Hitchens' razor - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hitchens' razor - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hitchens' razor is a law in epistemology (philosophical razor). It states that the burden of proof (onus) in a debate lies with the claim-maker and if he or she does not meet it then the opponent does not need to argue against the unfounded claim. It is named for journalist and writer Christopher Hitchens (1949–2011), who formulated it thus:[1][2]

What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.
Hitchens' razor is actually a translation of the Latin proverb "Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur",[3] which has been widely used at least since the early 19th century,[4] but Hitchens' English rendering of the phrase has made it more widely known in the 21st century. It is used, for example, to counter presuppositional apologetics. This quote appears by itself in "God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything" a book by Hitchens in 2007.[5]
Richard Dawkins, a fellow atheist activist of Hitchens, formulated a different version of the same law that has the same implication, at TED in February 2002:[6]

The onus is on you to say why, the onus is not on the rest of us to say why not.
Dawkins used his version to argue against agnosticism, which he described as "poor" in comparison to atheism,[7] because it refuses to judge on claims that are, even though not wholly falsifiable, very unlikely to be true.

See also


  • Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur.
    • Translation: What is asserted gratuitously may be denied gratuitously.
    • Variants: What is asserted without evidence/proof/reason, may/can be dismissed/denied without evidence/proof/reason.
    • Jon R. Stone, The Routledge Dictionary of Latin Quotations (2005), p. 101. Anonymous, widely used since at least the early 19th century (e.g. The Classical Journal , Vol. 40 (1829), p. 312).

Christopher Hitchens - Wikiquote

Christopher Hitchens - Wikiquote

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The only real radicalism in our time will come as it always has — from people who insist on thinking for themselves and who reject party-mindedness.
Christopher Hitchens (13 April 194915 December 2011) was an English-American journalist and author of twelve books on politics, literature, and religion, including his anti-religion polemic, God Is Not Great.


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