Free will vs determinism in Buddhism?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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LonesomeYogurt
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Re: Free will and the mind

Post by LonesomeYogurt » Thu Mar 08, 2012 4:05 am

Viscid wrote: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?
Yeah it's very interesting, and you can really pick out the Buddhist influence which is cool.
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.

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Re: Free will and the mind

Post by hermitwin » Thu Mar 08, 2012 4:42 am

this self is an illusion.
within this illusion, you have volition and the consequences.
an arahant, who is free from the illusion of self, does not
generate kamma.
there is nobody there to create kamma.

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Re: Free will and the mind

Post by Virgo » Thu Mar 08, 2012 6:21 pm

Sam Vega wrote: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.
I like this a lot.

Kevin

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Re: Free will and the mind

Post by ancientbuddhism » Sun Mar 11, 2012 4:26 pm

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 ...
Federman's What kind of Free Will did the Buddha Teach? was mentioned in Harvey's paper and may be of interest.
  • “In the passages from the Upaniṣads that are quoted above, ātman is the inner
    controller. Knowing ātman gives the knower ultimate control and ultimate freedom
    to influence his destiny. By knowing ātman one becomes one’s own master and
    gains freedom of movement. The metaphor of mastery is echoed later in Buddhist
    texts, and stresses that the Buddha rejected ātman not only as a center of perception,
    but also as the center of control (more on this later).

    If knowledge of ātman is indeed so crucial for being one’s own master, being
    free and self-controlled, what should we make of the Buddha’s claim that no ātman
    can be found? There are two options. (1) With the rejection of ātman the Buddha
    provided a new source for ultimate free will. Or (2) with the rejection of ātman the
    Buddha rejected the idea of ultimate self-control and therefore rejected the idea of
    an ultimate free-will. The first hypothesis can easily be ruled out. Pāli texts do not
    suggest any alternative substance as the origin of ultimate control. They discuss reality
    in terms of processes, not in terms of substances. In such a reality there is action
    but there cannot be an ultimate source for action. The search for ultimate control
    must, then, be futile. If ultimate control is the definition of free will then the Buddha
    must have denied it.” (ibid. p. 6)
What Kind of Free Will Did the Buddha Teach_PEW_Federman_2010
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Re: Free will and the mind

Post by Viscid » Sun Mar 11, 2012 4:38 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:
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 ...
Federman's What kind of Free Will did the Buddha Teach? was mentioned in Harvey's paper and may be of interest.
Awesome citation, thanks for that.
"What holds attention determines action." - William James

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Re: Free will and the mind

Post by mikenz66 » Sun Mar 11, 2012 10:19 pm

One interesting thing that it potentially relevant is that some of the Thai monks I know actually translate anatta as "no control" and tell me that's (one of?) the Thai translation.

:anjali:
Mike

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Re: Free will and the mind

Post by danieLion » Sun Mar 11, 2012 10:58 pm

The Buddha taught on will, and on liberation, but nothing like what modern philosophers call "free-will". As B.F. Skinner put it, "...freedom is a struggle." IOW: The path to freedom is extremely difficult, and what little control we do have has to be reinforced/cultivated with the direction of our will (cetana/operant behavior) for such "freedom" to come about. What can we actually control? Our own behaviors/actions. Ironically/paradoxically/antimoniously (?), the more we can, as they saying goes, "control ourselves", the more free we become.

Also, in the anapanasati scheme, what gets liberated is mind (citta), and according to Thanissaro, one of the things it gets liberated from is vittaka and vicara as jhana factors.

Goodwill
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Re: Free will and the mind

Post by bodom » Sun Mar 11, 2012 11:22 pm

mikenz66 wrote:One interesting thing that it potentially relevant is that some of the Thai monks I know actually translate anatta as "no control" and tell me that's (one of?) the Thai translation.

:anjali:
Mike
Which would make sense considering...
"Bhikkhus, form is not-self. Were form self, then this form would not lead to affliction, and one could have it of form: 'Let my form be thus, let my form be not thus.' And since form is not-self, so it leads to affliction, and none can have it of form: 'Let my form be thus, let my form be not thus.'

