Razor’s Edge

William of Ockham was an English Franciscan friar and philosopher, most known, perhaps, for Occam’s Razor, which states:

Entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity

but is more commonly translated as:

The simplest answer is usually the correct answer

I’d like to think William had kids. I find it hard to believe he didn’t.

When I found out I’d be a father, one of the things I felt strongly, and I think this is true of many fathers, is that I wanted to be able to teach my daughter. I wanted her to grow up as smart as me (which really just means being able to answer Jeopardy questions) and, eventually, smarter than me.

I promised that, when asked a question, even a difficult one, I would do my best to answer. And I do try. But, well, my daughter’s still only 2 1/2 years old. So it isn’t easy.

Yesterday, we were reading a short story about beavers. The book had the following exchange between characters:

Why do beavers chop down trees?
To eat. And also, to build with.

“Look at that, sweetie…” I said, “beavers eat trees!”

Now, children asking, “Why?” has been the source/inspiration for many a comedy sketch. Authors, comedians, movie producers… they all can turn this into comedy gold. In reality, it is only funny when it is happening to someone else. Fortuntely, this was not one of those 100 “Why?” momements. Instead, it went something like this:

Daughter: Why, daddy?
Me: Well, they were probably eating the bark, actually… it is just something they do.
Daughter: Why?

Usually, during the “Why?” phase, I will eventually give up. It isn’t that I don’t know the answer, usually, but how do you explain complex things to a 2 1/2 year old. Often, after many “Why?”s, I will just say, “I don’t know.”

Of course, in this case, well, I didn’t really know.

Me: I don’t know, Sweetie.
Daughter: Because he’s hungry!

Because he’s hungry. Occam’s Razor.


2 Responses to Razor’s Edge

  1. whit says:

    You are taking a much higher road than me. Personally, I’ve based my parenting wisdom on Calvin’s dad.

    [Kaz: I philosophize like Ockham, yet I, too, put into practice like Calvin’s dad. The scary part is that I never realized most kids are exactly like Calvin, until I had my own!]

  2. Abbie says:

    My mom once told me to deal with the “why’s” by asking the child why THEY think it is what it is. As your post illustrates, it works almost every time.

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