Did the Buddha teach we have choice? (aka The Great Free Will v Determinism Debate)

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
chownah
Posts: 6595
Joined: Wed Aug 12, 2009 2:19 pm

Re: Did the Buddha teach we have choice? (aka The Great Free Will v Determinism Debate)

Post by chownah » Mon Dec 04, 2017 12:06 pm

mal4mac wrote:
Mon Dec 04, 2017 11:57 am
Why not go one step further and think they are *totally* limited by circumstance, experience, personality traits, and other conditioning factors? Isn't that Buddhism, as well as "best science"?
Not it is not buddhism nor is it "best science". I think that buddhism and best science agree that the question of free will or not is beyond range.
chownah

mal4mac
Posts: 370
Joined: Thu Jul 11, 2013 1:47 pm

Re: Did the Buddha teach we have choice? (aka The Great Free Will v Determinism Debate)

Post by mal4mac » Mon Dec 04, 2017 12:49 pm

chownah wrote:
Mon Dec 04, 2017 12:06 pm
I think that buddhism and best science agree that the question of free will or not is beyond range...
Can you link to any articles that support your position? Here's one that supports my position that "best science" shows that free will does not exist:

"In recent decades, research on the inner workings of the brain has helped to resolve the nature-nurture debate—and has dealt a further blow to the idea of free will. Brain scanners have enabled us to peer inside a living person’s skull, revealing intricate networks of neurons and allowing scientists to reach broad agreement that these networks are shaped by both genes and environment. But there is also agreement in the scientific community that the firing of neurons determines not just some or most but all of our thoughts, hopes, memories, and dreams."

https://www.richarddawkins.net/2016/05/ ... free-will/

There is a worry, of course, the criminals can make use of this observation:

"The number of court cases, for example, that use evidence from neuroscience has more than doubled in the past decade—mostly in the context of defendants arguing that their brain made them do it. "

But I think it would be stupid to try and get scientists to believe in free will because of these criminals. The way round this, seems to me, to not allow the criminals to use this excuse. Lock 'em up anyway if it helps determine that they don't perform criminal acts again.
- Mal

chownah
Posts: 6595
Joined: Wed Aug 12, 2009 2:19 pm

Re: Did the Buddha teach we have choice? (aka The Great Free Will v Determinism Debate)

Post by chownah » Mon Dec 04, 2017 1:06 pm

mal4mac wrote:
Mon Dec 04, 2017 12:49 pm
chownah wrote:
Mon Dec 04, 2017 12:06 pm
I think that buddhism and best science agree that the question of free will or not is beyond range...
Can you link to any articles that support your position? Here's one that supports my position that "best science" shows that free will does not exist:

"In recent decades, research on the inner workings of the brain has helped to resolve the nature-nurture debate—and has dealt a further blow to the idea of free will. Brain scanners have enabled us to peer inside a living person’s skull, revealing intricate networks of neurons and allowing scientists to reach broad agreement that these networks are shaped by both genes and environment. But there is also agreement in the scientific community that the firing of neurons determines not just some or most but all of our thoughts, hopes, memories, and dreams."

https://www.richarddawkins.net/2016/05/ ... free-will/

There is a worry, of course, the criminals can make use of this observation:

"The number of court cases, for example, that use evidence from neuroscience has more than doubled in the past decade—mostly in the context of defendants arguing that their brain made them do it. "

But I think it would be stupid to try and get scientists to believe in free will because of these criminals. The way round this, seems to me, to not allow the criminals to use this excuse. Lock 'em up anyway if it helps determine that they don't perform criminal acts again.
Sure, I could link to a site that talks about right effort as taught by the buddha. If there was no free will then the buddha would not stress the importance of effort.
chownah

User avatar
DNS
Site Admin
Posts: 10931
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 4:15 am
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Contact:

Re: Did the Buddha teach we have choice? (aka The Great Free Will v Determinism Debate)

