Hillary, Trump... Neither?
Dear Reader (including residents of the Vulcan Republic of Rationalia),
I’ve been thinking about Buridan’s ass.
While that might be a phrase you’d expect to hear passing Bill Clinton’s lips — if he had an intern whose last name was Buridan — I have something else in mind. In philosophy, Buridan’s ass is a paradox about determinism, named after 14th-century philosopher Jean Buridan (but was probably first proposed by Aristotle). Via Professor Wikipedia:
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 ass will always go to whichever is closer, it will die of both hunger and thirst since it cannot make any rational decision to choose one over the other.
There are other versions of the same dilemma, some with two piles of hay or a human instead of a donkey. But you get the point. Personally, I think it’s kind of a dumb paradox when applied to human action as opposed to physical forces (which is what Aristotle had in mind). Buridan’s ass keeps coming to mind even though it’s almost an inverse analogy to what’s going on today. In Buridan’s parable the donkey is asked to choose between two desirable, even life-saving, options. For the analogy to get closer to the mark to today’s predicament, we would have to be the hay forced to choose between two competing hungry asses.
In other words we have managed to flip Buridan’s paradox on its head. We are being asked to pick our poison. We are being asked if we’d prefer to be mauled by a lion or a tiger. We are being asked what kind of bread our mandatory crap sandwiches shall be served on.
It’s a no-win scenario and Captain Kirk is nowhere on the horizon to rig the Kobayashi Maru.
(Oh, and just for the record, we are not actually bound by the binary choice everyone says we are. We can abstain from voting at all, or vote for Gary Johnson, or write in someone else. The fact that such efforts will not save us from our predicament is merely proof of how sh*tty our predicament is.)Read the rest of Jonah Goldberg's op-ed HERE.
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