Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Jean Buridan, in Latin Joannes Buridanus, (1300 - 1358) was a French philosopher who sowed the seeds of religious scepticism in Europe. His name is most familiar through the thought experiment known as Buridan's ass.
Born, most probably, in Béthune, France, Buridan studied at the University of Paris under the scholastic philosopher William of Ockham. Apocryphal stories abound about his reputed amorous affairs and adventures which are enough to show that he enjoyed a reputation as a glamorous and mysterious figure in Paris life. That he also seems to have had an unusual facility for attracting academic funding suggests that he was indeed a charismatic figure.
Unusually, he spent his academic life in the faculty of arts, rather than obtaining the doctorate in theology that typically prepared the way for a career in philosophy. He further maintained his intellectual independence by remaining a secular cleric, rather than joining a religious order. By 1340, his confidence had grown sufficiently for him to launch on attack on his mentor, William of Ockham. This act has been interpreted as the beginnings of religious scepticism and the dawn of the scientific revolution, Buridan himself going on to prepare the way for Galileo Galilei through the theory of inertia. Buridan also wrote on solutions to paradoxes such as the liar paradox. A posthumous campaign by Okhamists succeeded in having Buridan's writings placed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum from 1474-1481.
G.E. Hughes, John Buridan on Self-Reference : Chapter Eight of Buridan's Sophismata, with a Translation, and Introduction, and a Philosophical Commentary, Cambridge University Press, 1982, ISBN 0521288649.
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