Free will vs determinism in Buddhism?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
PeterB
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Re: Free-will is it an illusion?

Post by PeterB » Thu Jul 22, 2010 4:23 pm

I would advise you tp repost your inquiry in the General Theravada Forum Dharma Atma. That way you will get a reply which is from a Theravada perspective. Posting in the Dhamma Free For All you may not.

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Nibbida
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Mindfulness & Autonomy: Buddhist Theory of Free Will

Post by Nibbida » Mon Jul 26, 2010 5:37 pm

An interesting talk on the topic:

http://www.youtube.com/user/aaaricuny#p ... aHtmm46OP0" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

The introductory explanation for the talk:
"I argued in my dissertation that the 'hard' metaphysical problem of free will may be explained in simple, metaphysically 'easy' causal/functional terms as a product of the mechanics of metacognitive mental causation: There seems to be a causal connection between the extent to which the mind can "go meta-", or loop back in reflectively on its own processes (e.g., think about its thoughts, prefer its desires, etc.), and self-regulation (autonomy, free will), evident in sensory-motor agility, biofeedback, and a host of related phenomena of an equally mundane nature.

The present research explores two new directions to this line of thought: (1) the extent to which mindfulness and other meditation practices increase self-regulation or autonomy, and (2) the extent to which one may develop a cogent version of a Buddhist theory of free will based on these ideas.

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Sobeh
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Re: Mindfulness & Autonomy: Buddhist Theory of Free Will

Post by Sobeh » Mon Jul 26, 2010 6:46 pm

Interesting, but I'm unable to locate the remain 5/6ths of the talk.

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josephcmabad
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free will?

Post by josephcmabad » Fri Apr 15, 2011 10:51 am

What is the Buddhist take on free will? does it or does not exist? is our life predetermined? :juggling:

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mikenz66
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Re: free will?

Post by mikenz66 » Fri Apr 15, 2011 12:06 pm

Some discussions here:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=6234" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=5049" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

:anjali:
Mike

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Nibbida
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Re: free will?

Post by Nibbida » Sat Apr 16, 2011 3:42 am

This is an interesting talk on the topic by philosopher/Buddhist, Rick Repetti, Ph.D.:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jaHtmm46OP0

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Alex123
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Re: free will?

Post by Alex123 » Sat Apr 16, 2011 3:01 pm

josephcmabad wrote:What is the Buddhist take on free will? does it or does not exist? is our life predetermined? :juggling:
Regardless of whether there is or isn't "free" will, the answer that matters is to do the best that you can.
"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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Re: free will?

Post by dhammapal » Sun Apr 17, 2011 7:52 am

The Buddha transl. Thanissaro wrote:Having approached the priests & contemplatives who hold that... 'Whatever a person experiences... is all caused by what was done in the past,' I said to them: 'Is it true that you hold that... "Whatever a person experiences... is all caused by what was done in the past?"' Thus asked by me, they admitted, 'Yes.' Then I said to them, 'Then in that case, a person is a killer of living beings because of what was done in the past. A person is a thief... unchaste... a liar... a divisive speaker... a harsh speaker... an idle chatterer... greedy... malicious... a holder of wrong views because of what was done in the past.' When one falls back on what was done in the past as being essential, monks, there is no desire, no effort [at the thought], 'This should be done. This shouldn't be done.' When one can't pin down as a truth or reality what should & shouldn't be done, one dwells bewildered & unprotected. One cannot righteously refer to oneself as a contemplative. This was my first righteous refutation of those priests & contemplatives who hold to such teachings, such views.
From: Tittha Sutta: Sectarians translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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daverupa
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Re: free will?

Post by daverupa » Sun Apr 17, 2011 8:40 pm

The point of repurposing "kamma" from Hindu meanings to Dhammic ones is to show both that choices can be made, and which choices are wholesome and unwholesome, i.e. germane to the Path.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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LonesomeYogurt
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Free will and the mind

Post by LonesomeYogurt » Wed Mar 07, 2012 9:34 pm

I'm reading Sam Harris' book Free Will and many of his ideas mirror the traditional view on Buddhist non-self. So my question is, if we are not the thinker of our own thoughts, and feelings and mental states are arising and ceasing without creation by a central self, how do "we" still make effort towards purifying the mind? Does the concept of non-self rule out all control over the mind, or are we still able to somehow emphasize certain mental states through mindfulness? And if so, what in our mind is doing the emphasizing? I don't want this to turn into a general discussion of free will, but I'd love to see some Buddhist views on a specifically Buddhist model of free will.

If we're meditating, a thought may arise without "our" intention to do so. When we direct our attention towards noting it, isn't that intention to note simply arising from the ceasing of the previous thought? And if this is the case, is there any volition involved, or is the mind completely deterministic, and our noting, examining, and purifying actions are all simply arising from the ceasing of a previous thought, which arose from a previous cause, etc. etc. Is our path to Nibbana one which we have no control over, instead being the inevitable result of previous causes? How can we reconcile a non-self view of the mind with the idea of volition?

Thanks for helping me with this niggling question.

May all beings be happy!
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.

Virgo
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Re: Free will and the mind

Post by Virgo » Wed Mar 07, 2012 10:13 pm

LonesomeYogurt wrote:I'm reading Sam Harris' book Free Will and many of his ideas mirror the traditional view on Buddhist non-self. So my question is, if we are not the thinker of our own thoughts, and feelings and mental states are arising and ceasing without creation by a central self, how do "we" still make effort towards purifying the mind? Does the concept of non-self rule out all control over the mind, or are we still able to somehow emphasize certain mental states through mindfulness? And if so, what in our mind is doing the emphasizing? I don't want this to turn into a general discussion of free will, but I'd love to see some Buddhist views on a specifically Buddhist model of free will.

