Ockham's Razor


"Bold and incisive, full of smarts, wit, and self-awareness, it's an erudite and entertaining inquiry into nothing less than what is in the modern, millennial world and what should be."
Quill & Quire, March 1999 -


Wade Rowland

"Ockham's Razor sticks pins in the smug assumption that our modern civilization is the pinnacle of human development. Indeed, this book makes us question the values at the very heart of contemporary thought. It makes us long for another time when people were in harmony with the universe rather than struggling to dominate. it."
Norm Bolen, Vice-President of Programming, History Television


Wade Rowland at Cathar monument
Wade Rowland, France, August 1997
Review from: Quill & Quire, April, 1999

OCKHAM'S RAZOR:
A Search for Wonder In An Age of Doubt

by Wade Rowland

Metaphysical Graffiti
by Stephen Smith, Contributing Editor, Quill & Quire

Six hundred yers old and not a trace of rust, yet sharp enough still to shave by. Ockham's Razor, that is, as deftly plied by the former CBC journalist Wade Rowland in his book of the same name. If you don't know about William of Ockham (c. 1285-1345), the English Franciscan theologian, you'll want to know that his razor was a product of his philosophy, not his shaving kit. His technique - his logical razor - demanded that an argument be stripped down to the very bone. For Ockham, only facts apprehended first-hand, by the senses, were real.

Reality, if you follow that, could neither be deduced nor calculated, not by scientific means, not by any kind of technology - reality could only be experienced. In saying so and more - in exploring the separation between theology and philosophy, for instance - Ockham was playing with the big boys, contradicting Plato, building on the metaphysics of Aquinas.

And, indeed, paving the way for Rowland who, in his own way, is just as eager to get in on the game. Unlike his philosophical forebears he may not be in on it 600 years hence, but that doesn't mean he's not a wise and passionate commentator on our times. And our times is exactly what Ockham's Razor is about. Bold and incisive, full of smarts, wit, and self-awareness, it's an erudite and entertaining inquiry into nothing less than what is in the modern, millennial world and what should be.

It's a book soaring with ideas and arguments, but it's grounded in the comings and goings, sightings and seeings of a family vacation.

In the summer of 1997, Rowland, the author of a popular history of communications technologies, Spirit of the Web (1997), went to France with his wife, Chris, and their two teenaged children. To vacation is to vacate your home, your routines, your life. But it's also to occupy elsewhere: another country, other people's history, a new (if only temporary) life of hotels, unfamiliar currency, and constant discovery.

Rowland's occupations in France are multifold: he wants to eat well, relax, look at some architecture; he wants to jar his children out of the shallows of their TV-fed North American reality before it's too late; he wants, maybe most important of all, to determine for himself whether the materialist and information-overloaded world we live in has any room for the unprofitable likes of poetry and values.

He gets plenty of help in his inquiring: France gamely offers up its history, art, cuisine; Chris and the kids play the parts of dialectical foils.

Nothing is beneath his scrutiny; he's a mental field force beaming in new questions and lessons on every hand. CNN is just as likely to interest him as Budhism; a procession of ants may have as much to tell as the medieval world of the Cathars, Joan of Arc, Gödel, Einstein, and/or Descartes.

All of the reality Rowland experiences - along with the fiction which with he admits to tempering it - goes into the logical scaffolding he's meticulously erecting. By the end, it's an impressively - even dizzyingly - graceful structure in its own right. From the top, it also affords the vantage to see that there's hope for us yet in this materialist mess we've made for ourselves.

A friend of Rowland's notes at one point that in the Old Testament, wisdom and salvation were the same thing. Ockham's Razor says so too, and Rowland is so exuberant and engaging in the saying, so sensible, you have to think he's right.



OCKHAM'S RAZOR:
A Search for Wonder In An Age of Doubt

by Wade Rowland

1-55263-031-5 $24.95 Trade paperback
Published by Key Porter Books - Patrick Crean Editions

Buy Ockham's Razor online.

Table of Contents and Photographs

Learn about Wade Rowland's latest book Galileo's Mistake

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