Friday, August 4, 2017

A Collaboration Of Sorts

This is a stained glass depiction of William of Occam, an English Franciscan friar, who was both a student and teacher of logic.  At his core, Occam believed that science was a matter of discovery and God was the only necessity in understanding the nature of being.  In other words, Occam believed faith in God was all that one required.

He probably stated it this way, "God is all you need to know..."  If he did say that, or anything similar, no one remembered or bothered to write it down.  What they did remember him saying was, "The simplest answer is usually the correct one (my paraphrase)," or, to use Bertram Russell's description of what is commonly known as Occam's Razor, "If one can explain a phenomenon without assuming this or that hypothetical entity, there is no ground for assuming it."

Over 300 years after William of Occam espoused his universally known and accepted method of logic, Richard Feynman, Nobel Prize winning physicist, gave us The Feynman Method, a practical learning/teaching application of  Occam's Razor.

Feynman's four step method works this way: (1) Write the name of the concept (2) Write down an explanation, in plain English, that includes both what you understand and what you don't quite know (3) Review what you've written focusing on what you don't know, then repeat step 2 (4) Review your wording.  If you are using overly wordy or confusing language simplify.

That's it, Feynman using Occam to create a simple, effective heuristic learning method.

To wrap it up, the third member of my imagined collaboration said, "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.  We have created a society which honors the servant and has forgotten the gift."

Albert Einstein