OT Ockham's razor (was: Conlanging with constraints)
|From:||R A Brown <ray@...>|
|Date:||Monday, February 18, 2008, 13:18|
(Before anyone writes in saying it should be 'Occam', I will merely say
that I am living in the 21st century and that when I write in English I
use the contemporary spelling of English place names. The village, which
is not far from where I live, is currently spelled 'Ockham' and has been
so for a few centuries now. It does seem to me somewhat of an
anachronism to render the medieval Latin "Guillelmus de Occam" into
English with the modern 'William' while retaining an antiquated spelling
of the village in which he was born.)
Sai Emrys wrote:
> P.S. On Feb 17, 2008 11:54 AM, R A Brown <ray@...> wrote:
>> Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitudinem.
> Any reason for this not being 'necessitatem'?
Simply that this is the version I found when I looked it up :)
> (My Latin isn't quite good enough to tell the difference,
Both _necessitas_ and _necessitudo_ are found in Classical Latin and
both have been used ever since. Both are abstract nouns derived from the
indeclinable neuter adjective _necesse_ (unavoidable, inevitable,
indispensable, necessary). Both nouns have similar core meanings, but
each developed different secondary meanings:
necessitas (gen: necessitatis) = unavoidableness, inevitableness,
necessity, compulsion, force, exigency; fate, destiny, law of nature;
[in plural only] necessaries, necessary things, necessary expenses;
[also occasionally used like _necessitudo_ to mean: 'relationship,
necessitudo (gen. necessitudinis) = necessity, inevitableness, want,
need, distress; close connexion, relationship, friendship, intimacy.
> but IIRC that's the standard version...)
Yes, on investigating the maxim, I discover that tho it is referred to
as "Ockham's razor" there is no evidence at all that William of Ockham
ever wrote 'Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem." It seems
that Latin maxim is not attested before the 17th century. I find also
that not only is it quoted with the last word as _necessitatem_ or
_necessitudinem_, but also with the first word as _entia_ or _essentia_
(but IME versions with _entia_ are far more common).
It would seem to be a 17th century (and therefore _not_ medieval)
rewording of the genuine medieval maxim: 'pluralitas non est ponenda
sine neccesitate' (plurality should not be posited without necessity).
This latter version is also often attributed to William of Ockham but,
it seems, is not actually attested in any of his extant writings; it
does, however, appear in the _Sentences_ of Peter Lombard (Bishop of
Paris, +1164), and the _Summulae Logicales_ of Petrus Hispanus and some
other medieval writers.
However, William did write: 'frustra fit per plura quod potest fieri per
pauciora' (It is pointless to do with more what can be done with less),
tho even with this he was apparently only repeating an existing maxim.
One further point: I discover that this maxim, in whatever version it is
expressed, was not called "Ockham's razor" until Sir William Hamilton
dubbed it so in 1852.
Frustra fit per plura quod potest
fieri per pauciora.
[William of Ockham]