Thad’s Razor: a Skeptic’s Definition of a Good Theory

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you saw no reason to believe in a world outside of your mind. It doesn’t really change much. You still react to what your senses tell you. What else are you going to do? But, you just don’t believe that your senses are necessarily truthfully reporting some “objective reality.”

Assuming we don’t trust our senses, here is the fun question: what is the value of Occam’s razor? In situations that involve truth, an objective reality, and two theories of equal explanatory power Occam’s razor tells us the theory that makes the least amount of assumptions is most likely to reflect reality. But, we are assuming there is no reason for our experiences to be connected to some “objective reality.” Without truth, it seems Occam’s razor is only a principle that helps keep our theories about what we perceive as simple as logically possible.

But maybe, just maybe, simplicity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The best poems or movies are rarely the simplest ones. The most entertaining stories and plots are, again, rarely the simplest ones. Maybe, if we are not convinced of an objective reality, we should aim for something other than simplicity.

I propose a “Thad’s Razor”: If two theories have the same explanatory power, the best story is the one that should be believed.

For extra authority, here it is in somewhat questionable latin: Si duos ratio have idem eadem idem explicatus vox , optimus fabula est unus ut should exsisto puto.

The changes this can make to our conception of the world are quite notable. For example, all those stories about ghosts; some of them might be good enough to believe and ambiguous enough not to contradict other experiences. Also, replacing Occam’s razor with Thad’s razor would not result in giving up theories (like say, gravity) that do help us predict and explain our perceptions.

Now that I have this cool new rule for deciding which theories are better, I can use it in conversation to defend those weird stories I tell about the night I met a ghost from the old south.

Thad's Razor


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