William’s Razor

In philosophy there's the idea of Ockham's Razor, attributed to English William of Ockham (c. 1287–1347), which states that given two solutions to a problem, if they have the same outcomes but one is simpler than the other, choose the simpler.

I use a similar approach to spiritual questions: if an idea or doctrine makes no difference to daily practice, then I ignore it. (If others want to spend their time on such questions, that is their business!)

A good example is 'pre' vs. 'post-millennials' in Conservative Christianity. From the Book of Revelation and elsewhere, Conservative Christianity generally teaches that there are two Big Future Events: the 'Rapture': when all Christians alive and dead will be bodily taken up into heaven, and 'The Millennium': the thousand year reign of Christ on Earth. The order of these two future events is the subject of not a little heated debate — does the Rapture take place before the Millennium ('pre-millennials') or after ('post-millennials')? Personally: what practical difference does the order make even to Conservative Christians? None that I can discover. So I personally skip that entire debate, and add it to my Mount Everest of "Questions I'll Never Be Able To Answer".

In 1790, approaching death, Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was asked about his beliefs concerning the divinity of Christ. He replied: "It is a Question I do not dogmatise upon, having never studied it, and think it is needless to busy myself with it now, where I expect soon an Opportunity of knowing the Truth with less Trouble."

A personal example would be all the nuances surrounding the doctrine of the Trinity. Was Jesus of the 'same substance' as the Father? I have no idea, and I just don't see what practical implications the answer to that question has to my daily life. So I just put that question — and all others like it — in my 'cognitive closet' and concern myself with pressing and practical questions I face today, whose resolution will make a concrete difference in my life and those around me.

Arguably this is extension of "Ockham's Razor": given a problem with two solutions, if the problem itself doesn't matter, then just skip the entire exercise!

I dub this principle "William's Razor." Is this in honor of William of Ockham? Or am I naming it after myself (my name is William)? Does the answer to that question make any practical difference? Then — never mind!