"Bhikkhus, feeling is not-self...

"Bhikkhus, perception is not-self...

"Bhikkhus, determinations are not-self...

"Bhikkhus, consciousness is not self. Were consciousness self, then this consciousness would not lead to affliction, and one could have it of consciousness: 'Let my consciousness be thus, let my consciousness be not thus.' And since consciousness is not-self, so it leads to affliction...

SN 22.59
To study is to know the texts,
To practice is to know your defilements,
To attain the goal is to know and let go.

- Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo


With mindfulness immersed in the body
well established, restrained
with regard to the six media of contact,
always centered, the monk
can know Unbinding for himself.

- Ud 3.5


"Dont send the mind outside. Watch the mind right at the mind."

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Re: Free will and the mind

Post by Kenshou » Sun Mar 11, 2012 11:55 pm

Hm, I would think there is control to an extent in the same way that there is intention. The will to do actions is there, and that can influence things. Control, within certain limitations. But of course that limited control arises from intention born of specific conditions and is not the result of some central controller-entity.

Or maybe I'm overthinking it and the point is the lack of an absolute control which would prevent aging, death and so on as mentioned in Bodom's sutta.

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Re: Free will and the mind

Post by retrofuturist » Mon Mar 12, 2012 10:43 pm

Greetings Mike,
mikenz66 wrote:One interesting thing that it potentially relevant is that some of the Thai monks I know actually translate anatta as "no control" and tell me that's (one of?) the Thai translation.
It's an interesting one because if grasped incorrectly, could run counter to Right Effort (as can much of what some people write on the subject of free will and determinism).

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Re: Free will and the mind

Post by mikenz66 » Mon Mar 12, 2012 11:43 pm

retrofuturist wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:One interesting thing that it potentially relevant is that some of the Thai monks I know actually translate anatta as "no control" and tell me that's (one of?) the Thai translation.
It's an interesting one because if grasped incorrectly, could run counter to Right Effort (as can much of what some people write on the subject of free will and determinism).
Sure, but as pointed out above by Bodom, it's very clear that not-self is inexorably linked to the non-controllabilty of many aspects of existence.

:anjali:
Mike

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Re: Free will and the mind

Post by Prasadachitta » Tue Mar 13, 2012 3:08 am

mikenz66 wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:One interesting thing that it potentially relevant is that some of the Thai monks I know actually translate anatta as "no control" and tell me that's (one of?) the Thai translation.
It's an interesting one because if grasped incorrectly, could run counter to Right Effort (as can much of what some people write on the subject of free will and determinism).
Sure, but as pointed out above by Bodom, it's very clear that not-self is inexorably linked to the non-controllabilty of many aspects of existence.

:anjali:
Mike
We can not create or perceive permanence and that which is not permanent is not-self. I think this is the critical aspect of non-contollablity that is linked to annata. Im not clear on what other aspects would apply.
"Bhikkhus, how do you conceive it: is form permanent or impermanent?" — "Impermanent, venerable Sir." — "Now is what is impermanent painful or pleasant?" — "Painful, venerable Sir." — "Now is what is impermanent, what is painful since subject to change, fit to be regarded thus: 'This is mine, this is I, this is my self'"? — "No, venerable sir."

"Is feeling permanent or impermanent?...

"Is perception permanent or impermanent?...

"Are determinations permanent or impermanent?...

"Is consciousness permanent or impermanent?" — "Impermanent, venerable sir." — "Now is what is impermanent pleasant or painful?" — "Painful, venerable sir." — "Now is what is impermanent, what is painful since subject to change, fit to be regarded thus: 'This is mine, this is I, this is my self'"? — "No, venerable sir."

"So, bhikkhus any kind of form whatever, whether past, future or presently arisen, whether gross or subtle, whether in oneself or external, whether inferior or superior, whether far or near, must with right understanding how it is, be regarded thus: 'This is not mine, this is not I, this is not myself.
The degree to which other "aspects of existence" can be controlled is debatable and begs the question of what we mean by control.

