On my Agency adventure, I’ll be collecting and assembling thinking and discussion points.
Buridan’s ass is a fourteenth-century paradox to illustrate why reason or rationality has challenges. I’ve seen this illustrated with hay bails. In deference to Shrek’s donkey, I’m having waffles.
Buridan’s ass is an illustration of a paradox in philosophy in the conception of free will. It refers to a hypothetical situation wherein an ass that is equally hungry and thirsty is placed precisely midway between a stack of hay and a pail of water. Since the paradox assumes the donkey will always go to whichever is closer, it dies of both hunger and thirst since it cannot make any rational decision between the hay and water. A common variant of the paradox substitutes two identical piles of hay for the hay and water; the ass, unable to choose between the two, dies of hunger.
The paradox is named after the 14th-century French philosopher Jean Buridan, whose philosophy of moral determinism it satirizes. Although the illustration is named after Buridan, philosophers have discussed the concept before him, notably Aristotle, who put forward the example of a man equally hungry and thirsty, and Al-Ghazali, who used a man faced with the choice of equally good dates.
A version of this situation appears as metastability in digital electronics, when a circuit must decide between two states based on an input that is in itself undefined (neither zero nor one). Metastability becomes a problem if the circuit spends more time than it should in this “undecided” state, which is usually set by the speed of the clock the system is using.Wikipedia