Buridan, Jean

Buridan, Jean

(byo͝or`ĭdən, Fr. zhäN bürēdäN`), d. c.1358, French scholastic philosopher. Rector of the Univ. of Paris, he was a follower of William of Occam and a nominalist. Buridan promoted the theory of impetus, arguing that a projectile continues in motion not, as Aristotle held, because it is supported by the surrounding air, but because of the force transmitted to it by the object that launched it. Buridan's theory of the will was that choice is determined by the greater good and that the freedom a person possesses is the power to suspend choice and reconsider motives for action. Traditionally but almost certainly erroneously he is supposed to have used the simile of "Buridan's ass"—an unfortunate animal midway between two identical bundles of hay and starving to death because it cannot choose between them.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Buridan, Jean


Born circa 1300 in Bethune (Artois); died circa 1358. French philosopher; a representative of nominalism.

Buridan began teaching at the University of Paris in 1328. He contributed to the dissemination in France of Ockham’s philosophy and many concepts of natural science (explanation of the movement of falling bodies and the possibility of unlimited immovable space, for example). Buridan saw the problem of freedom of will as logically insoluble. He did not coin the proverbial expression “Buridan’s ass.”


Quaestiones super libris quattuor de caelo et mundo. Cambridge, Mass., 1942.


Istoriia filosofii, vol. 1. Moscow, 1941. Page 478.
Maier, A. Die Vorläufer Galileis im 14. Jahrhundert. Rome, 1949.
Faral, E. “Jean Buridan, maître ès arts de l’Université de Paris.” In his book Histoire littéraire de la France. Paris, 1950.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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