Metta

Prasadachitta
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Re: Free will and the mind

Post by ancientbuddhism » Tue Mar 13, 2012 12:21 pm

Prasadachitta wrote:We can not create or perceive permanence and that which is not permanent is not-self. I think this is the critical aspect of non-contollablity that is linked to annata. Im not clear on what other aspects would apply.
  • “aniccasaññā bhāvetabbā asmimānasamugghātāya. aniccasaññino hi, meghiya, anattasaññā saṇṭhāti, anattasaññī asmimānasamugghātaṃ pāpuṇāti diṭṭheva dhamme nibbāna”nti.

    “ Perception of impermanence should be developed for the removal of the notion ‘I am’. Because of perception of impermanence, Meghiya, one is established in perception of non-self, with perception of non-self one comes to the removal of the notion ‘I am’ and knows the state of Nibbāna.”

    Atha kho bhagavā etamatthaṃ viditvā tāyaṃ velāyaṃ imaṃ udānaṃ udānesi

    Then, having known the significance of this, the Sublime One made this profound statement:

    “khuddā vitakkā sukhumā vitakkā,
    anugatā manaso uppilāvā.
    ete avidvā manaso vitakke,
    hurā huraṃ dhāvati bhantacitto.

    “Minute thoughts, slight thoughts;
    A churning mind will follow.
    Not knowing these thoughts of the mind;
    Intentions run staggering here and there.

    “ete ca vidvā manaso vitakke,
    ātāpiyo saṃvaratī satīmā.
    anugate manaso uppilāve,
    asesamete pajahāsi buddho”ti.

    “But knowing these thoughts of the mind;
    One of intense endeavor and mindfulness is restrained.
    Of this churning mind that would follow;
    The Awakened One entirely abandons.”

    – Ud. 4.1 Meghiya Sutta
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Re: Free will and the mind

Post by danieLion » Tue Mar 13, 2012 10:21 pm

Kenshou wrote:Hm, I would think there is control to an extent in the same way that there is intention. The will to do actions is there, and that can influence things. Control, within certain limitations. But of course that limited control arises from intention born of specific conditions and is not the result of some central controller-entity.

Or maybe I'm overthinking it and the point is the lack of an absolute control which would prevent aging, death and so on as mentioned in Bodom's sutta.
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=11767" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Goodwill
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Re: Free will and the mind

Post by Sarva » Sun Mar 18, 2012 11:32 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:
  • “In the passages from the Upaniṣads that are quoted above, ātman is the inner
    controller. Knowing ātman gives the knower ultimate control and ultimate freedom
    to influence his destiny. By knowing ātman one becomes one’s own master and
    gains freedom of movement. The metaphor of mastery is echoed later in Buddhist
    texts, and stresses that the Buddha rejected ātman not only as a center of perception,
    but also as the center of control (more on this later).

    If knowledge of ātman is indeed so crucial for being one’s own master, being
    free and self-controlled, what should we make of the Buddha’s claim that no ātman
    can be found? .. cut for space
Hello Ancientbuddhism and LonesomeYogurt
Good point, I wanted to add a thought here on ātman as the inner
controller (based on my understanding). The inner controller in this case implies that we have life i.e. without the ātman we would be a dead body so we have an inner controller, like a light within a lantern. However the ātman is not the doer of actions or the accumulator of karma because the ātman is always eternal and pure. All action according to the Bhagavad Gita is caused by the 3 Gunas and karma accumulates on the subtle body. This means that we are forced to act by the gunas (on the mind), however whilst there is the ignorance in the belief that "I am the doer" then there is the accumulation of karma and hence samsara.

