Philisophical Razors

There are some tools for doing good research (as opposed to arguments or lobbying).  One of the tools of research is the philosophical razor – probably going back to Occam’s Razor.  The article at lists and describes 9 philosophical razors that make research easier.  It begins with:

In this article nine philosophical razors you need to know:

  • Occam’s razor: Entities should not be multiplied without necessity
  • Sagan standard: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence
  • Hitchens razor: What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence
  • Hume’s razor: Causes must be sufficiently able to produce the effect assigned to them
  • Duck test: If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck
  • Popper’s falsifiability principle: For a theory to be considered scientific, it must be possible to disprove or refute it
  • Newton’s flaming laser sword: If something cannot be settled by experiment, it is not worth debating
  • Grice’s razor: Address what the speaker actually meant, instead of addressing the literal meaning of what they actually said
  • Hanlon’s razor: Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence or stupidity

Popper’s falsifiability principle is a solid basis – if there is no way to refute a theory, you have a problem with your theory:  “It is easy to obtain confirmations or verifications for nearly every theory – if we look for confirmations. Every genuine test of a theory is an attempt to falsify it, or refute it.” – Karl Popper

Hitchens’ Razor is a time saver – there are tons of people who are willing to make an unsupported argument, and pass the task of refuting it on to the poor guy they’re trying to convince.  “What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.” – Christopher Hitchens

The burden of proof doesn’t belong to the listener – it belongs to the person making the assertion.  If you don’t present evidence that supports the assertion, your audience has the right – even the responsibility – to dismiss your assertion without evidence.

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