Wednesday, March 02, 2005

ever experienced Buridan's ass?

The philosophical paradox known as Buridan's ass was not actually originated by the philosopher Jean Buridan. It is first found in Aristotle's "De Caelo" where Aristotle asked how a dog faced with the choice of two equally tempting meals could rationally choose between the two. Buridan nowhere discusses this specific problem but its relevance is that he did advocate a moral "Determinism" whereby, save for ignorance or impediment, a human faced by alternative courses of action must always choose the greater good. Buridan allowed that the will could delay the choice in order to more fully to assess the possible outcomes of the choice. Later writers satirised this view in terms of an ass who, confronted by two equally desirable and accessible bales of hay, must necessarily starve while pondering a decision.
(mostly from Wikipedia)