Aquinas’ Razor


The “principle of parsimony” that says explanations or entities “should not be multiplied beyond necessity” is commonly associated with William of Ockham. However, Ockham was certainly not the first to enunciate this principle. Aristotle attributes it to Empedocles:

“And it is better to assume a smaller and finite number of principles, as Empedocles does.” – Physics, I, 188a17-18 (see also Physics 189a, 15-18)

Moreover, the principle is also explicitly stated in Aquinas:

“Again, that which is accomplished adequately through one supposition is better done through one than through many. But the order of things is the best it can be, since the power of the first cause does not fail the potency in things for perfection. Now, all things are sufficiently fulfilled by a reduction to one first principle. There is, therefore, no need to posit many principles.”  – S.C.G. I. 42


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