Buridan's ass states a problem where a hypothetical donkey has to decide between two equal choices (food and water, an equal distance apart from the donkey). Since they are completely equal, neither is chosen and the donkey dies. This may be solved by randomness, but God is not random. Would this create a problem for God (God cannot choose either one), given that such situations where two equal choices can exist for him?

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    I'm not sure why this was downvoted. This is a potentially interesting question, but it seems beset by an assumption I don't understand, viz., what prevents God from merely choosing? (the larger question is whether two options could with knowledge of everything be completely equal).
    – virmaior
    Nov 30, 2016 at 2:39
  • @virmaior I guess you could say what prevents God from merely choosing is that God has no methods of choosing besides reasoning which is better, which creates the problem.
    – APCoding
    Nov 30, 2016 at 2:53
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    You seem to be confusing God (and here keep in mind we just mean the God that appears in traditional Western philosophical arguments) with a cosmic rational calculator somewhere in your assumptions. On the usual picture, God is rational and free, and that means God is not necessitated to pick only the single most rational course of action but rather among any of the rationally allowable options (pending other constraints).
    – virmaior
    Nov 30, 2016 at 4:32
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    @shrey, the point is that the two choices are equally important... have equal hierarchy... equal in everyway... food and water was just an example... point is there's a perfect equilibrium. Dec 2, 2016 at 3:59
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    I do not think that equal choices can exist for God because no choices exist for God, he himself is the source and repository of all choices. Unlike us he is not presented with external choices from "outside" and then picks one. There is no "outside", and there is no "before" and "after" the choosing. God does not choose, he creates. Choosing between "possible worlds", etc., is just our flawed way to describe something timeless.
    – Conifold
    Jan 1, 2017 at 2:09

2 Answers 2


These questions about applying logical paradoxes to God appear in this SE very frequently and they always amaze me. Why do people assume that God is subject to reason?

And in particular why do people who do not believe in God believe that that God in which they do not believe must be subject to reason?

And it makes no difference if the person contemplating is a student or a renowned philosopher.

The answer is quite simple. Imagine a God that transcends reason and now your question becomes nonsensical.

Here is Maimonides on the transcendence of God:

all people, both of past and present generations, declared that God cannot be the object of human comprehension, that none but Himself comprehends what He is, and that our knowledge consists in knowing that we are unable truly to comprehend Him. — Guide for the Perplexed, I 59:2

And as Osho put it in The Discipline of Transcendence Volume 2:

all great religious assertions are paradoxical. They may be in the Vedas, in the Upanishads, in the Koran, in the Bible, in the Tao Te Ching. Wherever, whenever you will find truth, you will find it paradoxical - because the truth has to be total; totality is paradoxical.

A doctrine is never paradoxical, a doctrine is tremendously consistent - because a doctrine is not worried about reality. A doctrine is worried about being consistent. It knows no reality. It is a mind game, and the mind is very, very logical. And the mind says don’t allow any contradiction in it.

Everything God-made is contradictory. That’s why people go on arguing about God.

And if you don't like to have it from Osho, then take it from Chomsky who argues that existence is mysterious in the sense that it transcends our capacity of understanding: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-E0IEyS4qw

  • "Wherever, whenever you will find truth, you will find it paradoxical - because the truth has to be total; totality is paradoxical". How does Osho argue that totality paradoxical? Also, is there a school of thought that argues for the idea that God is not subject to reason? Is it fideism?
    – APCoding
    Jan 1, 2017 at 2:03
  • "that existence is mysterious in the sense that it transcends our capacity of understanding". Isn't existence something very simple? I exist is similar to it is true that I am in the actual world, which seems very clear to me.
    – APCoding
    Jan 1, 2017 at 2:23
  • You ask "How does Osho argue that totality paradoxical?" Naturally, Osho argues that in contradictory ways. His main subject matter is an inner experience of godliness which one cannot describe, and yet he tried to describe it all his life. I don't think Fideism matches that bill, since it is not a faith that is "hostile" to reason, but rather an experience that rationality itself recognizes as transcending its boundary. but regardless of faith or existential experiences, one can ask oneself "why do we assume existence does not transcend our reasoning capacity?"
    – nir
    Jan 1, 2017 at 4:58
  • You write "Isn't existence something very simple? I exist is similar to it is true that I am in the actual world, which seems very clear to me." — we have a clear intuition about existing here and now, for naturally that is where we are at, but it seems to me that once you try to apply it to someone else being somewhere else that intuition breaks down into a paradox. take a look at the following question on this subject: philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/35880/…
    – nir
    Jan 1, 2017 at 5:03
  • Looking at the question, it's not really a paradox, is it? It just talks about when something is true when we say it exists. The example they give is when we say the moon exists, are we saying it exists when we see it (1 second delay) or right now?
    – APCoding
    Jan 1, 2017 at 17:46

Yes, this would create a problem for God under certain assumptions about the nature of God. I.e. that God always acts on sufficient reason, and never chooses arbitrarily (=by a sheer act of will), not even in an equilibium, in a Buridan's-Ass-like situation.

Such a view was held e.g. by Spinoza. Here concerning free will:

It may be objected, if man does not act from free will, what will happen if the incentives to action are equally balanced, as in the case of Buridan's ass? Will he perish of hunger and thirst?..

...I am quite ready to admit, that a man placed in the equilibrium described (namely, as perceiving nothing but hunger and thirst, a certain food and a certain drink, each equally distant from him) would die of hunger and thirst. (Ethics 2/49)

And by Leibniz. Here concerning God:

Now, as in the Ideas of God there is an infinite number of possible universes, and as only one of them can be actual, there must be a sufficient reason for the choice of God, which leads Him to decide upon one rather than another. (Monadology 53)

That is, that the actual universe must be strictly better than any other possible universe. There cannot be two equally good possible universes, because if there were, God would not be able to choose between them.

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