Einstein’s Razor

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler

Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler.
Albert Einstein (attributed).

This quote, dubbed ‘Einstein’s razor’, is a quote attributed to Einstein that may have arisen as a paraphrase of his following quote:

“It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience.”
“On the Method of Theoretical Physics” The Herbert Spencer Lecture, delivered at Oxford (10 June 1933); also published in Philosophy of Science, Vol. 1, No. 2 (April 1934), pp. 163-169., p. 165.

Einstein’s razor may seem very similar to Occam’s razor, which advocates the simplest solution. However, Einstein’s quote can also be taken as a warning against too much simplification. It is used when an appeal to Occam’s razor results in an over-simplified explanation that leads to a false conclusion.

The earliest known appearance of Einstein’s razor is an essay by Roger Sessions in the New York Times (8 January 1950)[1], where Sessions appears to be paraphrasing Einstein:
“I also remember a remark of Albert Einstein, which certainly applies to music. He said, in effect, that everything should be as simple as it can be, but not simpler.”

Another early appearance, from Time magazine (14 December 1962):
“We try to keep in mind a saying attributed to Einstein—that everything must be made as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler.”

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