"Buridan's ass" - to be or not to be?


2018-03-17 16:20:47




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The Problem of choice – this is the dilemma that will always stand in front of a man. What is to be chosen such that it has benefited, not to miscalculate? Philosophical question, known under the name of "Buridan's ass”, will haunt the minds of mankind. In this article we will examine the meaning of the idiom, its origin, and find out where in the literature this phrase is used.


The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, who lived in the fourth century BC, taught his disciples and listeners a parable. In his history of Buridan's ass - the indecisive man who is dying of thirst and hunger. This person is in a walking distance to food and not know what to choose for his salvation. This story is symbolic.

the problem of Buridan's ass

In fact, Aristotle meant that if a person is faced with a similar choice, he must choose what, in his opinion, turn him greater good. Much later, in the middle ages, scholastic philosopher Jean Buridan told this parable in other words.

The Problem of Buridan's ass

In fact, no problem. Is a donkey dying of hunger, and there are two piles of hay seems to be the same. What to choose? In the parable, a donkey could solve and eventually just die from starvation. Also, big-eared animal can simply choose one of the two stacks and to start the meal. To formulate the question of choice in this way could Jean Buridan. Is it possible to make a rational choice, if not quite possible to calculate the consequences of a decision? However, preserved to this day rumors, Buridan, recounting the story to listeners and asked whether he had seen in such cases that the donkeys were dead. Otherwise, all of Asia would just be littered with the corpses of long-eared animals. Actually animals do not suffer the problem of choice, this property is inherent only to man.


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Either sink or swim

In fact, Buridan's donkey is each of us at least several times a week. How often do you catch yourself thinking that you should do in a particular situation and which of two evils to choose? A very good illustration of this issue is a famous anecdote about the monkey, who could not decide to whom her to join – a clever or beautiful.

Buridan donkey value

Single right answer in these situations is not and can not be, because man has his own Outlook and attitude.

The Philosophical interpretation

In fact, as the philosophers say, the point of the parable is not in the choice of “what is better”. All more globally. The image of the donkey is an example of determinism in the doctrine of the human will. It is believed that if the mind can't choose the best, in this case, precedence over human emotions will have the same will that elected the aspiration to the sublime. If the same way of thinking person understands that both options are equal, then the will of man in this case is no longer valid.

Before each of us at least once in your life there is a moral issue of choice. Sometimes a question may sound quite dramatically. For example, which is better – to tell the truth and lose everything, but to acquire the relief of conscience, or to keep silent, but then to live with a heavy heart?

No one can stay at their achievements, at the same time our joy and trouble. On the one hand, we never stop in development – we can lose all purchased. Buridan's donkey, the value of which can be fatal, that one person all the time. And the correct answer can not be here, because the concept of correctness is very relative, and each has it own.

Buridan's ass indecisive people

Physical and mathematical

Philosophers don't approve of the "Buridan's ass” the efforts of the physics of Leibniz, and is the experimental animal Sciences. But grey lop-eared donkey with a cat Schrodinger is now also a participant in thought experiments. The behavior of the donkey in a given situation is predictable. So, knowing the laws of Newtonian mechanics, it is possible to determine the location of any object (with some data). Moreover, Buridan's donkey is mentioned in the explanation of mathematical theorems Weierstrass. This theorem is as follows – if a continuous function at one point is positive and another is negative, then between these points there is necessarily a point where the function equals zero.

Buridan's ass

In a situation with a donkey the situation is – if the donkey is unable to decide on the right side him to dine stack, or from the left, he will stay in the middle and die.

Image of the donkey in the culture

Not everyone knows the teachings of Jean Buridan, but sustained expression of "Buridan's ass" known to many. Today, this phrase refers to the wavering man, who can not choose how to act. In addition, one of the layouts of Tarot cards name. Moreover, Buridan's donkey is found in the work of Dante, Eugenio Montale, günter de Breuna, Henry OLDI.

Alin Trodden - author of the article, editor
"Hi, I'm Alin Trodden. I write texts, read books, and look for impressions. And I'm not bad at telling you about it. I am always happy to participate in interesting projects."

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