Irony of Occam Razor

Physicists often refer to Occam’s Razor when they consider different theories. I see a bit of irony in that fact.

Let us take an atom as an example (one may replace it by an elementary particle or a superstring, it does not matter). Physicists using such a concept usually believe that the atom does exist. In this sense, physicists are realists.

At the Occam’s time, realists were people who have believed that universals exist. Occam has employed his razor to strip universals from the reality and his position has led to nominalism. That is, universals are just creation of the mind and it does not make sense to search for them in the real world.

Presumably his positions about atoms were the same, an atom is just a concept created by the mind – hence it does not make sense to search for it in reality. Here is the irony.

A nice lecture about Occam (William of Ockham) in German is at

Antike und mittelalterliche Philosophie (12. Vorlesung)


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