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

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
chownah
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Re: Did the Buddha teach we have choice? (aka The Great Free Will v Determinism Debate)

Post by chownah » Sat Dec 02, 2017 4:30 am

Saengnapha wrote:
Sat Dec 02, 2017 3:16 am
I don't mean to offend, but the best thing you can do is to stop thinking about free will and whether we have it. It is a make believe problem based on a make believe sense of there being a substantial self that wants to identify with something. :toilet:
Yeah, I pretty much agree with this completely. I think the only thing that the question of 'free will or not' is good for is as a way to focus on the question of a substantial self and self indentification.....perhaps this is harris's reason for presenting his talk.....clearly he is no dummy.

I still think I should get a prize or something.
chownah

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

Post by SamKR » Sat Dec 02, 2017 5:01 am

Dependent-arising, as taught by the Buddha, rules out both "free will" & "determinism".

Negating "free will" does not mean "determinism" is true, and negating "determinism" does not mean "free will" is true. Both "free will" and "determinism" are views based on avijja.

As long as there is the sense of self, there is the sense of "free will", and vice versa. When there is a realization of no self, there is no sense of "free will" but only dependent will, and vice versa.

As long as there is the sense of inherent existence of things (that is independently existing), there is possibility of the sense of "determinism". When there is a realization that inherent existence is an illusion, there no sense of "determinism" but only dependently arising instantaneous phenomena.

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

Post by Dinsdale » Sat Dec 02, 2017 9:57 am

I think we make choices continuously, though mostly unconsciously. IMO many aspects of the 8-fold path involve conscious choices based on mindfulness and discernment.
Buddha save me from new-agers!

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

Post by Dinsdale » Sat Dec 02, 2017 10:01 am

SamKR wrote:
Sat Dec 02, 2017 5:01 am
Dependent-arising, as taught by the Buddha, rules out both "free will" & "determinism".
Do you mean that choices arise in dependence on conditions?
Buddha save me from new-agers!

mal4mac
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Re: Did the Buddha teach we have choice? (aka The Great Free Will v Determinism Debate)

Post by mal4mac » Sat Dec 02, 2017 10:40 am

cappuccino wrote:
Fri Dec 01, 2017 11:25 pm
well destiny doesn't need intention, karma needs intention
If karma exists.
- Mal

mal4mac
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Re: 'The illusion of free will' by Sam Harris is a dangerous idea, but can anyone disprove it?

Post by mal4mac » Sat Dec 02, 2017 11:25 am

chownah wrote:
Sat Dec 02, 2017 2:05 am
mal4mac wrote:
Fri Dec 01, 2017 3:54 pm
chownah wrote:
Fri Dec 01, 2017 12:10 pm

At time mark 0:30 harris says that everything you think and do arises from an ocean of prior causes. This seems to be pretty much the basis of his point of view on the matter of free will. If this is the basis then he is making a huge error in logic....he is assuming what he is trying to prove.
Is he making a point based on logic? He might just be stating a commonly accepted hypothesis. Of course you can doubt what he says, but then you need to point to something that is *without doubt* not part of the ocean.
Take harris's logical approach to the subject out of the presentation and what is left?
You look at the crows in the field and see they are all black, then you make the hypothesis that all crows are black. Would you call this logic? OK maybe it's inductive logic, I'm a physicist by training so I'm not an expert on logic, but I usually take people to mean "strict deductive logic" when they something is logical or not (E.g., Socrates is a man,all men are mortal, therefore Socrates is mortal would be deductive logic.)

Sam's "logic" is of the "all crows are black" variety - all phenomena look like they are caused, therefore causality rules. When something has looked uncaused ("comet in the sky...") it has eventually been shown to be caused ("big rock in orbit comes close to sun...".) So it's reasonable to explore the feeling that we have free will to see if it's actually caused. In fact, there have been experiments (Libet?) that show the nervous system moves to make a choice BEFORE you actually feel you are making your "free" choice. So the case that there is no free will is receiving strong scientific backing, maybe not clinching, but good enough for me and Sam. In actuality I don't think about this much - free will or not, who cares, what does it matter? Go and meditate, go read a novel, both are a lot more fun than chewing on unanswerable, unimportant questions like this (unless you are in the mood for a chew, which I am once a month or so...)
chownah wrote:
Sat Dec 02, 2017 2:05 am
I reallly do not think that "free will is an illusion" is a commonly accepted hypothesis.
I think it is amongst psychologists who work in this area, and the greatest scientists/thinkers with broad ranging minds. Prove me wrong - find me a big name who believes in free will.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/scien ... 08181.html

