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Buridan’s Ass: When Hobson’s Choice Meets Morton’s Fork…

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“Should two courses be judged equal, then the will cannot break the deadlock, all it can do is to suspend judgement until the circumstances change, and the right course of action is clear.”  Jean Buridan

Buridan's Ass: When Hobson's Choice Meets Morton's Fork...

Buridan’s Ass: When Hobson’s Choice Meets Morton’s Fork

Buridan’s ass is an illustration of a paradox in philosophy in the conception of free will. A common variant of the paradox substitutes two identical piles of hay for the hay and water; the ass, unable to choose between the two, dies of hunger.

I know what you’re thinking… What the &(%@$$^$ is this about? Sure, I felt the same way when I read the prompt too. If you had to choose between being able to write a blog (but not read others’) and being able to read others’ blogs (but not write your own), which would you pick? Why? I promise, I tried to ignore it… Life is too complicated to get caught up in a blogging challenge dilemma and, quite frankly, my dearest, dearest reader (melodrama helps), I didn’t care want to tackle the topic. I should have headed for the margaritas mountains and called it a day… but, NOoooo, the researcher in me had to go poking around for philosophical diatribes discourses on paradoxical dilemmas. Oy vey!

“We can try to avoid making choices by doing nothing, but even that is a decision.” Gary Collins

Buridan's Ass: When Hobson's Choice Meets Morton's Fork...

Buridan’s Ass: When Hobson’s Choice Meets Morton’s Fork…

A Morton’s Fork is a choice between two equally unpleasant alternatives (in other words, a dilemma), or two lines of reasoning that lead to the same unpleasant conclusion. It is analogous to the English expressions “between the devil and the deep blue sea”, “between a rock and a hard place”…

Poking around the internet, I even found a riveting article on Psychology Today, The Dilemmas of Paradoxes:Are there ultimate answers in life or only continuing questions? that introduced the idea of PTSD and it’s impact on our ability to find ways to transcend complicated topics spiritually. Okay, how did I get here? I have no idea, but I liked the idea of continuing questions that don’t warrant definitive answers… Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever, I hear some of you say: How the fric-frac did Hobson, Morton and Buridan get in on the act? And why are you not answering the darn question? Read or Write!!? Well, don’t get stroppy with me … that’s my Buridan’s ass in the middle okay? Sheesh. More below!

“One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. Which road do I take? she asked. Where do you want to go? was his response. I don’t know, Alice answered. Then, said the cat, it doesn’t matter.” Lewis Carroll

Buridan's Ass: When Hobson's Choice Meets Morton's Fork...

Buridan’s Ass: When Hobson’s Choice Meets Morton’s Fork…

A Hobson’s choice is a free choice in which only one option is offered. As a person may refuse to take that option, the choice is therefore between taking the option or not; “take it or leave it”.

Here are the facts: I read the question, recognized the dilemma, went looking for solutions, found three new friends, fell in love with Buridan the man, not the ass, and the rest is … the rest. I read, I write. I write, I read… Therein lies the rub. What say you? What are your thoughts? What do you do when caught in a dilemma? Do you have advice to offer on the subject? Do share! Thank you. 🙂

This post was inspired by a prompt from WP Daily Post: Morton’s Fork. If you had to choose between being able to write a blog (but not read others’) and being able to read others’ blogs (but not write your own), which would you pick? Why?

*Please bear with me as I catch up on your blogs and commenting… I’m back on track; albeit at a slow pace. Thank you all for your patience! 🙂

Positive Motivation Tip: When the going gets tough and a dilemma arises, pause, consider your choices and then … add some humor.

PHOTO CREDITS/ATTRIBUTIONS: All Photos Buridan’s Ass, Rock Place JH, Rock&HardPlace Gillray via Wikipedia, via Flickr, or via my personal collection

Until Next Time…
Ask. Believe. Receive. ©
Elizabeth Obih-Frank
Mirth and Motivation
Positive Kismet

58 Comments leave one →
  1. 06/12/2012 5:37 am

    Very clever, Elizabeth!

    • 08/12/2012 9:31 am

      TY CR! I have re-subscribed to your blog again, but haven’t received any new posts… Hope they come through this go around. 🙂

  2. 06/12/2012 6:08 am

    I think you tackled the prompt well. I like the philosophy of no decision is still a decision. I dismissed deciding immediately, but now I get it. And I know what I would pick. 🙂

    • 08/12/2012 9:33 am

      I liked the prompt because it got me thinking… and this tongue in cheek response was fun to write. I remain undecided which is a decision in itself. TY Angelia! 🙂

  3. 06/12/2012 6:43 am

    Most clever. I’ll have to tackle later when I’m more awake. Seems a congressional dilemma. “Okay, let’s stay at the impasse.” If only we followed the Cheshire cat, if you don’t know, then it doesn’t matter.

    • 08/12/2012 9:34 am

      TY dear and yes those politicos ought to read this and figure out what they are doing… major dilemma there. 😆

  4. 06/12/2012 8:11 am

    For me that dilemma comes down to my need to write and my desire to read. Couldn’t give one up but I admire your tenacity!

