Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby ground » Mon Nov 22, 2010 2:35 pm

It is obvious that he taught that we have free will and choice.

Why?

He taught the 8fold path to those who did not tread it at the time of being taught.


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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby Lazy_eye » Mon Nov 22, 2010 2:50 pm

TMingyur wrote:It is obvious that he taught that we have free will and choice.

Why?

He taught the 8fold path to those who did not tread it at the time of being taught.


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But had the determining conditions not been present, they would not have been there to hear it, and might not have followed it in any case. Every choice has its causes.
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby ground » Mon Nov 22, 2010 2:52 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:
TMingyur wrote:It is obvious that he taught that we have free will and choice.

Why?

He taught the 8fold path to those who did not tread it at the time of being taught.


Kind regards


But had the determining conditions not been present, they would not have been there to hear it, and might not have followed it in any case. Every choice has its causes.


Determining condition is mere speculation.


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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby ground » Mon Nov 22, 2010 2:55 pm

TMingyur wrote:
Lazy_eye wrote:But had the determining conditions not been present, they would not have been there to hear it, and might not have followed it in any case. Every choice has its causes.


Determining condition is mere speculation.


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If meant deterministically. Of course e.g. free will is a non-deterministic condition.


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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby Lazy_eye » Mon Nov 22, 2010 3:13 pm

Well, does a choice take place without a motive? Why do you make the choices that you make? Are they simply random?
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby Emanresu » Mon Nov 22, 2010 3:43 pm

Modus.Ponens wrote: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.


Hello,

I agree with the first sentence, but not with the second one, because I think that this kind of omniscience would itself become a determinant of one's choices/actions - unless we assume that knowledge is a passive thing with no influence on choice/action, which is certainly not what the Buddha taught. In other words: The omniscience you mention would enable the omniscient being to change the future it "foresees" as far as its own sphere of influence is concerned, unless (and I can only repeat myself here) you assume that knowledge (omniscience in this case) is passive and cannot itself become a determinant. So there is no room for fatalism in the sense that the future is unchangable regardless of what one knows. Knowledge can make a huge difference, which is still deterministic, but not fatalistic like "I see it coming but can't do anything", because if I see it coming I can change it (provided it is within the range of what I can do with my body or mind).

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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby ground » Mon Nov 22, 2010 3:49 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:Well, does a choice take place without a motive? Why do you make the choices that you make? Are they simply random?


The motive is the result of a decision based on free will.
"Random" would negate free will.


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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Nov 22, 2010 7:08 pm

Moderator note: A few off topic msgs were removed. Please stay on topic.
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby Modus.Ponens » Mon Nov 22, 2010 8:16 pm

Emanresu wrote:
Modus.Ponens wrote: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.


Hello,

I agree with the first sentence, but not with the second one, because I think that this kind of omniscience would itself become a determinant of one's choices/actions - unless we assume that knowledge is a passive thing with no influence on choice/action, which is certainly not what the Buddha taught. In other words: The omniscience you mention would enable the omniscient being to change the future it "foresees" as far as its own sphere of influence is concerned, unless (and I can only repeat myself here) you assume that knowledge (omniscience in this case) is passive and cannot itself become a determinant. So there is no room for fatalism in the sense that the future is unchangable regardless of what one knows. Knowledge can make a huge difference, which is still deterministic, but not fatalistic like "I see it coming but can't do anything", because if I see it coming I can change it (provided it is within the range of what I can do with my body or mind).

All the best!


Hello.

Good point. You pointed out a stronger paradox. Since I think such omniscience doesn't exist, this is in the domain of speculation. However, we can discuss it :) . I think the mistake in your line of thought is that such omniscient being would foresee a different scenario from what could happen if he acted differently. The thing is that there is only one possible future due to pure determinism and such being is compleetely bound to act acording to causes. He/she would be the only one devoid of choice because he/she would be aware of that.
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby kirk5a » Mon Nov 22, 2010 9:28 pm

Modus.Ponens wrote:[
Hello.

Good point. You pointed out a stronger paradox. Since I think such omniscience doesn't exist, this is in the domain of speculation. However, we can discuss it :) . I think the mistake in your line of thought is that such omniscient being would foresee a different scenario from what could happen if he acted differently. The thing is that there is only one possible future due to pure determinism and such being is compleetely bound to act acording to causes. He/she would be the only one devoid of choice because he/she would be aware of that.

"one possible future"...

Is "one possible future" even supported by modern physics with regard to the material realm? Isn't it a matter of "probable futures"? If so, that sorta kicks the legs out from underneath the application of the "one possible future" view with regard to the mental.
"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 Modus.Ponens » Mon Nov 22, 2010 10:00 pm

kirk5a wrote:"one possible future"...

Is "one possible future" even supported by modern physics with regard to the material realm? Isn't it a matter of "probable futures"? If so, that sorta kicks the legs out from underneath the application of the "one possible future" view with regard to the mental.