Post by DNS » Tue Dec 05, 2017 5:25 am

Science can show the firing of neurons and how that relates to our thoughts and actions, but those who advocate free-will could argue that there is something immaterial that is causing those neurons to fire up and make those thoughts and actions. For example any one or more of the following terms could be used as the originator of the firing up of those neurons:
1. soul
2. ghost in the machine
3. self
4. impermanent self
5. consciousness
6. mind
7. mind stream
8. kammic tendencies or frequencies

And probably some other terms too and there is no way for science to prove or disprove any of those immaterial theories in the same way it cannot prove or disprove determinism. Although, I do accept that most actions do appear to be quite deterministic, I think there can be a way out and this is what the Buddha was getting at in D.O. and using effort and volition. For most humans and animals and in most cases, most of the time, determinism is the reality but there can be moments when an escape is made, with diligent effort, in my opinion.

User avatar
Spiny Norman
Posts: 5162
Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 10:32 am
Location: Spam, wonderful spam

Re: Did the Buddha teach we have choice? (aka The Great Free Will v Determinism Debate)

Post by Spiny Norman » Wed Dec 06, 2017 9:15 am

chownah wrote:
Mon Dec 04, 2017 12:04 pm
Spiny Norman wrote:
Mon Dec 04, 2017 11:24 am

I think our choices are often quite limited practically speaking, because they depend on our current circumstances, our previous experience, our personality traits, and so on.
Can you explain what you mean by "practically speaking" when speaking about our choices? I'm asking because for me if I think "are my choices often quite limited practically speaking" the answer I come up with is definitely "no"......so I think that I must be using a different definition for "practically speaking" than you are.
chownah
A choice of holiday destination is one example. On paper somebody could go pretty much anywhere, but for somebody who doesn't like flying and doesn't have much money, the options would be severely limited.
"My religion is very simple - my religion is ice-cream."
Dairy Lama

chownah
Posts: 6595
Joined: Wed Aug 12, 2009 2:19 pm

Re: Did the Buddha teach we have choice? (aka The Great Free Will v Determinism Debate)

Post by chownah » Wed Dec 06, 2017 11:50 am

Spiny Norman wrote:
Wed Dec 06, 2017 9:15 am
chownah wrote:
Mon Dec 04, 2017 12:04 pm
Spiny Norman wrote:
Mon Dec 04, 2017 11:24 am

I think our choices are often quite limited practically speaking, because they depend on our current circumstances, our previous experience, our personality traits, and so on.
Can you explain what you mean by "practically speaking" when speaking about our choices? I'm asking because for me if I think "are my choices often quite limited practically speaking" the answer I come up with is definitely "no"......so I think that I must be using a different definition for "practically speaking" than you are.
chownah
A choice of holiday destination is one example. On paper somebody could go pretty much anywhere, but for somebody who doesn't like flying and doesn't have much money, the options would be severely limited.
I guess the difference between our outlooks is the glass half empty vs. glass half full. You seem to view it like since our choices are not unlimited then they are quite limited. My view is more like I know I can't do everything but there are still a huge number of possibilities to choose from.

About the holiday destination directly: If one has little money one can have a stay at home holiday and in place of "destination" one can have "activities". Could be watching lots of movies and then the choice of movies is huge....it could be to go to a penny arcade and then you would have to decide which one to go to. You could go to a park (which one?) and have a picnic (make and take food to save money or buy some nice take out?) and invite some friends (or not), fly a kite (or not) (or two), swim (or not) at the park or find a park near a swimming pool, rent some skates (or not)....etc. the possibilities are pretty large really......but of course any finite amount of possibilities will seem quite limited when compared to considering infinite possibilities.
chownah
P.S. You could probably see this post coming, couldn't you .
mr. rose colored glases chownah

User avatar
DNS
Site Admin
Posts: 10931
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 4:15 am
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Contact:

Re: Did the Buddha teach we have choice? (aka The Great Free Will v Determinism Debate)

