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[Synoptic-L] Occam's Razor and the village of Ockham in Surrey, England.

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  • Brian E. Wilson
    William of Occam is a hero of mine. He came from the village in Surrey, England, UK, which was, and still is, Ockham - with a kh in the middle of the name.
    Message 1 of 4 , Feb 6, 2000
      William of Occam is a hero of mine. He came from the village in Surrey,
      England, UK, which was, and still is, "Ockham" - with a "kh" in the
      middle of the name. He is sometimes referred to as "William of Ockham"
      for this reason.

      It seems that the different spelling "Occam" is the Latin version of the
      name of the village which was used in the 14th century by William in his
      writings, and by others.

      I think the famous principle of parsimony is, correctly, "Occam's Razor"
      - using the Latin spelling with no "k" and no "h".

      One thing William of O. is reported as having said (more than once, and
      with variations in the wording) is "entia non sunt multiplicanda
      praeter necessitatem" - "entities should not be multiplied without
      necessity". We should note, however, that in his thinking, William
      criticized people who argued that the simplest hypothesis is necessarily
      the best. The point he made was that the simplest hypothesis may be too
      simple. What is needed is a hypothesis which is sufficiently complex to
      fit all the observed facts, but no more complex than is required by
      them. The simplest hypothesis may be false.

      It does seem to me that some synoptic hypotheses are beautifully simple,
      (for instance the Farrer Hypothesis with all additional sources
      explicitly ruled out), but are too simple to fit all the facts (for
      instance the story dualities I describe on my home page).

      It also seems to me that there is no synoptic hypothesis which works
      even moderately well which does not posit at least one hypothetical
      source. Thus the Griesbach (or Two Gospel) Hypothesis does not work
      unless at least one hypothetical documentary source is posited as a
      source of Luke's central section. Similarly, the Farrer Hypothesis does
      not work (pace Goulder) without positing a hypothetical source for the
      double tradition material in Matthew.

      No doubt we will hear more of Occam's Razor.

      Best wishes,
      BRIAN WILSON

      EM brian@... HP www.twonh.demon.co.uk TEL+44(0)1480385043
      Rev B.E.Wilson,10 York Close,Godmanchester,Huntingdon,Cambs,PE18 8EB,UK
      > "What can be said at all can be said clearly; and whereof one cannot
      > speak thereof one must be silent." Ludwig Wittgenstein, "Tractatus".
      _
    • Stephen C. Carlson
      ... A clarification: when you say without positing a hypothetical source for the double tradition material in Matthew in the last sentence, are you referring
      Message 2 of 4 , Feb 6, 2000
        At 08:14 AM 2/6/00 +0000, Brian E. Wilson wrote:
        >It also seems to me that there is no synoptic hypothesis which works
        >even moderately well which does not posit at least one hypothetical
        >source. Thus the Griesbach (or Two Gospel) Hypothesis does not work
        >unless at least one hypothetical documentary source is posited as a
        >source of Luke's central section. Similarly, the Farrer Hypothesis does
        >not work (pace Goulder) without positing a hypothetical source for the
        >double tradition material in Matthew.

        A clarification: when you say "without positing a hypothetical source
        for the double tradition material in Matthew" in the last sentence, are
        you referring to a documentary (written) source or merely any hypothetical
        source, which could include oral tradition?

        Stephen Carlson
        --
        Stephen C. Carlson mailto:scarlson@...
        Synoptic Problem Home Page http://www.mindspring.com/~scarlson/synopt/
        "Poetry speaks of aspirations, and songs chant the words." Shujing 2.35
      • Maluflen@aol.com
        In a message dated 2/6/2000 3:19:34 AM Eastern Standard Time, brian@TwoNH.demon.co.uk writes:
        Message 3 of 4 , Feb 6, 2000
          In a message dated 2/6/2000 3:19:34 AM Eastern Standard Time,
          brian@... writes:

          << It also seems to me that there is no synoptic hypothesis which works
          even moderately well which does not posit at least one hypothetical
          source. Thus the Griesbach (or Two Gospel) Hypothesis does not work
          unless at least one hypothetical documentary source is posited as a
          source of Luke's central section. >>

          Why? (Or should I say, why on earth?) There is a presupposition here that I
          think is invalid, or at least questionable.

