Roscommon and Occam

Sep 16th, 2007 | By | Category: Ireland

“Which is nearest Roscommon or the sun?”

“What sort of question is that?  Roscommon or the sun!”

“Tis a simple question.  Which is nearest?  Roscommon or the sun?”

“What do ye think?  Can ye see Roscommon from here?”

The bizarre logic of RTE television’s Killinaskully has within it an element of truth – things that are apparent seem much more likely to be true than things that are less obvious.  I think there was a medieval theologian called William of Occam who suggested that given two alternatives, the one depending on less suppositions was more likely to be true.

Killinaskully logic would suggest an Ireland filled with wealth and constant development, a country where there is full employment and huge opportunities, should be a land without problems.  Isn’t it obvious that if we have all our heart could possibly desire, then we would all be happy?  Reasons for unhappiness would surely be more remote than Roscommon.

Why then did my neighbour and I run down our road in broad daylight yesterday evening to apprehend three youths who, in full sight of all the traffic on a busy road, were spraying the wall with inane graffiti?

These were not boys who were poor.  They were well dressed.  They came from reasonable homes.  They had all the benefits of living in modern Ireland.

My neighbour caught one of the boys and interrogated him.  The entire escapade was devoid of meaning or purpose.

I am told by those who know about such things that the graffiti is caused by alienated young people wanting to make their mark.  Why are they alienated?  Surely with the fulfilment of the secular liberal dream of unlimited money and unlimited freedom, there is no-one who could feel alienated?

Maybe we are more complex than the secular world would acknowledge.  Maybe simply throwing money at people and letting them do what they want doesn’t actually meet all their needs.  Maybe the sun is further than Roscommon.

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  1. […] It is vain to do with more what can be done with less. – William of Occam […]

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