In the Buddhist case, there is no such thing as free-will to my understanding. Rather there is always choice. We are encouraged to make the right choices (8 Fold Path). There is a subtle difference between the concept of "free-will" and the action of choice. We will always make choices which are themselves based on previous actions etc, there is a sensation of freedom of choice already. However we will only suffer whilst we hold the ignorant view that we have a Self. In order to rid ourselves of the Self view we follow the 8 Fold path. Once the view of Self departs and the experience of Nirvana is recognised; there will still be actions and there will still be choice even for the Arahat (awakend). However, the choices and the results have no effect (karma) on the awakened one.
“Both formerly & now, it is only stress that I describe, and the cessation of stress.” — SN 22:86

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Re: Free will and the mind

Post by Moggalana » Fri Mar 30, 2012 2:43 pm

Let it come. Let it be. Let it go.

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Free will and Buddhism

Post by jackson » Thu Dec 27, 2012 12:19 pm

Greetings everyone,
I'm wondering if the Buddha ever took a position on whether there is free will or not, and I'd also be interested to hear any monks or nuns opinions about it as well.
Thanks for your time and happy holidays, :anjali:
Jackson
"The heart of the path is quite easy. There’s no need to explain anything at length. Let go of love and hate and let things be. That’s all that I do in my own practice." - Ajahn Chah

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Re: Free will and Buddhism

Post by SDC » Thu Dec 27, 2012 1:48 pm

Evolution of Mind by Venerable Punnaji

Although most of the talk has to do with freewill, he begins to discuss it specifically around 9:25. I would give the whole talk a listen to get the full context.

Hope this helps. :smile:

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Re: Free will and Buddhism

Post by daverupa » Thu Dec 27, 2012 1:54 pm

Teachings on kamma are fundamentally about how there is room for the efficacious application of willpower in an environment of cause and effect. This, fundamentally, is how there can be the training of citta at all.
  • "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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Re: Free will and Buddhism

Post by Jason » Thu Dec 27, 2012 6:19 pm

jackson wrote:Greetings everyone,
I'm wondering if the Buddha ever took a position on whether there is free will or not, and I'd also be interested to hear any monks or nuns opinions about it as well.
Thanks for your time and happy holidays, :anjali:
Jackson
It's an interesting question, and there are a wide range of opinions on the matter as the Buddha never directly addresses the issue of free will, which is more of a Western concept.

For example, from the conventional point of view, we definitely seem to have at least some level of functional choice via intention (cetana) operating within the broader framework of causality that conditions the choices available to us at any given point in time. As one erudite poster put it some time back:
  • Functional choice isn't independent of other causes and conditions — it operates within the same conditioned mind-stream. But it does operate, and it does so in consort with desire and attention, etc. Hence there is no need for Cartesian notions of free will or Upanisadic notions of a permanent, unchanging Self for there to be functional choice. In fact, these non-Buddhist systems are not sustainable precisely because of the interdependence of phenomena: i.e. an unchanging agent cannot engage in actions, etc.
This is somewhat similar to how many teachers approach the issue of free will, particularly from a predominately Sutta-based point of view, such as the Venerable Thanissaro, e.g.,:
  • In the course of his Awakening, the Buddha discovered that the experience of the present moment consists of three factors: results from past actions, present actions, and the results of present actions. This means that kamma acts in feedback loops, with the present moment being shaped both by past and by present actions; while present actions shape not only the present but also the future. This constant opening for present input into the causal processes shaping one's life makes free will possible. In fact, will — or intention — forms the essence of action. Furthermore, the quality of the intention determines the quality of the act and of its results. On the mundane level there are three types of intentions: skillful, leading to pleasant results; unskillful, leading to painful results; and mixed, leading to mixed results, all these results being experienced within the realm of space and time. However, the fact that the experience of space and time requires not only the results of past actions but also the input of present actions means that it is possible to unravel the experience of space and time by bringing the mind to a point of equilibrium where it contributes no intentions or actions to the present moment. The intentions that converge at this equilibrium are thus a fourth type of intention — transcendent skillful intentions — which lead to release from the results of mundane intentions, and ultimately to the ending of all action. (Introduction to the Itivuttaka)
  • For the early Buddhists, karma was non-linear. Other Indian schools believed that karma operated in a straight line, with actions from the past influencing the present, and present actions influencing the future. As a result, they saw little room for free will. Buddhists, however, saw that karma acts in feedback loops, with the present moment being shaped both by past and by present actions; present actions shape not only the future but also the present. This constant opening for present input into the causal process makes free will possible. This freedom is symbolized in the imagery the Buddhists used to explain the process: flowing water. Sometimes the flow from the past is so strong that little can be done except to stand fast, but there are also times when the flow is gentle enough to be diverted in almost any direction. ("Karma")
  • Although the precise working out of the kammic process is somewhat unpredictable, it is not chaotic. The relationship between kammic causes and their effects is entirely regular: when an action is of the sort that it will be felt in such and such a way, that is how its result will be experienced [§13]. Skillful intentions lead to favorable results, unskillful ones to unfavorable results. Thus, when one participates in the kammic process, one is at the mercy of a pattern that one's actions put into motion, but that is not entirely under one's present control. Despite the power of the mind, one cannot reshape the basic laws of cosmic causality at whim. These laws include the physical laws, within which one's kamma must ripen and work itself out. This is the point of passage [§14], in which the Buddha explains that present pain can be explained not only by past kamma but also by a host of other factors; the list of alternative factors he gives comes straight from the various causes for pain that were recognized in the medical treatises of his time. If we compare this list with his definition of old kamma in [§15], we see that many if not all of the alternative causes are actually the result of past actions. The point here is that old kamma does not override other causal factors operating in the universe — such as those recognized by the physical sciences — but instead finds its expression within them.

