Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Nov 26, 2010 10:33 am

Spiny O'Norman wrote: Also it occured to me that if we interpret dependent origination in a completely deterministic way then liberation from suffering would be impossible - feeling would always lead to craving and there would be no way out of the cycle.

I'm not sure it is that simple. The point of DO is that if ignorance is removed the rest go..
"Now from the remainderless fading & cessation of that very ignorance comes the cessation of ...
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... #dependent

:anjali:
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Nov 26, 2010 10:35 am

mikenz66 wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:Obviously the level of discussion is rather shallow in terms of philosophical discourse, but since the OP is mine I'll state quite frankly, having been there I no longer give a rat's tookus about those debates. They are out there for whomever wishes to study them and to take sides. For me the question is what the Buddha taught, not Plato or Dennett, and I am also not arguing that what the Buddha said is true or false. I am arguing for what it is he taught, and that certainly is not a choice that is no choice or that we are naught more than leaves blown by the winds, which leads to rather unfortunate conclusions.

Yes, I agree, it should be about the Dhamma. My point is that the arguments that Alex has been making have been dealt with in detail by many philosophers and so there is no reason to accept his conclusions.
You are correct, and for my part, I don't have the energy or time to carefully review the various essays on the matter, so I am just taking what I remember as a philosophy major 40 years ago, and what I know, and the Buddha's teachings as a basis to counter the no choice choice conclusions of Alex.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.
"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Nov 26, 2010 10:36 am

tinhtan wrote:Hello all. . .
Good stuff. Thanks.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.
"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Fri Nov 26, 2010 10:38 am

mikenz66 wrote:
Spiny O'Norman wrote: Also it occured to me that if we interpret dependent origination in a completely deterministic way then liberation from suffering would be impossible - feeling would always lead to craving and there would be no way out of the cycle.

I'm not sure it is that simple. The point of DO is that if ignorance is removed the rest go..
"Now from the remainderless fading & cessation of that very ignorance comes the cessation of ...
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... #dependent

:anjali:
Mike


But for the ignorance to be removed we need to practice the 8-fold path in order to develop insight. And we choose to practice the path.

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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Nov 26, 2010 10:40 am

mikenz66 wrote:
Spiny O'Norman wrote: Also it occured to me that if we interpret dependent origination in a completely deterministic way then liberation from suffering would be impossible - feeling would always lead to craving and there would be no way out of the cycle.

I'm not sure it is that simple. The point of DO is that if ignorance is removed the rest go..
Yes and no. The paticcasamuppada process would have to continue for the living awakened person, but it would look different if drawn in words than what it looks like for the unawakened.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.
"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Nov 26, 2010 10:49 am

Spiny O'Norman wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:
Spiny O'Norman wrote: Also it occured to me that if we interpret dependent origination in a completely deterministic way then liberation from suffering would be impossible - feeling would always lead to craving and there would be no way out of the cycle.

I'm not sure it is that simple. The point of DO is that if ignorance is removed the rest go..
"Now from the remainderless fading & cessation of that very ignorance comes the cessation of ...
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... #dependent

:anjali:
Mike


But for the ignorance to be removed we need to practice the 8-fold path in order to develop insight. And we choose to practice the path.

Your logic is faulty. That we take up the path might be pre-determined. The path would still work.

Anyway, the point I was trying to make is that philosophy professors have been arguing about the issues surrounding determinism, moral responsibility, and free will for centuries. Since they don't agree on many of these issues, I believe that it would be a mistake to base one's interpretation of Dhamma on the much more simplistic analyses that seem to get repeated on threads such as this. Better to study what the Buddha instructed (as tinhtan seem to be suggesting above).

:anjali:
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby clw_uk » Fri Nov 26, 2010 12:58 pm

kirk5a wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:It is an ugly distortion of the Buddha's teachings that ois being offered us here.

And dangerous. How would someone with tendencies to harm self or others in a variety of tempting but immoral ways take up the view "I can't alter the ride. I'm just a leaf in the wind. Everything that happens has to happen this way." ?

We can ask the former coke addict, I think he was pretty clear in what his response would have been to such a teaching. Bring on the nose candy then!

