Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior

Living Edition
| Editors: Jennifer Vonk, Todd Shackelford

Ockham’s Razor

  • Susana Carnero-SierraEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-47829-6_153-1



This epistemological principle states that, among a few solutions for a problem, the simplest explanation is usually the best.


Ockham was a Franciscan philosopher who lived in the late Middle Ages. Historical sources date his birth in Ockham, England, around 1290 and his death probably in Munich in 1349 (Leahey 2012). He formulated the Ockham’s razor principle, a rule of thinking that considers the simplest explanations as more likely to be correct. The name comes from Ockham’s reject of Platonism’s ideas, cutting through the previous apogee of metaphysics and opening the age of empiricism. Through the formulation “Pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitae,” Ockham explained the need to discard superfluous interpretations first (Epstein 1984).

This principle is also called principle of parsimony (Lex parsimoniae), working as a synonym of this economic view of scientific explanations. Used in a...

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Universidad de OviedoOviedoSpain

Section editors and affiliations

  • Alexis Garland
    • 1
  1. 1.Ruhr UniversityBochumGermany