Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

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Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Nov 19, 2010 3:34 am

In this thread viewtopic.php?f=17&t=6234 in the general meditation section was a back and forth about the role of determinism within the Buddha's teachings. It is a battle better fought here for those who are interested.

Edit: Yes, the Buddha taught causilty, but to refine the question: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice within the causal context within which we find ourselves?
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.

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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Nov 19, 2010 3:40 am

Greetings,

Strict determinism means complete predictability of events and only one possible future.

Source: http://www.informationphilosopher.com/f ... inism.html

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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby Kim OHara » Fri Nov 19, 2010 3:58 am

Strict determinism rules out free will.
The Buddha taught us to *choose* between skillful and unskillful actions.
Therefore the Buddha did not teach strict determinism.
... I think.
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby alan » Fri Nov 19, 2010 4:09 am

Obvious answer is no. But, this being a forum, I suppose we will hear from someone who insists on arguing the opposite. For what reason, I cannot conceive.
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby Sherab » Fri Nov 19, 2010 4:17 am

What does "free" in "free will" mean?
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Nov 19, 2010 4:24 am

Sherab wrote:What does "free" in "free will" mean?
That is the question and it was discussed at length in this thread:
viewtopic.php?f=17&t=6234#p98275
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 Sherab » Fri Nov 19, 2010 4:48 am

tiltbillings wrote:
Sherab wrote:What does "free" in "free will" mean?
That is the question and it was discussed at length in this thread:
viewtopic.php?f=17&t=6234#p98275

I noted that "free" was defined as unconditioned. So what does an unconditioned will mean?
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby octathlon » Fri Nov 19, 2010 5:19 am

That thread was way too long and complex for me to catch up on, but what I did read was interesting. I thought one of the problems was people having different ideas of what free will means. I don't think saying that free will is an illusion means you are saying that there is strict determinism. IMO it's the same false dichotomy as eternalism vs. annihilationism. We make choices with our will, but the choices we make are based on our exact state and conditions at that moment. It's not free will nor is it strict determinism.

Any two beings with the same exact kamma-- same exact body, mind, and life history (if that were possible) in a given situation would react, feel, think, consider and deliberate in the same way and their resulting deliberate decision/action would be the same. For that not to be true would require something that could exist or act independently of causes and conditions.
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby Sherab » Fri Nov 19, 2010 5:25 am

octathlon wrote:I don't think saying that free will is an illusion means you are saying that there is strict determinism.

Because there is still the factor of pure chance.
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Re: Did the Buddha teach strict determinism?

Postby m0rl0ck » Fri Nov 19, 2010 5:43 am

alan wrote:Obvious answer is no. But, this being a forum, I suppose we will hear from someone who insists on arguing the opposite. For what reason, I cannot conceive.


Well obviously, being a determinist, he would be doing it because he couldnt stop himself.
There is no comfort without pain; thus
we define salvation through suffering.
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Fri Nov 19, 2010 6:02 am

Four Points to Bear in Mind

Relationship of Cause to Effect

The fourth aspect of Dependent Origination is the one-to-one correspondence between cause and effect (evam dhammatā). Every cause leads only to the relevant effect; it has nothing to do with any irrelevant effects. In other words, every cause is the sufficient and necessary condition for the corresponding effect. This leaves no room for chance or moral impotency (akiriya-ditthi). However, as the Visuddhimagga says, for those who misunderstand it, it provides the basis for rigid determinism (niyatavāda). Meditators clearly see the relationship of each effect to its cause, so they have no doubt about their one-to-one correspondence and the truth of moral responsibility.
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby Modus.Ponens » Fri Nov 19, 2010 6:16 am

I have not read the other thread as it is way too long.

Pure determinism is an inevitable consequence of the principle of causality, which is a principle I think the Buddha thaught. However, only a person completely aware of the laws that run the universe and what the present state of the universe is would be devoid of choice. Anyone who is not in this condition is unable to completely understand the causes that made him act in a way and therefore has the illusion of choice. The conclusion is not that one should not care for one's actions because all is predetermined and choice is an illusion. The conclusion is that we should care for our actions because that illusion is the reality to us and we got to make the best out of our reality.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"
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Re: Did the Buddha teach strict determinism?