    However, the fact that the kammic process relies on input from the present moment means that it is not totally deterministic. Input from the past may place restrictions on what can be done and known in any particular moment, but the allowance for new input from the present provides some room for free will. This allowance also opens the possibility for escape from the cycle of kamma altogether by means of the fourth type of kamma: the development of heightened skillfulness through the pursuit of the seven factors for Awakening and the noble eightfold path — and, by extension, all of the Wings to Awakening [§§16-17].

    The non-linearity of this/that conditionality explains why heightened skillfulness, when focused on the present moment, can succeed in leading to the end of the kamma that has formed the experience of the entire cosmos. All non-linear processes exhibit what is called scale invariance, which means that the behavior of the process on any one scale is similar to its behavior on smaller or larger scales. To understand, say, the large-scale pattern of a particular non-linear process, one need only focus on its behavior on a smaller scale that is easier to observe, and one will see the same pattern at work. In the case of kamma, one need only focus on the process of kamma in the immediate present, in the course of developing heightened skillfulness, and the large-scale issues over the expanses of space and time will become clear as one gains release from them. (Wings to Awakening)
  • This view is based on a very simplistic understanding of fabricated reality, seeing causality as linear and totally predictable: X causes Y which causes Z and so on, with no effects turning around to condition their causes, and no possible way of using causality to escape from the causal network. However, one of the many things the Buddha discovered in the course of his awakening was that causality is not linear. The experience of the present is shaped both by actions in the present and by actions in the past. Actions in the present shape both the present and the future. The results of past and present actions continually interact. Thus there is always room for new input into the system, which gives scope for free will. There is also room for the many feedback loops that make experience so thoroughly complex, and that are so intriguingly described in chaos theory. Reality doesn't resemble a simple line or circle. It's more like the bizarre trajectories of a strange attractor or a Mandelbrot set. ("Samsara Divided by Zero")
And I think this approach to the issue is especially helpful from a pragmatic standpoint when it comes to the practice itself.

On a deeper, more theoretical level, however, one might ask how volition/intention/will/etc. is possible without a self, especially when it's argued that there must be some kind active agency for free will to exist. This, of course, conflicts with the Abhidhammic position, which labels volition (cetana) as one of the 52 mental factors "common to all classes of consciousness," but rejects the existence of any kind of self or independent agency whatsoever.

It seems like a paradox, but only from the Western philosophical idea of 'free will.' Classical Theravada, on the other hand, views free will more or less as an illusion, and instead takes a more casually determined view of volition.

