Buridan, Jean


Buridan, Jean
born 1300, Béthune?, France
died 1358

French philosopher, logician, and scientific theorist.

He studied under William of Ockham at the University of Paris and later taught there. According to his modified version of determinism, though one must choose what presents itself as the greater good, the will is free to delay reason's judgment by suggesting a more thorough inquiry into the worth of one's motives. The dilemma of a particular kind of moral choice, between two evidently identical alternatives, is illustrated by the celebrated allegory of "Buridan's ass." Among his achievements in mechanics was a revision of Aristotle's theory of motion; he developed a theory of impetus by which the mover imparts to the moved a power, proportional to the former's speed and mass, which keeps it moving. His studies of optical images prefigured modern developments in cinematics. In logic he explicated the doctrines of Aristotle and Peter of Spain (с 1210–77). His works include Summula de dialecta (1487) and Consequentie (1493).

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▪ French philosopher and scientist
Latin  Joannes Buridanus  
born 1300, probably at Béthune, France
died 1358

      Aristotelian philosopher, logician, and scientific theorist in optics and mechanics.

      After studies in philosophy at the University of Paris under the nominalist thinker William of Ockham (Ockham, William of), Buridan was appointed professor of philosophy there. He served as university rector in 1328 and in 1340, the year in which he condemned Ockham's views, an act that is sometimes called the first seed of theological skepticism. Buridan's own works were condemned and placed on the Index of Forbidden Books from 1474 to 1481 by partisans of Ockham.

      A defender of the principle of causality, Buridan asserted a modified version of traditional moral determinism, declaring that men must will what presents itself as the greater good but that the will is free to delay the reason's judgment by suggesting a more thorough inquiry into the value of motives. The dilemma of a particular kind of moral choice, between two evidently identical items, is illustrated by the celebrated allegory of “Buridan's ass,” though the animal mentioned in Buridan's commentary on Aristotle's De caelo (“On the Heavens”) is actually a dog, not an ass. His discussion centres on the method by which the dog chooses between two equal amounts of food placed before him. Discerning both a symmetry of information and a symmetry of preference about the two items, he concludes that the dog must choose at random; this outcome leads to the investigation of theories of probability.

      Among Buridan's achievements in mechanics was his revision of Aristotle's theory of motion, which had maintained that a thing is kept moving by the air surrounding it. Buridan developed a theory of impetus by which the mover imparts to the moved a power, proportional to the speed and mass, which keeps it moving. In addition, he correctly theorized that resistance of the air progressively reduces the impetus and that weight can add or detract from speed. His studies of optical images prefigured modern developments in cinematics. In logic he explicated doctrines of Aristotle, Ockham, and Peter of Spain. In addition to commentaries on Aristotle's Organon, Physics, De anima, Metaphysics, and Economics, his works include Summula de dialecta (1487) and Consequentie (1493).

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

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