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

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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tiltbillings
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Post by tiltbillings » Sat Nov 20, 2010 5:14 am

Alex123 wrote: Either choice is fully determined, or it "just appears out of blue sky". In none of these two options there is any control or "personal agency" to influence the choice and its outcome.
Taking fully determine to mean a mechanical causality, as you described it, the Buddha did not teach either option.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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

Post by cooran » Sat Nov 20, 2010 7:44 am

Hello all,

Might be worth the read:

Kamma and Causality - Francis Story
’Does everything happen in our lives according to kamma?’ This question is not one that can be answered by a plain affirmation or denial, since it involves the whole question of free-will against determinism, or, in familiar language, ’fatalism’. The nearest that can be given to a simple answer is to say that most of the major circumstances and events of life are conditioned by kamma, but not all.

If everything, down to the minutest detail, were pre-conditioned either by kamma or by the physical laws of the universe, there would be no room in the pattern of strict causality for the functioning of free-will. It would therefore be impossible for us to free ourselves from the mechanism of cause and effect; it would be impossible to attain Nibbana.
.......................
http://www.bps.lk/olib/wh/wh221-p.html# ... dCausality" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

with metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---

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

Post by cooran » Sat Nov 20, 2010 8:26 am

And another:

Kamma and Freedom - Francis Story
The problems encountered in relating the Buddhist doctrine of kamma to the issue of causality and freedom, are largely ones of meaning. They particularly revolve around the meaning of such concepts as causation, conditioning and determination. Buddhism does not deny that man is largely conditioned by his circumstances and environment. But the conditioning is not absolute. It may almost amount to determinism, and the margin of free-will may be very slight indeed, but it is always present.
................................
http://www.bps.lk/olib/wh/wh221-p.html#KammaandFreedom" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

with metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---

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Alex123
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Post by Alex123 » Sat Nov 20, 2010 4:29 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote:
Alex123 wrote: There are but these two alternatives. Either choice is dependent on causes, or choice is not dependent on causes.
Alex,
Why do you exclude the possibility that choice is constrained by, but not fully dependent upon, causes?

:namaste:
Kim
If choice is within the cause-effect and there is nothing outside of conditioning that can modify it, then choice is fully constrained by those conditions. If choice is outside of cause-effect, then there is possibility of unconditioned choice. But even then, the idea of unconditioned choice is absurd. That unconditioned cause just appears for no apparent cause. Again, this excludes the idea of agent making a full choice.

Some worldly philosophers propose that while the Body and all its motions are fully conditioned and follows deterministic laws of physics/chemistry/biology, the soul does not follow materialistic laws and it can control the body, thus giving free choice, free will. There is a problem here. If the body is fully constrained only by physical laws, then only they "choose" what the body does (such as pulling a trigger, or giving donations). The soul would, at best, be passive observer of physical laws moving the body.
So no choice to alter bodily movements and so on. Some can replace "soul" with "functional choice", and it still would be the same for all intents and purposes.

A constrained choice is constrained by those constrains. It is not free.

There are worldly ideas of a compatibility of choice within cause-effect world, but that would require an Agent outside of conditionality that can fully choose. This is untenable from Buddhist perspective.


With metta,

Alex
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

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kirk5a
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Post by kirk5a » Sat Nov 20, 2010 5:55 pm

Alex123 wrote: If choice is within the cause-effect and there is nothing outside of conditioning that can modify it, then...
"Does Master Gotama have any position at all?"

"A 'position,' Vaccha, is something that a Tathagata has done away with. What a Tathagata sees is this: 'Such is form, such its origin, such its disappearance; such is feeling, such its origin, such its disappearance; such is perception... such are mental fabrications... such is consciousness, such its origin, such its disappearance.' Because of this, I say, a Tathagata — with the ending, fading out, cessation, renunciation, & relinquishment of all construings, all excogitations, all I-making & mine-making & obsession with conceit — is, through lack of clinging/sustenance, released."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Such was the Buddha's perspective.
"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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Alex123
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Post by Alex123 » Sat Nov 20, 2010 6:30 pm

Hi Kirk5a,

So are you saying that Tathagata is in some indescribable way outside of 5 aggregates? Is that what you are saying?
"What do you think: Do you regard the Tathagata as being in form?... Elsewhere than form?... In feeling?... Elsewhere than feeling?... In perception?... Elsewhere than perception?... In fabrications?... Elsewhere than fabrications?... In consciousness?... Elsewhere than consciousness?"
"No, my friend."
"What do you think: Do you regard the Tathagata as form-feeling-perception-fabrications-consciousness?"
"No, my friend."
"Do you regard the Tathagata as that which is without form, without feeling, without perception, without fabrications, without consciousness?"
"No, my friend."
"And so, my friend Yamaka — when you can't pin down the Tathagata as a truth or reality even in the present life
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
The Tathagata doesn't exist as some being-in-itself, that is why it can't be pinned down as truth or reality. It is just the process of Khandhas purified from unwholesome tendencies. There is no Tathagata over and beyond them. Conditionally arisen aggregates is all there is. And in this, there is no unconditioned free full choice.