It depends on the particular interpretation of quantum mechanics we are talking about. My preffered interpretation, from what I understand of it, is the De Broglie-Bohm interpretation, because it's deterministic.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bohm_interpretation
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby Individual » Mon Nov 22, 2010 10:50 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Individual,
Individual wrote:
Alex123 wrote:If one can't wish or will away ignorance, then one can't will or wish away that which is caused by ignorance, namely saṅkhāra. And Saṅkhāra includes all choice, intention and will.

" From ignorance as a requisite condition come fabrications". avijjāpaccayā saṅkhārā - Ud1.3 and many suttas.

Let's be clear here by what we mean by "requisite condition." Ignorance is a sufficient condition for fabrications, but it is not a necessary condition. The same applies to all the factors of dependent origination. :)

It seems to me you have your terminology backwards. When ignorance ceases fabrications cease (and the whole DO sequence). That, it seems to me, makes ignorance a necessary condition. Or am I misunderstanding your wording?

See here for clarification on what these terms mean:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Necessary_ ... _condition

If we regard the factors of dependent origination as necessary conditions, then it is inescapable; it is deterministic in the way Alex123 describes. But the Buddha, as I understand it, did not teach like this.

Instead, dependent origination is not a description of the totality of the cosmos, just a model of the world of experience, of rebirth; something basic (like the present existence) is assumed to exist and the stuff that precedes it are merely sufficient conditions describing how in this very instance it came to be, without any speculations about whatever else might have been, however else things might have been or might be, if dependent origination was different, or if in this realm there was no dependent origination, if there was something like no-rebirth, a different kind of rebirth, or something altogether different entirely.

So, with ignorance, it is sufficient to say there are mental formations, with mental formations it is sufficient to say that too. And it's a cycle of sufficient conditions. But these things are not necessary, in some sense. If each were necessary, then none of the factors could be renounced. But they can be renounced, so they must not be necessary. And so, by renouncing the factors of birth, a Buddha for instance might still have a mind and a body, or consciousness, or whatever (I'm not claiming that or denying it), but because these conditions are sufficient but not necessary for there to be a mind-and-body, a Buddha (and his mind and body) may appear the same but is not the same as a worldling's; it is something that is winding down rather than continually winding up.

Thus, dependent origination and how it relates to "choice" is very clear without having to rely on "speculations about the past, present, and future," or things like quantum mechanics. :)
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby kirk5a » Mon Nov 22, 2010 11:49 pm

Modus.Ponens wrote:It depends on the particular interpretation of quantum mechanics we are talking about. My preffered interpretation, from what I understand of it, is the De Broglie-Bohm interpretation, because it's deterministic.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bohm_interpretation

Hmm. So it seems to me that one of the views underlying certainty of determinism with regard to the mental, is the view that determinism is absolutely established in the physical.

And yet within the most cutting edge physics, such certainty is not to be found. "preference" sure. :smile: We do have preferences.
"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 Sherab » Tue Nov 23, 2010 12:33 am

Modus.Ponens wrote:
Emanresu wrote:
Modus.Ponens wrote: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.

I agree with the first sentence, but not with the second one, because I think that this kind of omniscience would itself become a determinant of one's choices/actions - unless we assume that knowledge is a passive thing with no influence on choice/action, which is certainly not what the Buddha taught. In other words: The omniscience you mention would enable the omniscient being to change the future it "foresees" as far as its own sphere of influence is concerned, unless (and I can only repeat myself here) you assume that knowledge (omniscience in this case) is passive and cannot itself become a determinant. So there is no room for fatalism in the sense that the future is unchangable regardless of what one knows. Knowledge can make a huge difference, which is still deterministic, but not fatalistic like "I see it coming but can't do anything", because if I see it coming I can change it (provided it is within the range of what I can do with my body or mind).

Good point. You pointed out a stronger paradox. Since I think such omniscience doesn't exist, this is in the domain of speculation. However, we can discuss it :) . I think the mistake in your line of thought is that such omniscient being would foresee a different scenario from what could happen if he acted differently. The thing is that there is only one possible future due to pure determinism and such being is compleetely bound to act acording to causes. He/she would be the only one devoid of choice because he/she would be aware of that.

It need not be a paradox. For someone who is omniscient, I would think that there will be no temporal gap between knowledge and acting on that knowledge. Everything would be spontaneous. Even the idea of choice is irrelevant.
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby Sherab » Tue Nov 23, 2010 12:47 am

Individual wrote:If we regard the factors of dependent origination as necessary conditions, then it is inescapable; it is deterministic in the way Alex123 describes. But the Buddha, as I understand it, did not teach like this…..

…So, with ignorance, it is sufficient to say there are mental formations, with mental formations it is sufficient to say that too. And it's a cycle of sufficient conditions. But these things are not necessary, in some sense. If each were necessary, then none of the factors could be renounced. But they can be renounced, so they must not be necessary.

In saying that with ignorance it is sufficient to say that there are mental formations, etc., it opens up the possibility for ignorance not to give rise to mental formations and therefore the possibility of dependent origination operating without mental formations.