Post by DNS » Wed Dec 06, 2017 5:33 pm

chownah wrote:
Wed Dec 06, 2017 11:50 am
About the holiday destination directly: If one has little money one can have a stay at home holiday and in place of "destination" one can have "activities". Could be watching lots of movies and then the choice of movies is huge....it could be to go to a penny arcade and then you would have to decide which one to go to. You could go to a park (which one?) and have a picnic (make and take food to save money or buy some nice take out?) and invite some friends (or not), fly a kite (or not) (or two), swim (or not) at the park or find a park near a swimming pool, rent some skates (or not)....etc. the possibilities are pretty large really......but of course any finite amount of possibilities will seem quite limited when compared to considering infinite possibilities.
Determinism theory (if you are referring to that) is much more than that. It's not about having limited options. According to determinism, there are no options. That we have many options available is an illusion, according to determinism. Place 5 toys in front of you and there is no choice, it is already determined, already known which one you will pick up. It is determined by genes and biology, your past actions (which were also pre-determined and set) not any free will or anything else, according to determinism.

Potentially, according to determinism, if some 'super-computer' could be made which could analyze the DNA, the genes of everyone, all future weather events, then this super computer could accurately predict who the U.S. president will be 40 years from now and virtually everything else.

The moment life began on earth, the whole process was already set in motion and you had no control over it; it's all just a show and we're along for the ride. It's kind of depressing, imo, to take a full-strict deterministic view, but that is the position of hard-core determinism.

pyluyten
Posts: 50
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2017 9:08 am

Re: Did the Buddha teach we have choice? (aka The Great Free Will v Determinism Debate)

Post by pyluyten » Wed Dec 06, 2017 8:46 pm

Potentially, according to determinism, if some 'super-computer' could be made which could analyze the DNA, the genes of everyone, all future weather events, then this super computer could accurately predict who the U.S. president will be 40 years from now and virtually everything else.
to me things are more complicated now. It was a perfect definition previously. Now we have to distinguish, yes every cause has an effect, and this follow physical rules that can be described. But, predicting is impossible because it would imply information that is not possible to have. It is not only that computers are too small, but more than it is not possible to observe everything.
So things can be determined but not predictable.

chownah
Posts: 6595
Joined: Wed Aug 12, 2009 2:19 pm

Re: Did the Buddha teach we have choice? (aka The Great Free Will v Determinism Debate)

Post by chownah » Thu Dec 07, 2017 2:13 am

DNS wrote:
Wed Dec 06, 2017 5:33 pm
chownah wrote:
Wed Dec 06, 2017 11:50 am
About the holiday destination directly: If one has little money one can have a stay at home holiday and in place of "destination" one can have "activities". Could be watching lots of movies and then the choice of movies is huge....it could be to go to a penny arcade and then you would have to decide which one to go to. You could go to a park (which one?) and have a picnic (make and take food to save money or buy some nice take out?) and invite some friends (or not), fly a kite (or not) (or two), swim (or not) at the park or find a park near a swimming pool, rent some skates (or not)....etc. the possibilities are pretty large really......but of course any finite amount of possibilities will seem quite limited when compared to considering infinite possibilities.
Determinism theory (if you are referring to that)
I was refering to spiny normans post:
I think our choices are often quite limited practically speaking, because they depend on our current circumstances, our previous experience, our personality traits, and so on.
So, you can decide whether "our choices are often quite limited practically speaking" is talking about determinism theory or not. I don't know because I don't follow the theoretics of determism to any significant degree because it is purely speculative and I prefer to spend my time considering things with some grounding in experiential reality.
chownah

User avatar
Spiny Norman
Posts: 5162
Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 10:32 am
Location: Spam, wonderful spam

Re: Did the Buddha teach we have choice? (aka The Great Free Will v Determinism Debate)

Post by Spiny Norman » Thu Dec 07, 2017 9:55 am

chownah wrote:
Wed Dec 06, 2017 11:50 am
mr. rose colored glases chownah
Bah humbug. :tongue:
"My religion is very simple - my religion is ice-cream."
Dairy Lama

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: dhammapal, Goofaholix, JohnK, one_awakening and 70 guests