Conventionally speaking, we appear to have functional choice via intention operating within a broader framework of causality that conditions the choices available to us at any given time. However, on a deeper level, intention itself is a product of the aggregate of mental formations (sankhara-khandha). Therefore, being a product or process within one of the aggregates, which themselves are types of processes and not-self (anatta), this type of internal decision maker or will-to-do, if you will, has its own requisite conditions and is also not-self, since whatever is conditioned and subject to change can't be said to have an unchanging essence or being.

In essence, volition itself isn't an illusion, it's simply not the result of an independent agent or self; and it, like everything else in the world, is ultimately the result of causally determined processes. True free will requires an independent agent, and Buddhism effectively rejects such an agency. And while I tend to take a more moderate position myself, Buddhism is entirely compatible with causal determinism.

For example, Dhammanando Bhikkhu once gave me the example of a mosquito biting you on the nose: first you feel annoyed and want to squash it, but then you recall that you're a precept-observing Buddhist and so restrain yourself.

He explained that when this event is described in conventional terms, or according to the Sutta method, it might be said that you had a choice to kill the mosquito or to refrain, and that you chose the latter. But when it's described according to the Abhidhamma method, your abstention from killing wasn't due to choice but to the arising of kusala cetasikas (wholesome mental factors) such as moral shame and fear of wrong-doing (hiri & ottappa), and abstinence (virati), i.e., it was causally determined.

And then there are passages like this from the Dhammasangani (pp. 7-8):
  • What on that occasion is volition (cetana)? The volition, purpose, purposefulness, which is born of contact with the appropriate element of representative intellection - that is the volition that there then is.
And the Atthasalini, pp.147-148:
  • Volition is that which co-ordinates, that is, it binds closely (abhisandahati) to itself associated states as objects. This is its characteristic; its function is conation. There is no such thing as volition in the four planes of existence without the characteristic of co-ordinating; all volition has it. But the function of conation is only in moral and immoral states; as regards activity in moral and immoral acts, the remaining associated states play only a restricted part. But volition is exceedingly energetic. It makes double effort, double exertion. Hence the Ancients said: 'Volition is like the nature of a landowner, a cultivator who, taking fifty-five strong men, went down to the fields to reap. He was exceedingly energetic and exceedingly strenuous; he doubled his strength, he doubled his effort, and said, "Take your sickles," and so forth, pointed out the portion to be reaped, offered them drink, food, scent, flowers, etc., and took an equal share of the work.' Volition is like the cultivator; the fifty-five moral states which arise as factors of consciousness are like the fifty-five strong men; like the time of doubling strength, doubling effort by the cultivator is the doubled strength, double effort of volition as regards activity in moral and immoral acts. Thus should conation as its function be understood.

    It has directing as manifestation. It arises directing associated states, like the chief disciple, the chief carpenter, etc., who fulfil their own and others' duties... even so, when volition starts work on its object, it sets associated states to do each its own work. For when it puts forth energy, they also put forth energy... It is also evident that it arises by causing associated states to be energetic in such things as recollecting an urgent work and so forth.
Incidentally, I think the Abhidhammic position accords well with what neuroscientist Sam Harris writes about the illusion of free will here, here, and here. And even in the Suttas, there are teachings that evidence elements of casual determinism, lending support to the Abhidhammic position. I find AN 11.2 interesting, for example, in that it seems to show how certain wholesome mental factors (kusala cetasikas) condition certain wholesome qualities and experiences.

In the end, however, I don't feel that I'll ever have a satisfactory understanding of the issue; but I do see how each view can be useful depending upon where one is along the path, and what tools will be the most effective at that stage. Ultimately, the Buddha's approach to life's problems is pragmatic, serving a practical purpose that's subjectively beneficial regardless of their objective validity, and I think that point should always be kept in mind unless one becomes hopelessly lost within the proverbial 'thicket of views.'

Hopefully some of the other, more knowledgeable posters here can give you a more definitive and satisfactory answer, however.
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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