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The Dilemma of Choice?

  1. Dec 6, 2004 #1
    While researching the concept of symmetry, I stumbled upon this:

    There is a paradox of medieval logic concerning the dilemma of an ass who is placed equidistantly from two piles of food of equal size and quality. A perfectly symmetrical situation. If the behavior of the ass is completely rational, it will have no reason to prefer one pile to the other and therefore cannot reach a decision over which pile to eat first, so it remains in its original position and starves. This dilemma is called "Buridan's ass".

    The donkey could escape the paradox if it can choose spontaneously.

    That seems to imply some sort of probability space?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 7, 2004 #2

    I think it implies that asses, of all varieties, should not be allowed to make decisions for themselves.
     
  4. Dec 7, 2004 #3

    russ_watters

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    The donkey, aware of the fact that he will starve if he doesn't decide, flips a coin and decides on the left-pile.

    The trick is, there aren't two choices here, there are three: "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice." -Rush
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2004
  5. Dec 7, 2004 #4
    Yes, but was the ass perfectly symmetrical itself? What if it had a twitch in its right leg? :wink: And what about the rest of the Universe? Wouldn't it too have to conspire with your plan of perfection?
     
  6. Dec 7, 2004 #5
    There, you see? There's your preoccupation with a--es again, Iacchus. Only Michelangelo can carve a perfectly symmetrical, uh--posterior. You made a reference to someone's shapely something-or-other in your online book but I couldn't find it when I just now tried to search for it. I believe that it was in a dream (at least I hope so). I remember that I felt a very slight twinge of jealousy when I read it. Just kidding. :wink:
     
  7. Dec 7, 2004 #6
    Try looking up "shapely bottom." :wink:
     
  8. Dec 8, 2004 #7

    hypnagogue

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    This is only a dilemma if the donkey has some sort of rigid behavior along the lines of "only choose a pile of hay if it is superior in size or quality." If we tinker with the donkey's brain to make it behave along the lines of "if two or more piles of hay are of equal size or quality, then choose one arbitrarily" (as in Russ's coin flip), then the dilemma is solved with no loss to the donkey's rationality. In fact, one could argue that this latter behavior is the more rational of the two, since the donkey doesn't needlessly starve in this scenario.

    I assume you meant "arbitrarily" where you said "spontaneously." In any case, spontaneity doesn't seem to be the right kind of quality that the donkey is lacking.

    Not sure what you mean here.
     
  9. Dec 8, 2004 #8

    loseyourname

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    He'd likely choose whichever he as downwind from. You're assuming that, like humans, asses are primarily visually motivated. They are not.
     
  10. Dec 8, 2004 #9
    You could consider that the moon is attracted to the earth and to the sun, and who would consider the moon an ass for maintaining a balance between those two attractions forever ?!
     
  11. Dec 8, 2004 #10
    Is this why we pause for a while when grabbing a drink out of rows and rows of identical drinks in the fridge at the dairy?
     
  12. Dec 8, 2004 #11

    honestrosewater

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    Well, since the logic part seems resolved, does anyone think organisms develop a preference in such arbitrary decisions? I am thinking primarily of handedness. This could be over generations and/or over a lifetime.
     
  13. Dec 8, 2004 #12

    loseyourname

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    Handedness isn't arbitrary. The exact basis of it isn't entirely known, but it has at least something to do with hemispheric specialization in the brain. Those whose left-brain dominates all linguistic tasks (the vast majority of humans fall into this category) are usually right-handed, which is why we see so many right-handers. A smaller number of people do not have such overt left-brain domination - that is, if their left-brain is damaged or the corpus callosum is cut away to separate the hemispheres, their right brain can actually learn many of the tasks previously performed by the left brain (this is seen pretty much in cases of neurosurgery - I don't know of any examples in literature of this happening because of injury). These people are more likely to be left-handed.