If we're meditating, a thought may arise without "our" intention to do so. When we direct our attention towards noting it, isn't that intention to note simply arising from the ceasing of the previous thought? And if this is the case, is there any volition involved, or is the mind completely deterministic,
There is volition involved at times, based on causes and conditions. You see, even will and volition are "not-self". This, however, is not pre-deterministic.

Kevin

Virgo
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Re: Free will and the mind

Post by Virgo » Wed Mar 07, 2012 10:24 pm

Ask yourself, does volition which can cause things to happen, bring about change, initiate action, etc. arise completely without causes and conditions? Nothing arises without causes and conditions. So while volition can help to bring about results it does not exist unless the proper causes and conditions for it are present.

Kevin

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retrofuturist
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Re: Free will and the mind

Post by retrofuturist » Wed Mar 07, 2012 10:30 pm

Greetings LY,
LonesomeYogurt wrote:Is our path to Nibbana one which we have no control over, instead being the inevitable result of previous causes?
This was the view of one of the Buddha's contemporaries, Makkhali Gosala...
DN 2 wrote:Just as a ball of string, when thrown, comes to its end simply by unwinding, in the same way, having transmigrated and wandered on, the wise and the foolish alike will put an end to pain.'
Unsurprisingly, it's not a view shared by the Buddha.
LonesomeYogurt wrote:How can we reconcile a non-self view of the mind with the idea of volition?
However you do it, you definitely don't do it like Pakudha Kaccayana...
DN 2 wrote:there are these seven substances — unmade, irreducible, uncreated, without a creator, barren, stable as a mountain-peak, standing firm like a pillar — that do not alter, do not change, do not interfere with one another, are incapable of causing one another pleasure, pain, or both pleasure and pain. Which seven? The earth-substance, the liquid-substance, the fire-substance, the wind-substance, pleasure, pain, and the soul as the seventh. These are the seven substances — unmade, irreducible, uncreated, without a creator, barren, stable as a mountain-peak, standing firm like a pillar — that do not alter, do not change, do not interfere with one another, and are incapable of causing one another pleasure, pain, or both pleasure and pain.

"'And among them there is no killer nor one who causes killing, no hearer nor one who causes hearing, no cognizer nor one who causes cognition. When one cuts off [another person's] head, there is no one taking anyone's life. It is simply between the seven substances that the sword passes.'
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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Sam Vara
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Re: Free will and the mind

Post by Sam Vara » Wed Mar 07, 2012 10:33 pm

The only way I can think of squaring this particular circle is as follows. Free will is real, both as a condition for my meaningful existence in the world and because intention (cetana) is necessary for the existence of kamma. But the freedom is itself a conditioned phenomenon, both as regards its scope, and its origin. We cannot, that is, freely choose anything at any given moment. And it only arises due to the causal activities of phenomena which we have no control over; genetics, for example, and various biological and social processes. Intention is merely the fleeting ability of the individual being to direct itself and create its own future.

But this freedom is merely another phenomenon among phenomena. It is not what we are.

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reflection
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Re: Free will and the mind

Post by reflection » Thu Mar 08, 2012 12:37 am

The Buddhist model of free will is anatta.. So free will is will that is free from a self.
In deep meditation the will shuts off and everything happens on its own. Than it becomes clearer we have no such thing as free will.. Maybe a bit scary, but in fact it is a relief because you can easily forgive all the bad choices that you ever made :tongue:

Richard
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Re: Free will and the mind

Post by Richard » Thu Mar 08, 2012 2:07 am

Friends,

On the issue of free will from a Buddhist viewpoint, I know of nothing better than Peter Harvey, "Freedom of the Will in the Light of Theravada Buddhist Teachings," which appeared in the online Journal of Buddhist Ethics, vol. 14, 2007.
http://blogs.dickinson.edu/buddhistethi ... ticle1.pdf

Richard

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ground
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Re: Free will and the mind

Post by ground » Thu Mar 08, 2012 2:19 am

Only if something does not depend on conditions it may be called "free".

Kind regards

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kirk5a
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Re: Free will and the mind

Post by kirk5a » Thu Mar 08, 2012 2:19 am

I wouldn't spend much mental energy on sorting out someone's philosophical conclusions, even if they sound like they might be related to Buddhism (kinda sorta maybe). Beware the thicket of views. The Buddha's teachings don't require us to suppose "if there is no free will then..." or "the concept of non-self entails this or that... "
"He thinks any thought he wants to think, and doesn't think any thought he doesn't want to think. He wills any resolve he wants to will, and doesn't will any resolve he doesn't want to will. He has attained mastery of the mind with regard to the pathways of thought.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
"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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Kim OHara
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Re: Free will and the mind

Post by Kim OHara » Thu Mar 08, 2012 2:21 am

Richard wrote:Friends,

On the issue of free will from a Buddhist viewpoint, I know of nothing better than Peter Harvey, "Freedom of the Will in the Light of Theravada Buddhist Teachings," which appeared in the online Journal of Buddhist Ethics, vol. 14, 2007.
http://blogs.dickinson.edu/buddhistethi ... ticle1.pdf

Richard
Thanks, Richard - I haven't got time to read it all now but what I did read looks great and I have saved it for later.

:namaste:
Kim

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Viscid
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Re: Free will and the mind

Post by Viscid » Thu Mar 08, 2012 2:51 am

I've never heard a good definition of 'free will.' Nothing ever satisfies and the arguments for it always seem empty.

Do you recommend Sam Harris' book?
"What holds attention determines action." - William James

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