Hanlons's Razor

Tom Kysilko pds at VISI.COM
Tue Jun 22 02:56:00 UTC 1999

Bruce Dykes cites the Jargon File:
>Hanlon's Razor /prov./ A corollary of Finagle's Law, similar to Occam's
>Razor, that reads "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately
>explained by stupidity." The derivation of the Hanlon eponym is not
>definitely known, but a very similar remark ("You have attributed conditions
>to villainy that simply result from stupidity.") appears in "Logic of
>Empire", a 1941 story by Robert A. Heinlein, who calls it the `devil theory'
>of sociology. Heinlein's popularity in the hacker culture makes plausible
>the supposition that `Hanlon' is derived from `Heinlein' by phonetic
>corruption. A similar epigram has been attributed to William James, but
>Heinlein more probably got the idea from Alfred Korzybski and other
>practitioners of General Semantics. Quoted here because it seems to be a
>particular favorite of hackers, often showing up in sig blocks, fortune
>cookie files and the login banners of BBS systems and commercial networks.
>This probably reflects the hacker's daily experience of environments created
>by well-intentioned but short-sighted people. Compare Sturgeon's Law.
>[Editor's Note: JE Pournelle's Napoleonic variant substitutes 'incompetence'
>for 'stupidity']

_All's Well that Ends Well_, IV, v:
LAFEU:  Whether dost thou profess thyself, a knave or a fool?

  Tom Kysilko        Practical Data Services
  pds at visi.com       Saint Paul MN USA

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