    Whether or not there is any true statistical significance to these findings isn't entirely clear (because, obviously, the sample space of neurosurgery recoveries isn't all that large or random), but it certainly suggests a positive correlation.
     
  14. Dec 8, 2004 #13
    Decision

    I was thinking along those lines when I wondered about desicion making and crime. If someone is punished for a crime they commited, that implies that it was that person's fault, and they did it intentionally

    Well, when that person committed the crime, he was made up of millions of particles. Clearly, the particles at the quatom level move quite randomly, and any "desicion" is a result of random movements of clumped particles in your brain. Either that, or you believe that "God" made you commit the crime.

    So it it really (logically) anyone's fault when they commit a crime?

    Anton
     
  15. Dec 9, 2004 #14

    AiA

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    We are much more than particles

    It is neither God nor random particles which make us do a crime, its free will of the mind, (mind meaning metaphysical mind) so when some one commits a crime, it is their free will which allowed them to do so, and it is the communities will to make justice by punishing the one who willingly committed the crime, free will.
     
  16. Dec 9, 2004 #15

    hypnagogue

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    That is bald assertion, not an argument. At best you can say if free will exists then it is a person's free will which determines whether or not that person commits a crime. In the absence of firmly establishing the existence of free will, you can even state that it's your opinion that it does, and thus your opinion that free will determines whether or not crime is committed. But it's not good form to flatly state as true that which is not firmly established as true. Please see the Philosophy Forum Guidelines.
     
  17. Dec 9, 2004 #16

    AiA

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    Well I'm not sure if your questioning mind or free will so I'll argue both,
    mind must exist, if it doesn't exist metaphysically then tell me, how tall is your thought, what color is a thought? You can't answer these cause they don't exist physically, hence proving we are not random particles doing random acts.

    Now because with this mind, and with thought you can conduct actions logically or illogically, if you conduct your actions illogically you are making an example of free will, and tell me, have you ever commited an illogical act? I'm sure the answer is yes, and with this one can conclude that it is your free will that chose to do the illogical act.
     
  18. Dec 9, 2004 #17

    hypnagogue

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    I don't believe that the mind is entirely physical, but this is a bad argument for it. Tell me, how tall is a computer calculation, and what color is a business transaction? Are these things not physical?

    I can easily write a computer program that conducts illogical actions. This program does does not have free will, because it does exactly what I programmed it to do. Therefore, illogical action does not imply free will.
     
  19. Dec 9, 2004 #18

    AiA

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    A computer calculation can be determined, look at a calculater (much simpler), when you push a button, a part of the chip is activated storing data, this data can be seen, then more buttons are pushed doing the same thing while the chip physically performs the calculation.

    a business transaction, I buy a car from a deelership, thats a business transaction, I give the dealer physical or digital money, he give me a physical car, I just made a physical deal involving a deeler, a car and money.

    make a computer program that can distinguish between an illogical act and a logical act and get it to choose which one to commit with out using any randomize features or calculative orders of which one to choose, can you?
     
  20. Dec 9, 2004 #19

    honestrosewater

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  21. Dec 9, 2004 #20

    Jigga-wha?

    Can you say: Non-sequitur?

    What is the color of air? Your argument there is about as specious as it gets. You're starting with what you want, and finding bad logic to support it--in any case starting with a known goal is bad. Its bad science, its bad philosophy.

    Whether or not something has color has nothing to do with whether or not it exists physically, and neither does its dimensionality. What is the color of a proton? Protons can't have a color because they don't absorb and reemit photons, but they still physically exists.

    How is acting illogical an example of free will? Free will is a hard (meaning well defined) concept. Illogical is not. Whether a decision can be viewed as illogical depends on your point of refernce, the information availabl toouas opposed to the information available to the actor. An object that is blatantly illogical with the information you posess is not necessarily so with the information possessed by the actor. And vice versa. 'Illogical' is not an absolute. You cannot take an non-absolute and use it as proff of an absolute.
     
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