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Nov 19, 2010 6:35 am

I think M.P. sums the issues up well. I found the article
Federman, Asaf (2010) What kind of free will did the Buddha teach? Philosophy East and West, Vol.60 (No.1). ISSN 0031-8221
http://wrap.warwick.ac.uk/3142/
that was already referred to on the other thread very interesting (though now my head hurts...). In particular the distinction made between determinism and fatalism...

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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby Viscid » Fri Nov 19, 2010 6:55 am

Modus.Ponens wrote:I have not read the other thread as it is way too long.

Pure determinism is an inevitable consequence of the principle of causality, which is a principle I think the Buddha thaught. However, only a person completely aware of the laws that run the universe and what the present state of the universe is would be devoid of choice. Anyone who is not in this condition is unable to completely understand the causes that made him act in a way and therefore has the illusion of choice. The conclusion is not that one should not care for one's actions because all is predetermined and choice is an illusion. The conclusion is that we should care for our actions because that illusion is the reality to us and we got to make the best out of our reality.

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"What holds attention determines action." - William James
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby Sherab » Fri Nov 19, 2010 7:27 am

Modus.Ponens wrote:Pure determinism is an inevitable consequence of the principle of causality..

Agreed.
Modus.Ponens wrote:However, only a person completely aware of the laws that run the universe and what the present state of the universe is would be devoid of choice. Anyone who is not in this condition is unable to completely understand the causes that made him act in a way and therefore has the illusion of choice. The conclusion is not that one should not care for one's actions because all is predetermined and choice is an illusion. The conclusion is that we should care for our actions because that illusion is the reality to us and we got to make the best out of our reality.

This conclusion while inevitable is still emotionally unsatisfactory. Why? Because as a result of determinism and by the law of large numbers, there will be at least a minority of sentient beings who can never ever attain liberation or buddhahood. To affect the outcome of such a deterministic situation, one will need an influence that is outside the range of determinism or an influence that is a truely random.
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Nov 19, 2010 7:30 am

Viscid wrote:
Modus.Ponens wrote:I have not read the other thread as it is way too long.

Pure determinism is an inevitable consequence of the principle of causality, which is a principle I think the Buddha thaught. However, only a person completely aware of the laws that run the universe and what the present state of the universe is would be devoid of choice. Anyone who is not in this condition is unable to completely understand the causes that made him act in a way and therefore has the illusion of choice. The conclusion is not that one should not care for one's actions because all is predetermined and choice is an illusion. The conclusion is that we should care for our actions because that illusion is the reality to us and we got to make the best out of our reality.

Good post? Image If it made sense, maybe it would be, but pure determinism leaves us as leaves blowing in the winds, having no choice. What difference is there in what we do, since what we do is has nothing to do with anything I imagine I want, since imagining that I want anything and can do anything of my own accord is just an artifact, a side effect, of impersonal mechanical cause and effect, meaning there is not a thing I can do? Is that what the Buddha taught?
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 19, 2010 7:39 am

As a matter of clarification Did the Buddha teach strict determinism? Is the the subject of this thread. Is strict determinism what one finds the Buddha teaching in the suttas?

Edit: shifting the focus: Did the Buddha teach that we have a functional choice?
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 Sherab » Fri Nov 19, 2010 7:55 am

tiltbillings wrote:As a matter of clarification Did the Buddha teach strict determinism? Is the the subject of this thread. Is strict determinism what one finds the Buddha teaching in the suttas?

The Buddha only taught what was required to help us attain liberation/buddhahood. Whether his teachings implied strict determinism or not is for us to figure out if we so desire.
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Re: Did the Buddha teach strict determinism?

Postby robertk » Fri Nov 19, 2010 8:03 am

I think the Buddha taught causality based on his knowledge of complex conditions. Determinism sounds like a philosophical viewpoint that the old philosophers debated about.
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Nov 19, 2010 8:08 am

robertk wrote:I think the Buddha taught causality based on his knowledge of complex conditions. Determinism sounds like a philosophical viewpoint that the old philosophers debated about.
Yes, the Buddha taught causilty, but to refine the question: Did the Buddha teach that we have functional choice within the causal context within which we find ourselves?
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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