitting near a table on which a few bottles of wine are strategically placed. Indeed, commentary will be unnecessary for this activity.

Gadjo Dilo said...

But Snoopy, doesn't consumption of a few bottles of something always lead to conversation, and usually about nonsense??

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