Philosophers: What's the point of Buridan's Ass?

Buridan’s Ass is equidistant between two equally desirable piles of hay. It starves from indecision. What is the point of the story?

It’s a paradox based on Buridan’s idea of free will/determinism. Buridan argued that a person, when given a choice, will always chose what he believes will benefit him the most, but that the person will postpone his decision until he has enough information to prefer one choice over the other.

Well, I’m no philosopher, but I’ll fill in till one shows up. :wink:

Buridan claimed the will and intellect were the same. When the intellect showed one choice to be more desireable than another choice, the will had to choose the more desirable one. It was sort of a compromise between the naturalist views of Aristotle and Aquinas that the will was subordinate to the intellect, and the volutarist view that the will was capable of independant action.

So if the will must necessarily choose what the intellect deems the more desirable choice, two equally desriable choices must freeze it into inactiviy, as in the case of the ass. The story is not actually found in his writings and may have been made up by detractors to point out the illogic of his theory.

Er…make that “desirable”,“voluntarist” and “independent”.

Superhuman answer, Captain Amazing! I like the PHI on your chest.:smiley: Thanks!

Oh. If the will & intellect don’t choose, what does? Hmm…

Thanks guys! I searched for some time and could never get to the point, believe it or not.:slight_smile:

No prob. One last thing; didn’t mean to imply that the good Captain was not a philosopher, as well as a scholar and gentleman; his post wasn’t up yet when I statred writing and I didn’t see it.

I read that the animal Buridan originally used in the example was a dog. It eventually was changed to an ass because, I suppose, not even students of philosophy are immune to the inherent humor of the word “ass.”

Philosophy courses have plenty of room for humour. Who hasn’t had a sidesplitting drunken conversation about Erasmus?

Supposedly he had a similar situation involving a dog choosing at random, and this led to him being credited with originating probablity theory somehow. No idea how that one goes. Also, should probably mention the problem that the Buridan’s ass tale proposes originally comes from Aristotle’s theory of action.

Greek tragedy, too. Euripdes pants? Ibreakaeue face!

Hey, that’s Marxist philosophy.

That one took me a couple of seconds:
:confused: …:smack: …:smiley:



“Yeah, Eumenides?”

I think this will be the opening piece of Fox’s new show “When Good Threads Go Bad.”

Jean-Paul Sartre is sitting at a French cafe, revising his draft of Being and Nothingness. He says to the waitress, “I’d like a cup of coffee, please, with no cream.” The waitress replies, “I’m sorry, monsieur, but we’re out of cream. How about with no milk?”

Also, Themes in Contemporary Analytic Philosophy as Reflected in the Work of Monty Python

and, Learn Logic with Beavis and Butthead!

and, Philosophy Comix.

Rene Decartes walks into a bar. The bartender asks, “Would you like a beer, sir?”

Descartes replies, “I think not,” and disappears.



What were the last words of Socrates?

“I drank WHAT??!”

so, i guess that the ass is the beast of buriden?

Did you just make that up?