John Buridan, a fourteenth century philosopher, was perplexed by the ideal of free will. The situation presented was an ass with a symmetry of choice between two identical foods. The traditional version of this story is actually false. It was not actually an ass, but rather a dog, and Buridan suggested that it would choose "at random" rather than starve. Buridan developed many early ideas on probability and randomness spurred by this discussion.

In reality, this does not happen. It is unlikely as meeteing a Shia Muslim named Omar that a situation would occur in which there were two identical haystacks (or bunches of carrots as in other versions,) which would be on two identical, but opposite paths, and lie exactly the same distance away. Beyond this, an ass may appear to be symmetrical superficially, but internally it has asymmetries in its molecules, brain, and consequent preferences for left and right. Therefore, this issue may seem simple and rely only on chance as Buridan had originally thought thought, but really, who is to say. In the perfect situation the animal may actually starve to death as the modern version goes.

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