Friday, August 19, 2016

Buridan’s Ass

Buridan’s Ass, named after 14th century French philosopher Jean Buridan, is both hungry and thirsty.  It is placed midway between a stack of hay and a pail of water.  If the ass decides to exercise its free will, it will starve to death.  When it turns to the haystack, it can exercise its freedom to choose water first instead.  And when it turns to the water, its free will can interfere again.  Thus it can go on exercising its freedom of choice until it dies of starvation amid food and water.

Let’s take the example of Kashmir.  Indian patriots are supposedly in love with that piece of land.  Their love denies freedom to the people of the land to choose their own destiny.  Hence the civil war kind of situation in the state. 

The question is whether the Indian patriots are really motivated by love.  Or by greed for the land.  Or by nationalist pride.  Or plain greed, hatred or sheer perversion.

Love does not create the kind of situation that prevails in Kashmir.  Love liberates.  It does not enslave.  It cannot go about shooting unarmed people (unless stones are counted as arms) with machine guns.

The people of Kashmir are caught between freedom and love.  They love their homeland and they want freedom to live in that homeland.  Freedom from gau rakshaks, for example.  Freedom from people who impose themselves in the name of culture, religion, gods that include cows.

What’s the consequence?  Strife.

The ass needs both food and water.  Buridan’s Ass will not die of starvation except in philosophical discourses because the ass will choose one or the other and get on with life.  It needs both the hay and the water. 

We need both freedom and love.  Existence without one is a hypothetical conjecture fit for blogging discourses.  Denial of any will lead to destruction of the individual.  Or to strife.


  1. 'freedom to the people of the land to choose their own destiny..'?
    I beg to differ, Tom sir. That means the Indian government (irrespective of which political party runs it) should allow Khalistan, Bodoland, Tamil Liberation and the likes too to choose their own destiny?

    1. Yes, Amit ji. If the people have strong reasons for their demands the govt must listen to them and find solutions. In fact, many of these are creations of the govt itself for political purposes. Khalistan was Indira Gandhi's political agenda. Bodoland is based on genuine grievances that need be addressed. Tamil liberation was Sri Lanka's problem, not ours. Kashmir problem has been aggravated by Muslim bashing in India. It has now gone out of control... Time to ask whether we can find amicable solutions and stop hatred-based policies.

  2. I can get what you are saying, the freedom and love are equally important and a choice from two equally weighted options presents and confounds indecision.

    But love towards homeland and freedom from intolerance of a particular section are two things which are not equally weighted. If they have more love for their homeland than their need of freedom, then a solution to come across is a possibility. And I am betting that they do have more love towards their homeland. It would be scary to think otherwise.

    1. The notion of freedom assumes some worthwhile significance only in some socio-political context. That's why I brought in the Kashmir example. In individual affairs, the issue is rather insignificant.

      In the case of Kashmir, the people have been alienated from the majoritarian nationalism and the solution lies first of all in ridding ourselves of that attitude and the ideology which drives it. But that's only part of the story. Pakistan has played a terribly nasty game in that region which has muddled the game way too far for any solution that is acceptable to both sides. So we will go on asserting that Kashmir is ours and even POK is ours. And they will go on fighting for the same pieces of land. So the fight is the only option. Might is right. Will it lead to nuclear might and its rightness? What will be the fate of the people on both sides of the border then?

  3. Love and freedom co-exist. Love can not be in a place that takes your freedom away. In that situation, there will only be fear. Politics of possession has neither love nor freedom, only greed, and desire to dominate.


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