With metta,

Alex
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

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kirk5a
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Post by kirk5a » Sat Nov 20, 2010 7:00 pm

Alex123 wrote:Hi Kirk5a,

So are you saying that Tathagata is in some indescribable way outside of 5 aggregates? Is that what you are saying?
LOL If I was saying that, I would have said that.

The Tathagata doesn't exist as some being-in-itself, that is why it can't be pinned down as truth or reality. It is just the process of Khandhas purified from unwholesome tendencies.
So then, you have pinned down the Tathagata.


There is no Tathagata over and beyond them. Conditionally arisen aggregates is all there is. And in this, there is no unconditioned free full choice.


With metta,

Alex
"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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mikenz66
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Post by mikenz66 » Sat Nov 20, 2010 7:09 pm

Hi Alex,

Since no one seems to be arguing that the Buddha taught the sort of "free will" that you are arguing against, and, furthermore, you've denied that the question has anything to do with practise:
Alex123 wrote:
Mikenz66 wrote: Your argument that "things are determined therefore only this particular approach to the Dhamma is correct"
I am not aware of saying that. What I think you may be referring to was my statement like "events happen the only possible way that they could have ever happened given those causes & conditions".
I'm not sure exactly who or what you are still arguing with.

:anjali:
Mike

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Alex123
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Post by Alex123 » Sat Nov 20, 2010 8:02 pm

Hi Mike, all,
mikenz66 wrote:Hi Alex,
I'm not sure exactly who or what you are still arguing with.
:anjali:
Mike
Idea of an Agent, and idea of free choice that is done (by what amounts to being an Agent).


With metta,

Alex
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

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

Post by retrofuturist » Sat Nov 20, 2010 10:49 pm

Greetings Alex,

No one is arguing in favour of an agent.

Ostensibly you continue to argue with straw-men.

Image

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Post by Individual » Sat Nov 20, 2010 11:11 pm

Too lazy to read through all the posts here, but I'll say: It depends on what you mean by choice.

The Buddha did teach that we have the ability to find freedom from suffering, but that freedom is found in the realization of impermanence and notself, not something that is intrinsic to our existence.Quite the contrary, many of us have limited will. Our bodies may be fully capable of getting up and doing this or that, but our minds are hindered by this or that fetter, and so is incapable. The Buddha said that many people are "as if already dead."

As I see it, then, this question is improperly framed, in terms of self: You ask do "we" have choice, but there is no person to attribute or not attribute freedom to, nor did the Buddha outright support or oppose the idea of agenthood. But rather, your question should instead be, "Is there a practice leading to freedom?" And the answer is: Yes. The Noble Eightfold path. :)

People should not bother themselves with these kinds of views, because in both cases they are a burden: For the determinist, he falsely thinks he cannot be free. And for the indeterminist, he falsely thinks he is already free. These kinds of delusions stand in the way of true freedom. :)
The best things in life aren't things.

The Diamond Sutra

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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Post by retrofuturist » Sat Nov 20, 2010 11:12 pm

:goodpost:
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

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

Post by tiltbillings » Sun Nov 21, 2010 3:21 am

Individual wrote: As I see it, then, this question is improperly framed, in terms of self: You ask do "we" have choice, but there is no person to attribute or not attribute freedom to, nor did the Buddha outright support or oppose the idea of agenthood. But rather, your question should instead be, "Is there a practice leading to freedom?" And the answer is: Yes. The Noble Eightfold path. :)
That is playing with words. If there is no person, then there is no practice.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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

Post by Hanzze » Sun Nov 21, 2010 3:27 am

If there is no more person, one could quit practice. He fulfilled his tasks.
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_

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

Post by tiltbillings » Sun Nov 21, 2010 3:28 am

Hanzze wrote:If there is no more person, one could quit practice. He fulfilled his tasks.
No person in the first place, no need to practice.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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

Post by Hanzze » Sun Nov 21, 2010 3:32 am

tiltbillings wrote:
Hanzze wrote:If there is no more person, one could quit practice. He fulfilled his tasks.
No person in the first place, no need to practice.
Thats why he teaches sometimes that and sometimes that :-) mind is tricky
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_

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

Post by tiltbillings » Sun Nov 21, 2010 3:33 am

Hanzze wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
Hanzze wrote:If there is no more person, one could quit practice. He fulfilled his tasks.
No person in the first place, no need to practice.
Thats why he teaches sometimes that and sometimes that :-) mind is tricky
Damdifino what you just said.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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

Post by alan » Sun Nov 21, 2010 3:35 am

Hamzze serves as comic relief. A useful function.

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

Post by Hanzze » Sun Nov 21, 2010 3:42 am

Was something wrong?
Do you think a comic is less real than a movie with real people? The advantage of a comic is that the most will not take it as real. I like comics, not so much danger of delusion. Just a monkey quote. :-)
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_

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

Post by tiltbillings » Sun Nov 21, 2010 4:32 am

alan wrote:Hamzze serves as comic relief. A useful function.
It helps if the comic can be understood.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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