Mental Models: Hobson’s Choice, Morton’s Fork, and Burdian’s Ass

Hobson’s Choice: A free choice in which only one option is offered; i.e., “take it or leave it”.

Morton’s Fork: Is a choice between two equally unpleasant alternatives (in other words, a dilemma) or two lines of reasoning that lead to the same unpleasant conclusion.  It is analogous to the expression, “between the devil and the deep blue sea,” and “between a rock and a hard place”.

Buridan’s Ass is an illustration of a paradox in philosophy in the conception of free will.  It refers to a hypothetical situation wherein an ass is placed precisely midway between a stack of hay and a pail of water. Since the paradox assumes the ass will always go to whichever is closer, it will die of both hunger and thirst since it cannot make any rational decision to choose one over the other. The paradox is named after the 14th century French philosopher Jean Buridan, whose philosophy of moral determinism it satirizes.

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