    • 08/12/2012 9:35 am

      TY Babs.. I’m with you on that note… It’s a tough call and one I’m not ready to make either. TY! 🙂

  5. 06/12/2012 8:23 am

    VERY interesting and thought provoking!

    • 08/12/2012 9:37 am

      Isn’t it? It’s actually a great prompt and I hope the WP staffer who offered it can see that my humor was a way of tackling a thought-provoking question… Written with love not derision. TY! 😆

  6. 06/12/2012 9:53 am

    So sorry I’ve been missing your posts! Something went wrong with my notifications and now I seem to get them in a group all at once? In any event, sending you much love. Hope all is well with you.

    This was an educational post for me and quite funny too. I know that unlike the donkey, I’d eat both bales of hay…;) No worries on starving for sure. Interesting quandary. If you said write though, how would you know how without keeping informed with how others write? That would be isolating. Could you comment on that which you read? Because in that way you’d still be writing… I think I’d choose to read and comment if that was an option. 🙂

    • 08/12/2012 9:42 am

      TY Karen! Hope all is well with you and the family? I followed the Cheshire cat’s advice.. do nothing as it won’t matter. It is a dilemma if you love to read and write… I’d rather not choose. 🙂
      Glad to see you and I’ve been remiss too. Others have mentioned that they had problems getting my posts. I reached out to WP and they advice that f there are notification issues , to contact them. I’ve done it on my end and woudl encourage others to do same… TY Karen

  7. 06/12/2012 10:24 am

    I liked this challenge. I think I would chose reading blogs. I learn so much from others. 🙂

    • 08/12/2012 9:42 am

      Good for you… Did you write on it yet? TY! 🙂

  8. 06/12/2012 3:52 pm

    In life, there are always choices to make and options to take. Sometimes we make the wrong choice or take an option that doesn’t result in what we had hoped for…that’s what the journey is all about. 🙂
    Eliz…I gave you an award:
    Have a beautiful holiday season!

    • 08/12/2012 9:44 am

      TY so much Vivian and I appreciate the award. I paid a visit to your blog and look forward to staying connected for years to come. TY! 🙂

  9. 06/12/2012 4:19 pm

    Great artwork my friend ,I love it 🙂

    • 08/12/2012 9:49 am

      TY so much Jake and glad to hear from you… 🙂

  10. 06/12/2012 5:11 pm

    I would have to write my own–hard choice to make, but I love writing my blog! Great post that reminds us to choose, no matter what. I think that people get paralyzed by fear when faced with a choice. We should remember the wise words of the Cheshire Cat in those cases…! Thanks Elizabeth!

    • 08/12/2012 9:50 am

      TY TK! I love the cat’s advice for sure…. It’s a tough choice and I wanted to inject some humor into my response…Glad you liked it. 🙂

  11. 06/12/2012 6:28 pm

    Very clever response to the prompt. Circumstances have prevented me from writing for three weeks,now…so I am choosing to get caught up on responding to other blogs. If I had decided to hit the delete button and make it all go away, I wouldn’t have been introduced to Hobson and Fork.:)

    • 08/12/2012 10:22 am

      Exactly… We get information, ideas, fun stuff and insights through what we exchange with each other and through a variety of sources… It would be hard to relinquish one for the other without some game plan in place. TY! 🙂 I do hope all is well Lynne?

  12. 06/12/2012 11:21 pm

    A rock and a hard place = a headache!

  13. 07/12/2012 8:20 am

    Elizabeth this is just a fabulous post! As soon as I can get to a printer I’m printing this out to study it! I’m fascinated. I saw the WP prompt and thought it was interesting within the context of the blogosphere, but with the quotes and background you’ve submitted there is more to think about. I love the way you’ve put the “choices” out there. The Buridan’s Ass is fascinating, and I’ve never heard of Morton’s Fork. And although I won’t be posting on the WP prompt, I can tell you that the choice isn’t too hard for me. I’d miss writing, but I would never want to stop reading what my fellow bloggers are writing. This is such an excellent example of why! 🙂

    • 08/12/2012 10:25 am

      TY Debra and I felt the same way about it…It’s a dilemma. Staying on top of it all is a ton of work but we get to exchange ideas and meet other folk… 🙂

  14. 07/12/2012 8:58 am

    Very thought provoking. I’ll end up stewing over this question for hours now. Don’t ask me to come to any conclusion without the aid of a Margarita ( hick)

    • 08/12/2012 10:26 am

      😆 I hear you… not an easy one to choose I agree… TY!

  15. 07/12/2012 10:06 am

    great one Elizabeth.. great research and eloquently compiled.. quite often there seems to a hobsons choice between the two.. great research or eloquence. But youve managed both! thank you.

