Johannes Buridan

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Johannes Buridan , or Jean Buridan (born around 1300 in Béthune , County Artois ; died shortly after 1358), was a scholastic philosopher , physicist and logician.


Buridan belonged to the Paris Ockhamist circle . He was a professor at Paris University and headed the rectorate from 1325 to 1348. He is considered to be the most important of Occam's immediate students and, like his teacher, belonged to nominalism .

As a physicist, he made a contribution to the further development of dynamics with his impulse theory .

Buridan analyzed the immediate modal inferences in detail and constructed a corresponding mnemonic figure. He also developed a theory of the elimination of semantic antinomies .

It is still known today through the expression Buridan's donkey : A donkey stands exactly in the middle between two completely similar and equally distant haystacks. He starves to death because, with the same motives, there is no reasonable reason to choose one of the two haystacks. However, this image is not to be found in his writings. In the literature, the view is taken that this parable is incorrectly assigned to Buridan, since Aristotle , al-Ghazālī and Dante already describe a similar situation.

However, it expresses a central aspect of Buridan's views: he reduces freedom to a choice between several possibilities ( libertas oppositionis ).

In a broader sense, this parable expresses Buridan's views on the interrelationship of will and mind. When the mind comes to the conclusion that it has equivalent possibilities before it, the will loses its effect.

Buridan in legend

The name Buridan is linked to two historically refuted legends. One claims that he had an affair with Queen Johanna (1326-1360), first wife of Philip the Fair of Burgundy (1323-1346) - from 1350 in his second marriage, wife of John II of France (1319-1364). Because of this, he had to flee to Vienna and was involved in founding the university there . However, it was founded in 1237 by Friedrich II .

The other legend, also an unhappily ending affair with a queen, this time Queen Margaret of Burgundy (1292-1315), is based on François Villon's Ballad des dames du temps jadis (Ballad of the noble women of yesteryear) in his Grant Testament of 1489 known. There it says in the second stanza: »Semblablement ou est la royne / Qui commanda que Buridan / Fust geté en ung sac en Saine? / Mais ou sont les neiges d'antan? "(Likewise, where is the queen who ordered Buridan to be thrown into the Seine in a sack? But where is the snow from last year?) However, Buridan was still a child when Margarete died in 1315.


Primary texts

  • Compendium Logicae (1489)
  • Summulae de Dialectica (1487)
  • Sophismata (1493)
  • Opera (1516)
  • Perutile compendium totius logicae, com Io. Dorp expositions (Venetiis 1499)
  • Comments on the works of Aristotle

Secondary literature

Web links

Wikisource: Joannes Buridanus  - Sources and full texts (Latin)

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica 11th Edition 1910, IV, 24; Meyers Konversations-Lexikon 5th edition 1897, III, 720. - This "historical" counter-argument, however, is factually incorrect: The university was only founded in 1365 (Buridan could at least have participated in the planning!); the year 1237 does not refer to the university, but to the first documentary mention - not the foundation! - the Viennese city or citizen school near St. Stephan, which is regarded as its forerunner or nucleus.
  2. ^ François Villon, The Great Testament. French German. dtv volume 183 (1964), 28-29 and commentary on page 167; More in: Pierre Bayle, Ludwig Heinrich von Jakob: Philosophical Dictionary Or The Philosophical Articles From Baylens ... Ruff, 1797, p. 324 ( limited preview in Google Book search).