Never would I dare to interpret the Buddha's teachings in such a fashion. And here on the internet for the whole world to see, and take up those views if they find the arguments a convincing "right view" (!)

Our words have effects, our views have effects, the views we convince others of, have effects, are we ready to take responsibility for those effects in line with causality?



If I had been met with such a teaching of strict determinism then I would automatically think "Why should I try or care"

Me snorting coke or killing a man or giving to charity had already been determined long ago. Any guilt or happiness is also just another thing determined long ago. Its not my fault what I do because its just what the conditions have brought forth


Luckily I dont adhere to that
Open your mind and see, open your mind and rise. Shine the light of wisdom and see, don't wait till the end of time.
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Nov 26, 2010 7:15 pm

Hi Craig,
clw_uk wrote:If I had been met with such a teaching of strict determinism then I would automatically think "Why should I try or care"

Me snorting coke or killing a man or giving to charity had already been determined long ago. Any guilt or happiness is also just another thing determined long ago. Its not my fault what I do because its just what the conditions have brought forth


Luckily I dont adhere to that

I agree. My purpose a few posts ago is not to attempt to explain any particular philosophical point of view, but to point out that a simplistic view of determinism can not be used to argue for that sort of destructive fatalism. See: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/compatibilism/ for example.

The Buddha taught the end of suffering. Second-guessing parts of the instructions by applying simplistic logic and/or philosophy is simply silly, in my opinion. As this paper:
Federman, Asaf (2010) What kind of free will did the Buddha teach? http://wrap.warwick.ac.uk/3142/
points out:
The Buddhist treatment of free will has to be extracted from the doctrine, as the
doctrine is by no means a systematic philosophical treatise. Nevertheless, it is clear
that the Buddha saw that freedom has a negative correlation with compulsions.
While the Western tradition tends to emphasize external compulsion and social freedom,
Buddhist doctrine tends to emphasize internal compulsions and psychological
freedom.

And the Buddha refused to be drawn into the sort of discussion in that paper (and this thread):
One sutta of the Samyutta Nikaya expresses the Buddha’s refusal to commit to a
theory of agent causation regarding the origin of suffering.

[SN 12.24 I can't find it on-line, but there are similar Suttas]
There, Sariputta is asked where the Buddha stood on a certain controversy, which is expressed in the Indian
quadruple proposition: is suffering created by oneself, by another, by both, or by
none? Although there is no reference here to one’s soul (atta), there is reference
to oneself (sayam). The word sayam is derived from the Vedic sva, meaning ‘‘own.’’
The question is therefore about the ‘‘owner,’’ or the agent, by which suffering is produced
(katam˙). But the Buddhist answer shifts the attention away from agency alto-gether. It simply states that suffering is created by contact (phassa) and later explains the causal process in more detail using the language of impersonal causation. In this sutta the causal analysis is said to be true whether you think that suffering is caused
by self, another, both, or none. It renders the question of agent causation as irrelevant;
instead it suggests that suffering is ‘‘dependently arisen’’ (paticcasamuppanna).

In light of these quotes I read Federman's article as saying that the Buddha didn't give a straight answer about these philosophical issues. He didn't see them as useful. It is interesting to discuss and analyse them, but they have no practical relevance, and using such analysis to filter our reading of the Buddha's instructions could be destructive, as Craig so pointedly explains.

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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby acinteyyo » Fri Nov 26, 2010 7:18 pm

This is one of the worst threads I've ever seen. You guys are repeating yourselves over and over again...
I want to drag your attention to one thing, namely you are approaching the question from different points-of-view in relation to time (past, present, future), which imho is the reason for this seemingly endless ongoing discussion.

I only want to pick out Tilt's and Alex' posts to point out what I mean, because as I see it they represent the two different views from where most of the paticipants are approaching the issue. Both of you are right within their own appropriate point of view in relation to time, but wrong within the other if the other point of view will be excluded.
Alex' understanding on choice seems to be this:
Alex wrote:(...)Where is there any possibility for any other choice to occur, other than the choice that was conditioned to occur? In other words, the choice that occurs is the only possible choice that could ever occur given those specific internal/external conditions.
If there are causes for X to occur, X occurs, never Y.
If there are causes for Y to occur, Y occurs, never X.