    • 08/12/2012 10:27 am

      Oh you are so kind! TY for the feedback… I learned a lot doing this too! 🙂

  16. 07/12/2012 12:59 pm

    Hi Eliz,
    Glad to see you continued to research the info for this excellent blog post. 😀

    • 08/12/2012 10:28 am

      TY Tracy! Since I didn’t have a quick answer to give, I figured I should look into it a bit more and add some humor… 🙂

      • 08/12/2012 11:34 am

        And you did. Add humor that is! 😀

      • 08/12/2012 11:41 am

        TY and I’m glad you liked the humor in it. 🙂

  17. 07/12/2012 4:45 pm

    You did great, I admit that I was confused and it looked too difficult to understand, but sometimes life is like that for me.

    • 08/12/2012 10:30 am

      Life is like that for all of us at different points in time… I started the post honestly… I had no intention of doing it because it was the type of question that could put one in a bit of a quandary… Once I saw the potential for humor, I went that route. TY for your feedback! 🙂

  18. 08/12/2012 2:30 am

    Wonderful post my friend. Have a great weekend.

  19. 08/12/2012 2:58 am

    LOL, I think you hit the core with the Lewis Carrol quote! I love your post, it is fun to read. Eh write. Eh, never mind, have a happy margaritas weekend 😉

    • 08/12/2012 10:47 am

      😆 TY Marion! It turned out to be an enjoyable exercise in outlining my indecision. 🙂

  20. 08/12/2012 6:39 pm

    I love dilemmas. I love seeing it, reading it, witnessing it, but of course not living it. 😛 I think the end answer here is that people act what the current situation dictates. Of course there are other things that affects us, upbringing, our real nature, attitude, personality …. But seriously, when push comes to shove, you are tend to do what people usually do, or how people normally react to things, or just whatever comes INSTINCTIVELY. People constantly thinks, buggered by different questions and worries. But in the great grand scheme of life, there is no analogy, calculation nor logic. People do what they do, for what they are, with what normally is, or wherever the wind takes them.

    • 09/12/2012 8:18 pm

      True … and that is why I think the Cheshire cat was unto something… genius. It doesn’t matter after all… Love your feedback. TY! 🙂

  21. 08/12/2012 8:20 pm

    At 11 pm you have motivated me to think about this paradox. Buridan was a Medieval Theologian living before the Black Death. Hum….I translate what he says as this: if you have the opportunity to wait for the circumstances to change, then there could be a space where one of the choices will more desirable, and the deadlock breaks. Morton’s Fork is this to me: you are damed if you do, and damed if you don’t. So maybe it all adds up to Bob Dylan, who says in one of his songs, “there is no success like failure, and failure is no success at all.”…….thanks for the brain exercise 🙂

    • 09/12/2012 8:20 pm

      TY for a new interpretation.. I like it… It was a workout for me too and I’m undecided or like the cat said, it doesn’t matter. TY! 😆

  22. 09/12/2012 3:17 am

    I like the wisdom of the Chesire cat – great post, Elizabeth but it does make me want to down a glass of wine – LOL!

    • 09/12/2012 8:21 pm

      Welcome back Bluebee!!!! Glad to see you here… It is one of those type of questions that could drive one to … imbibe. 😆

  23. 09/12/2012 6:04 am

    I’m sending this to my son, who wants to do Criminal Psychology.

    • 09/12/2012 8:22 pm

      Good and if possible, we’d love to hear his take on it. TY! 🙂

  24. 09/12/2012 6:24 pm

    Amusing and expressive! I love the spirit that comes through here – serious enough to pay attention to (difficult) things but not so serious that you get bogged down in them.

  25. 09/12/2012 6:57 pm

    LOVE the Lewis Carroll quote. Such a perfect one to add in. 🙂

    • 09/12/2012 8:24 pm

      Me too… It was a gift quote! TY and I’ve been thinking about you lately… Must visit and catch up on your blog. Thanks again! 🙂

  26. 09/12/2012 8:06 pm

    Did you just sweetly, nicely, avoided the question by talking about Buridan’s ass? 🙂 Clever you. Between the two of us – I think WP people are creating some intrigue. shhhhhhh, don’t tell anyone. 😉

    • 09/12/2012 8:25 pm

      Yes, yes , yes Imelda! 😆 Sure did! Intrigue? Now I’m curious. TY! 😛

  27. 10/12/2012 1:00 am

    Great response Eliz…funny and informative 🙂 Dunno why Im not getting your posts ..second time around. I unsubscribed and resubscribed, still not getting 🙁

    • 12/12/2012 3:46 pm

      TY Deepa for stopping by to comment…I appreciate it. 🙂 I’ve reached out to WP and they said to have folk tell them so they can check specific blogs. I will reach out to them again… I have no idea and you’re not the only one saying that. 🙁

  28. 10/12/2012 2:37 pm

    Love your Positive Motivation Tip. Normally, I have very little problem of considering choices/options, but have to workingon adding some humor… 😕

    • 12/12/2012 3:48 pm

      TY Amy! I need to remind myself too of the power of humor to help reduce tension when feathers are ruffled… 🙂

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