chownah wrote:
Fri Dec 01, 2017 12:10 pm
I'm not sure whether even the existence of an ocean of prior causes can be proven ...
It doesn't need to be proven! It's a scientific hypothesis. If you want to disprove it you need to find a counter example. If I say "all crows are black" then you need to find a white crow to "disprove" my hypothesis. So to "disprove" Sam you need to find a non causal event. Sam doesn't need to show that *all* events are caused - that would be asking too much of Sam. If Sam had to prove that all crows are black he would have to find every crow in the world, look in every space that might contain a crow, every planet in the Universe that just might have crows. But there might be a crow in space, so he actually has to look in every crow sized space in the universe, before he could say "all crows are black for sure! You might then say, "one white crow was just born near Alpha Centauri", so Sam actually has to be omnipotent to see every crow sized space to see if it contains a crow now!
chownah wrote:
Fri Dec 01, 2017 12:10 pm
Nothing can be proven.....that is the best lesson this video imparts I think...why not just relax and say "I don't know"?......after all nothing can be proven anyway.
Even if something is not known for sure, uncertain knowledge is often useful. Imagine you have a million dollar quiz question. "Are crows black or white?" Would you say, "Nothing is certain, I don't know", or "Black!"?
- Mal

mal4mac
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Re: Did the Buddha teach we have choice? (aka The Great Free Will v Determinism Debate)

Post by mal4mac » Sat Dec 02, 2017 11:34 am

Saengnapha wrote:
Sat Dec 02, 2017 3:16 am
... stop thinking about free will and whether we have it. It is a make believe problem based on a make believe sense of there being a substantial self that wants to identify with something. :toilet:
But maybe there is a substantial self, maybe Buddhists are wrong. That said, I think they're right, and I think modern psychologists have caught up with them and agree with them (e.g., see Robert Wright's hot-of-the-shelf book, "Why Buddhism is true")
- Mal

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

Re: 'The illusion of free will' by Sam Harris is a dangerous idea, but can anyone disprove it?

Post by chownah » Sat Dec 02, 2017 12:07 pm

mal4mac wrote:
Sat Dec 02, 2017 11:25 am
chownah wrote:
Sat Dec 02, 2017 2:05 am
mal4mac wrote:
Fri Dec 01, 2017 3:54 pm


Is he making a point based on logic? He might just be stating a commonly accepted hypothesis. Of course you can doubt what he says, but then you need to point to something that is *without doubt* not part of the ocean.
Take harris's logical approach to the subject out of the presentation and what is left?
You look at the crows in the field and see they are all black, then you make the hypothesis that all crows are black. Would you call this logic? OK maybe it's inductive logic, I'm a physicist by training so I'm not an expert on logic, but I usually take people to mean "strict deductive logic" when they something is logical or not (E.g., Socrates is a man,all men are mortal, therefore Socrates is mortal would be deductive logic.)

Sam's "logic" is of the "all crows are black" variety - all phenomena look like they are caused, therefore causality rules. When something has looked uncaused ("comet in the sky...") it has eventually been shown to be caused ("big rock in orbit comes close to sun...".) So it's reasonable to explore the feeling that we have free will to see if it's actually caused. In fact, there have been experiments (Libet?) that show the nervous system moves to make a choice BEFORE you actually feel you are making your "free" choice. So the case that there is no free will is receiving strong scientific backing, maybe not clinching, but good enough for me and Sam. In actuality I don't think about this much - free will or not, who cares, what does it matter? Go and meditate, go read a novel, both are a lot more fun than chewing on unanswerable, unimportant questions like this (unless you are in the mood for a chew, which I am once a month or so...)
chownah wrote:
Sat Dec 02, 2017 2:05 am
I reallly do not think that "free will is an illusion" is a commonly accepted hypothesis.
I think it is amongst psychologists who work in this area, and the greatest scientists/thinkers with broad ranging minds. Prove me wrong - find me a big name who believes in free will.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/scien ... 08181.html

chownah wrote:
Fri Dec 01, 2017 12:10 pm
I'm not sure whether even the existence of an ocean of prior causes can be proven ...
It doesn't need to be proven! It's a scientific hypothesis. If you want to disprove it you need to find a counter example. If I say "all crows are black" then you need to find a white crow to "disprove" my hypothesis. So to "disprove" Sam you need to find a non causal event. Sam doesn't need to show that *all* events are caused - that would be asking too much of Sam. If Sam had to prove that all crows are black he would have to find every crow in the world, look in every space that might contain a crow, every planet in the Universe that just might have crows. But there might be a crow in space, so he actually has to look in every crow sized space in the universe, before he could say "all crows are black for sure! You might then say, "one white crow was just born near Alpha Centauri", so Sam actually has to be omnipotent to see every crow sized space to see if it contains a crow now!
chownah wrote:
Fri Dec 01, 2017 12:10 pm
Nothing can be proven.....that is the best lesson this video imparts I think...why not just relax and say "I don't know"?......after all nothing can be proven anyway.
Even if something is not known for sure, uncertain knowledge is often useful. Imagine you have a million dollar quiz question. "Are crows black or white?" Would you say, "Nothing is certain, I don't know", or "Black!"?
I really don't know what you are arguing about or who you are arguing with. I think that what I said must have been pretty effective at deconstructing something you hold to dearly because your reaction has been....has been....????
Here is what I said in reply to manas which started you onto this path and I stick by it 100%:
At time mark 0:30 harris says that everything you think and do arises from an ocean of prior causes. This seems to be pretty much the basis of his point of view on the matter of free will. If this is the basis then he is making a huge error in logic....he is assuming what he is trying to prove. I'm not sure whether even the exitence of an ocean of prior causes can be proven but putting that uncertainty aside and assuming that an ocean of prior causes exists then the task remains to prove that there is no other active principle other than prior cause.