The phrase: "When this is, that is... With the arising of this, that arises... With ignorance as conditions, formations..." and so on, is often quoted by Alex to support his view. For him everything is completely conditioned and therefore choice according to his understanding can only be fully conditioned, too. There is always only one possible outcome, due to its causes. Choice is conditioned and deterministic.

Tilt seems to agree, that choice has it's causes, is conditioned but disagrees to the notion of determinism, that there is always only one possible outcome and there is no functional choice, that there aren't viable options but only one option.:
tiltbillings wrote:
Alex wrote:(...)I agree with it. But since it IS conditioned, conditions dictate what choiceful action will or will not occur.
You say that all the time, but if you are correct, it is not a choice. Choice, to be functional, must have viable options, not an option solely dictated by what have has gone before.

For him, choice, to be functional, must have viable options, not an option solely dictated by what have has gone before.

Both Alex and Tilt don't bring in any kind of agent or self in this process and they agree that the process is anatta (so it seems to me).

Now here comes the crucial point!
The present moment always includes the past, the present and the future.
When one only attends to the past in the present moment (leaving out present and future), one can see that everything is fully conditioned, that everything happend because of conditions and that the causes for x to occur always led to the occurance of x, never to y.
One can come to the view that there is no choice, in the way Tilt defines it, that there are no viable options, but only one option. That is true, BUT only in within this point of view, when one only attends to the past in the present moment.
When all possible options are fully determined, we call it the past. There is no option left, everything happend according to their necessary causes. One can easily come to the conclusion that there is no choice, in the way Tilt defines it, but only fully conditioned choice with only one possible option in the way Alex defines it.

But in the present (leaving out the past and the future), in the here and now not everything is already fully determined, not every cause has happened. An action isn't carried out or will be carried out, an action carries out! Which means that there is some kind of "space", where things aren't fully determined yet, this is called present. One can easily come to the conclusion that there is choice, in the way Tilt defines it, but not only fully conditioned choice with only one possible option in the way Alex defines it.

We can say, that:
The past is fully determined. -> no viable options, everything determined
The present is under-determined. -> some viable options, some things already determined
The future is undetermined. -> infinite viable options, nothing determined

Imho this is a very important point which has to be acknowledged! Otherwise there will be a lot of confusion.
So, as I see it both of you are right and wrong, it depends on the general conditions.
The middle way is the way to go, we shouldn't go for the extremes.

Regarding the question of the thread: "Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?"
We should be able to agree that the Buddha taught that there is choice, but that we have to be careful what we mean by "choice" and that our understanding of a certain meaning depends on the point of view from where we approach the whole matter.

Excuse me Alex and Tilt if I presented your views wrongly.

If my post didn't contribute to clarify the matter, so that we can end this discussion, it's a matter of course that everyone is free to go spinning round.

best wishes, acinteyyo
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Both formerly, monks, and now, it is just suffering that I make known and the ending of suffering.

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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby kirk5a » Fri Nov 26, 2010 8:48 pm

Good show acinteyyo! The importance of time-perspective in all this was also mentioned by Tinhtan in that excellent post: "Here the expression places on the result-end point of view." (and much other profound stuff in there as well). So this suggests a much broader, living, *useful* perspective that is available in "real time" that can negotiate skillfully through "uncertainty" or to put a more "positive" word to it - "possibilities" or "potential."
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Nov 26, 2010 9:46 pm

acinteyyo wrote:This is one of the worst threads I've ever seen. You guys are repeating yourselves over and over again...
Of course it is and of course we have, but it was good enough to draw you into giving us a rare extended statement, which over all is spot on. I have had little problem with what you have said.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.
"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Nov 26, 2010 11:27 pm

Thanks acinteyyo,

Your points remind me of this sutta:
MN 101 Devadaha Sutta: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Nov 27, 2010 6:17 am

Moderator note: This thread, any number of pages ago, became a tail-chaser.
Image
At this point Ven Acinteyyo's astute observations above can be the final word in this thread.


--------------------

[EDIT: 11 Feb 2013 - Topic re-opened as the subject has arisen again and doesn't need to be started from scratch]
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.
"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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