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…a maxim named for a Franciscan friar,

William of Ockham, from the Surrey village –

and from London, Oxford, Avignon,

Munich – Pope’s enemy, Emperor’s friend,

dying just as the Black Death was scourging.


It is a metaphor, not logic chopping –

best summarised, perhaps, as ‘less is more’,

‘don’t over-egg the pudding’, even

‘fine words butter no parsnips’. He was

the radical philosopher of his age,

a nominalist – words are words, ideas

ideas, no more, no less. Plato, relinquo!


Avoiding an A3 rush hour traffic jam,

I drove through Ockham one rainy night,

watching the headlights follow the bendy turns

of the old field system and glisten

on the hedgerows and the oaks, and I thought

of the little boy, the brightest scholar

in the priest’s small school, being taken

for Mother Church’s future to London

in a jolting ox cart, his Latin

a passport through Europe.




© Copyright David Selzer
1 Response
  • Ian Craine
    December 30, 2017

    And woe betide the postgraduate who doesn’t invoke Ockham’s Razor at least once in his/her doctoral thesis!

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