It is because the conditions are necessary that there is stability in the structure of dependent origination.

It is because the conditions are necessary that it is necessary for the Buddha to give the Dhamma (ie. creating a necessary condition) in order for there to be an escape from the cycle of existence.

Determinism does not imply no liberation.
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby Dan74 » Tue Nov 23, 2010 1:01 am

TMingyur wrote:It is obvious that he taught that we have free will and choice.

Why?

He taught the 8fold path to those who did not tread it at the time of being taught.


Kind regards


No, I don't think this necessarily follows. The Buddha teaching would have formed a part of the causes and conditions that would lead to deterministic results (according to determinism) for those who followed the teachings (depending on their abilities, etc etc). I don't think you can disprove determinism since it is postulated outside the system as it were, ie any phenomenon within the system is part of the causes and conditions that the effect can be contributed to. So what other cause can you postulate? Only God, ie an agency outside the system.
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby Individual » Tue Nov 23, 2010 1:15 am

Sherab wrote:
Individual wrote:If we regard the factors of dependent origination as necessary conditions, then it is inescapable; it is deterministic in the way Alex123 describes. But the Buddha, as I understand it, did not teach like this…..

…So, with ignorance, it is sufficient to say there are mental formations, with mental formations it is sufficient to say that too. And it's a cycle of sufficient conditions. But these things are not necessary, in some sense. If each were necessary, then none of the factors could be renounced. But they can be renounced, so they must not be necessary.

In saying that with ignorance it is sufficient to say that there are mental formations, etc., it opens up the possibility for ignorance not to give rise to mental formations and therefore the possibility of dependent origination operating without mental formations.

It is because the conditions are necessary that there is stability in the structure of dependent origination.

It is because the conditions are necessary that it is necessary for the Buddha to give the Dhamma (ie. creating a necessary condition) in order for there to be an escape from the cycle of existence.

Determinism does not imply no liberation.

If it were impossible for ignorance to NOT give rise to mental formations, for mental formations to not give rise to consciousness, etc., then liberation would not be possible, because liberation is the cessation of these things. :)

If you mean some kind of soft determinism, I agree determinism does not mean no liberation. If you mean hard determinism, I don't agree or disagree, but that seems like a pretty convoluted philosophy. :)
Last edited by Individual on Tue Nov 23, 2010 1:17 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby Alex123 » Tue Nov 23, 2010 1:16 am

Hi Lazy_eye, all,

Lazy_eye wrote:Hi all,
In a world governed by causality, we could -- in theory -- know the outcome of any "choice" if we knew all the conditioning factors. (Indeed, this is probably why dhamma posits the Buddha's omniscience).


Right. Buddha could predict where such and such would be reborn and he could see who had the potential for awakening in this life and who didn't.

Practically speaking, though, it's impossible for any of us to know all the factors and thus the illusion of choice remains in effect. From the conditioned POV it always appears that we have a choice to make, and therefore the concept of free will has functional meaning, as Geoff said.

There's another complication, however: our belief in free will is itself one of the conditioning factors. A person who rejects the idea of choice and one who accepts it may act in different ways. If you have two nearly equivalent sets of factors, but one contains "belief in free will" and the other contains "fatalism" it's likely we won't see the same outcomes.


You said it really well. The views that are held result in the choices that are made. Wrong views prevent Awakening, while Right views cause (directly or indirectly) awakening. This is why this topic is not speculations just for fun. It is for right view.


With metta,

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

Postby Alex123 » Tue Nov 23, 2010 1:22 am

Lazy_eye wrote:Well, does a choice take place without a motive? Why do you make the choices that you make? Are they simply random?



Exactly. A choice is a result of certain motives. Motives are also conditioned by prior factors and are beyond control. And those motives too have a cause, and their cause has a cause, ad infinitum. The only way to stop this would be to claim an "uncaused" event, but this would ruin the teaching of conditionality and even uncaused event is not Free Full choice.


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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby Alex123 » Tue Nov 23, 2010 1:27 am

Individual wrote:If it were impossible for ignorance to NOT give rise to mental formations, for mental formations to not give rise to consciousness, etc., then liberation would not be possible, because liberation is the cessation of these things. :)

If you mean some kind of soft determinism, I agree determinism does not mean no liberation. If you mean hard determinism, I don't agree or disagree, but that seems like a pretty convoluted philosophy. :)


It is impossible for ignorance not to give rise to sankharas. Sankharas is the only possible result.

However there can be outside influence that can reduce and remove some kinds of ignorance, and add wisdom that will eventually lead to full eradication of ignorance and full awakening . This is why it is important to hear the Dhamma. Hearing true Dhamma adds the conditions necessary for eventual breaking through ignorance. It is like anti-virus.

So determinism doesn't mean that Awakening is impossible, and in no way is it fatalism. Once one meets the Dhamma, there can be external conditions that will cause the listener to eventually become an Ariyan.

With metta,

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