He repeats his error at time mark 6:30 where he says, "your beliefs about the world are formed in a perfect crucible of prior causes." Again, maybe your beliefs are formed in relation to some 'perfect crucible of prior causes' but not in it....not with it being the only causitive agent. Again, he is assuming what he is trying to prove.
OOOOOps.
Basically harris's arguement is "everything is predetermined by prior cause so therefore there is no free will". Ridiculous?....or "my what a very very clever person it took to come up with this wonderful arguement."
chownah

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

Post by SamKR » Sat Dec 02, 2017 12:29 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:
Sat Dec 02, 2017 10:01 am
SamKR wrote:
Sat Dec 02, 2017 5:01 am
Dependent-arising, as taught by the Buddha, rules out both "free will" & "determinism".
Do you mean that choices arise in dependence on conditions?
Yes.

"Choices" appear to be independent personal choices but in fact they are not. But wait, that does not lead to determinism as is normally understood.

Choices are always dependent but that does not imply determinism in the sense of everything is pre-determined, or in the sense of fatalism, or in the sense that there exists a chain of causation and everything's causes can be traced (such a chain does not "exist" inherently and is an empty idea which itself arises dependently).

Things are not pre-determined, and it may not be possible to trace the chain of causation, yet "when this is that is, when this is not that is not" always applies instantaneously (time is irrelevant), and there can't be a "free" choice of an agent.

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

Post by Saengnapha » Sat Dec 02, 2017 4:25 pm

mal4mac wrote:
Sat Dec 02, 2017 11:34 am
Saengnapha wrote:
Sat Dec 02, 2017 3:16 am
... stop thinking about free will and whether we have it. It is a make believe problem based on a make believe sense of there being a substantial self that wants to identify with something. :toilet:
But maybe there is a substantial self, maybe Buddhists are wrong. That said, I think they're right, and I think modern psychologists have caught up with them and agree with them (e.g., see Robert Wright's hot-of-the-shelf book, "Why Buddhism is true")
Certainly, it feels like there is a substantial self. And, we act like there is a substantial self. Putting your attention on the internal activities of our subjectivity, we can begin to understand something about our habitual reactions and beliefs and take a lot of steam out of the activity of self creation.

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

Post by alfa » Sun Dec 03, 2017 2:48 pm

This is quite interesting.

Let's say I am tempted to steal.

I have two choices - either suppress the temptation or give in to it.

Let's say I choose the former. Who makes this choice? The self.

What is the self? The entity conditioned to believe that stealing is wrong.

Therefore, action that springs from the 'self' is conditioned.

Still, a choice is a choice, conditioned or not?

Hmm.....

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

Post by Dinsdale » Mon Dec 04, 2017 11:24 am

SamKR wrote:
Sat Dec 02, 2017 12:29 pm
Spiny Norman wrote:
Sat Dec 02, 2017 10:01 am
SamKR wrote:
Sat Dec 02, 2017 5:01 am
Dependent-arising, as taught by the Buddha, rules out both "free will" & "determinism".
Do you mean that choices arise in dependence on conditions?
Yes.

"Choices" appear to be independent personal choices but in fact they are not. But wait, that does not lead to determinism as is normally understood.

Choices are always dependent but that does not imply determinism in the sense of everything is pre-determined, or in the sense of fatalism, or in the sense that there exists a chain of causation and everything's causes can be traced (such a chain does not "exist" inherently and is an empty idea which itself arises dependently).

Things are not pre-determined, and it may not be possible to trace the chain of causation, yet "when this is that is, when this is not that is not" always applies instantaneously (time is irrelevant), and there can't be a "free" choice of an agent.
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.
Buddha save me from new-agers!

mal4mac
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Re: Did the Buddha teach we have choice? (aka The Great Free Will v Determinism Debate)

Post by mal4mac » Mon Dec 04, 2017 11:51 am

alfa wrote:
Sun Dec 03, 2017 2:48 pm
This is quite interesting.

Let's say I am tempted to steal.

I have two choices - either suppress the temptation or give in to it.

Let's say I choose the former. Who makes this choice? The self.

What is the self? The entity conditioned to believe that stealing is wrong.

Therefore, action that springs from the 'self' is conditioned.

Still, a choice is a choice, conditioned or not?

Hmm.....
It's not really a choice, it just feels like a choice.

I might lock you up for stealing though

... if it's the best way to condition you not to steal.
- Mal

mal4mac
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Re: Did the Buddha teach we have choice? (aka The Great Free Will v Determinism Debate)

Post by mal4mac » Mon Dec 04, 2017 11:57 am

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.
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"? Vipissana is about letting go of everything, so that the unconditioned (Nibbana) is revealed. So Nibbana is the only unconditioned thing in Buddhist philosophy, isn't it? Or am I missing something?
- Mal

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

Post by chownah » 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

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