Whiteland’s butterknife

It’s Occam’s Razor, only blunter.

Whiteland’s butterknife states that:

given a number of possible explanations, the dullest is true

The butterknife has been forged by a lifetime of experience in which reality repeatedly fails to seize upon the marvellous, contrived or fanciful explanations provided for it.

It’s a philosophical tool, graciously made available to humankind for widespread use to eliminate overthinking. In this regard it is like the other razors, paraphrased below, but less incisive.

Example deployment

By way of an example, consider how the butterknife slices to the truth of the familiar scenario of “Why Someone Might Not Have Phoned”. Speculation (often parental) may posit hypotheses such as:

  • your plane|train|car has crashed (or, worse, was shot down)
  • you have been abducted
  • you have eloped with someone so inappropriate as to merit deliberate termination of all communication
  • you’ve been stuck with an ailment so severe it renders speech impossible
  • you didn’t phone because you just don’t care
  • or perhaps, um, you just forgot to phone

Swish! Butterknife applied: you forgot to phone.

What about all the cases where this doesn’t apply?

Outliers.

About the tool

Whiteland’s butterknife is both a handy mind-tool for daily life, and also a profound subscription to the idea that the ordinary world is so consistently underful of adventure, intrigue and maverick chance that you can actually save yourself a lot of effort by relying on its dullness.*

If you’re a proper good thinker, like what real philosophers are, then you’ll recognise this is really about probability. Or to put it another way, is Whiteland’s Butterknife a hitherto overlooked universal truth that somehow nobody had discovered until the 21st century? Or it’s actually not so much true as usually true? AROOGA AROOGA! Butterknife claxon! Yes, Whiteland’s Butterknife can be applied to explain its own existence. Proper recursion, like real deep stuff.

Unlike other blades, including philosophical razors, rapiers of wit, or barbed insults, the butterknife does not require frequent attention to retain its incisive sharpness. It is instrinsically blunt. So even if you rarely use it, when you need it you can reach for in the cutlery drawer of reason confident it will work as well as it ever did.

It is not part of a set. There is no Whiteland’s Spork.

The armoury of philosophical blades, paraphrased

Whiteland’s butterknife can rightfully be found at the bottom of this drawer.
To learn more about this collection, see Wikipedia’s page of razors.

Occam’s razor
the simplest solution is the right one

Grice’s razor
say what you need, and not a word more

Hume’s razor
extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence

Hanlon’s razor
never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity

Hitchens’s razor
if it can’t be proved, it doesn’t need to be disproved

Newton’s flaming laser sword (a.k.a. Alder’s razor)
if you can’t experiment it, it’s unworthy of debate

Whiteland’s butterknife
the dullest hypothesis is the right one

* The Adventurer Disclaimer:

If, at the moment you reach for the butterknife, you are actively engaged in adventure, otherworldly exploration and research, or acts of deliberate derring-do, then obviously you are not participating in the “ordinary world” in which the tool belongs. Leave it. It is, at that instant, not for you.