Pedant’s Paradox: Buridan’s ass

Pedant’s Paradox

About the series: Examining logic problems and paradoxes and dismantling them, because I am just that picky. Feel free to debate my answers. (Yes I am aware most of these have mathematical answers, but they’re dressed  in real-world examples so they can be looked at with real world logic).

The Problem: An Ass is at equal points between two plates of equally delicious food. Unable to choose between the, it starves to death rather than eat either.

The Answer: For the really literal-minded, the food will have rotted long before the ass starves, and as food breaks down at different rates, one plate will at certain times be less appealing than the other breaking the paradox. However, rather than break the paradox, let’s assuming they break down at equal rates.

In its literal form the problem still fails because the choice is not between two plates of food, it is between eating and not eating. At a certain point, eating must rationally take priority since the ass presumably does not want to die. It also forgets option D – the ass decides to eat the grass it is standing on while it decides which plate to eat or E it wanders off. Walking away from a problem can be the easiest solution.

However, this isn’t a literal paradox as much as a commentary on human behaviour. If you have ever watched a politician trying to avoid making a choice, you will know just how accurate this can be.

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