          Leonard Maluf
        • Brian E. Wilson
          ... Stephen Carlson comments -- ... I was including the possibility of an oral source. I see no reason why an advocate of the FH should not make posit an
          Message 4 of 4 , Feb 6, 2000
            >Brian Wilson wrote --
            >
            >It also seems to me that there is no synoptic hypothesis which works
            >even moderately well which does not posit at least one hypothetical
            >source. Thus the Griesbach (or Two Gospel) Hypothesis does not work
            >unless at least one hypothetical documentary source is posited as a
            >source of Luke's central section. Similarly, the Farrer Hypothesis
            >does not work (pace Goulder) without positing a hypothetical source for
            >the double tradition material in Matthew.
            >
            Stephen Carlson comments --
            >
            >A clarification: when you say "without positing a hypothetical source
            >for the double tradition material in Matthew" in the last sentence, are
            >you referring to a documentary (written) source or merely any
            >hypothetical source, which could include oral tradition?
            >
            I was including the possibility of an oral source. I see no reason why
            an advocate of the FH should not make posit an additional source whether
            documentary or oral. I do think, however, that it is essential that we
            should not attempt to discuss classes of synoptic hypotheses, since that
            would lead only to confusion. What I write above is on the basis of
            having considered separately each synoptic hypothesis which does not
            posit a hypothetical source (I think there are 18 such hypotheses).
            Taking one at a time, I seem to find that none works well, but that each
            can be made to work better to some extent by adding a hypothetical
            source.

            For instance, if we put forward the Farrer Hypothesis simpliciter - that
            Matthew used Mark, and Luke used Mark and Matthew, and no other sources
            were used (as Goulder), then the difficulty arises that, on this view,
            it would seem that Matthew must have created out of his own head all the
            double tradition and all the special material in his gospel.

            Now we could re-formulate the Farrer Hypothesis as Matthew using Mark
            and a hypothetical documentary source "X", and Luke using Mark and
            Matthew (but not X). X contained the double tradition material and also
            material special to Matthew. This would have the advantage of being able
            to account for the double tradition in Matthew and the material special
            to Matthew, without having to posit that Matthew created all of that
            (about two fifths of his gospel?) out of his own head. So the FH with
            the additional hypothetical "X" works better than the FH with any
            additional source explicitly ruled out.

            Or we could formulate the Farrer Hypothesis as Matthew using Mark and an
            oral tradition source "M", and Luke using Mark and Matthew (but not M).
            (We need to take this separately from the question of a documentary
            source, since the use of oral rather than documentary changes the
            hypothesis.) Now this would have the advantage of being able to account
            for the double tradition in Matthew, and also the material special to
            Matthew, instead of having to suppose that Matthew created all that non-
            Markan material out of his own head. So, again, it would seem that the
            FH with an additional source works better than the FH without one.

            I would say that the Farrer Hypothesis with one hypothetical source
            added, works better than that Farrer Hypothesis simpliciter, with all
            extra sources ruled out. This is not to say that it works completely,
            even with the additional source. There is, for example, the question of
            Luke containing a lot of material special to his gospel.

            Best wishes,
            BRIAN WILSON

            EM brian@... HP www.twonh.demon.co.uk TEL+44(0)1480385043
            Rev B.E.Wilson,10 York Close,Godmanchester,Huntingdon,Cambs,PE18 8EB,UK
            > "What can be said at all can be said clearly; and whereof one cannot
            > speak thereof one must be silent." Ludwig Wittgenstein, "Tractatus".
            _
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