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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clw_uk
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Re: Is everything already determined?

Post by clw_uk » Thu Jul 30, 2009 9:57 pm

Hey Individual


No, everything is not already determined.

Could you expand on this? :)



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Re: Is everything already determined?

Post by Cittasanto » Thu Jul 30, 2009 10:37 pm

they can be described in a manner which is similar, besides science doesn't say either way conclusively scientists do, whether there is or isn't may be infered to some extent depending on how we look at it, but this would still be a belief, plus the deistic model could be described without an entity in the same way.
I have noticed on a few occasions that Dhamma isn't necesaraly a secular or theistic system (names used for contrast only) it will sometimes apear to have one foot on both sides, there is a sutta where the Buddha gives an explanation which is a Dhamma explanation which had aspects of each of the sides of the debate within its dhammic interpretation, and another where a monk says to the buddha give me the answers to these questions and I will stay with you! to which the buddha said he never promiced such answers and he was free to leave if he wished to (these were the suttas I was thinking of earlier but still can not think of the names and these are very rough sketches of them), one of the questions being if there was a first cause to the universe.
I think we all know the buddha did not say a fist cause could be discerned and I think the evolutionist argument which you have used in another thread is possibly what the buddha meant (what caused the cause?) but if we say the first cause is the big bang and the numerous causes which led up to that is also part of the cause then the deistic model I used earlier could apply although this has the draw back of forming a theistic interpretation instead of a humanistic one which would be why the buddha said a first cause can not be known, which renders worshiping a first cause.......... unnessesary and prevents sliding onto either exream.

clw_uk wrote:
determined
this has several possibilities
deist - same as predetermined exept that everything that happens had an initial starting point and course which without other influences its target would fall in the predetermined bracket but as it does effects and alters the couse of everything else it comes into contact with.
science - same as above
theistic - miricles
There is a difference between the deist and science version of it, deist involves some kind of being or intelligence behind it, perhaps even intentional or not. Science leaves that out


Just because something is determined doesnt mean there is or was something doing the determining

metta
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He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.
John Stuart Mill

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Re: Is everything already determined?

Post by clw_uk » Thu Jul 30, 2009 10:42 pm

Is this what you were looking for?

"And did you ever say to me, 'Lord, I will live the holy life under the Blessed One and [in return] he will declare to me that 'The cosmos is eternal,' or 'The cosmos is not eternal,' or 'The cosmos is finite,' or 'The cosmos is infinite,' or 'The soul & the body are the same,' or 'The soul is one thing and the body another,' or 'After death a Tathagata exists,' or 'After death a Tathagata does not exist,' or 'After death a Tathagata both exists & does not exist,' or 'After death a Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist'?"

"No, lord."

"Then that being the case, foolish man, who are you to be claiming grievances/making demands of anyone?


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Re: Is everything already determined?

Post by clw_uk » Thu Jul 30, 2009 10:46 pm

but if we say the first cause is the big bang and the numerous causes which led up to that is also part of the cause then the deistic model I used earlier could apply although this has the draw back of forming a theistic interpretation instead of a humanistic one which would be why the buddha said a first cause can not be known, which renders worshiping a first cause.......... unnessesary and prevents sliding onto either exream.

I dont say the big bang is the first cause, i lean more towards brane cosmology (ekpyrotic)



Of course its not definitive but it is interesting, i dont see this as a first cause either, i dont think there is one

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Last edited by clw_uk on Thu Jul 30, 2009 10:58 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Is everything already determined?

Post by Cittasanto » Thu Jul 30, 2009 10:54 pm

I believe the universe still has a bruise from the last contact.
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He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.
John Stuart Mill

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Re: Is everything already determined?

Post by Mawkish1983 » Fri Jul 31, 2009 6:22 am

Do we need two creation threads? :focus:

As I said, quantum physics shows that determinism is forbidden, the precise position and the precise momentum of a particle cannot be simultaneously known (not due to human limitation but due to a fundamental way in which the universe operates). Want evidence of this? Look at radioactive decay and quantum tunneling. We make use of these phenomena because of probability; so also look up the 'principal of equivalence'. If you observe a single radioactive atom there is no way to tell when a radioactive event will take place. We can analyse the statistics of a lot of such atoms, sure, but then only predictions can be made. The universe FORBIDS total knowledge. Determinism can only work in classical physics. Quantum physics is a rather large spanner in the works.

If we rewound the universe back in time to just after the big back then pressed play again, I think there is no reason to believe humans would still necessarily evolve (or at least, things would be different). Quantum physics and chaos theory working in unison.

It makes me wonder actually (and I know other physicists use this forum (mikenz66?) so please do help me out if I'm being stupid here), are chaos theory and the principal of equivalence compatible? I don't see how they can be, maybe chaos theory only applies to the meso-macroscopic? I don't know; shockingly I never studied chaos theory!

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Re: Is everything already determined?

Post by Pannapetar » Fri Jul 31, 2009 7:48 am

Mawkish1983 wrote:As I said, quantum physics shows that determinism is forbidden...
Quantum mechanics does not disprove determinism in the physical world, because there are deterministic interpretations of quantum mechanics. Personally, find that none of the deterministic interpretations, such as many-world, many-minds, Bohm-de Broglie makes intuitive sense, so I would -in agreement with the majority of physicists- keep to the probabilistic/indeterminist interpretation, but this is a metaphysical conclusion which goes beyond the realm of hard physics. It is a strong argument in favour of an non-determinist physical universe, but it falls short of being a proof.

Despite the notion of karma, Buddhism rejects "hard" determinism. Unfortunately, I cannot cite a sutta to support this right now, but the idea is that the radiant mind is the ground of becoming and that it operates in a not strictly deterministic fashion thus allowing for free will. This contradicts not only the idea of an ironblock universe, but also ironblock causality, namely that any number of existing states must result in exactly one future state. :juggling:

Cheers, Thomas

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Re: Is everything already determined?

Post by tiltbillings » Fri Jul 31, 2009 7:58 am

Pannapetar wrote:
Despite the notion of karma, Buddhism rejects "hard" determinism. Unfortunately, I cannot cite a sutta to support this right now,
"If any one says that a man must reap according to his deeds, in that
case there is no religious life nor opportunity afforded for the entire
extinction of sorrow. But if any one says that what a man reaps accords
with his deeds, in that case there is a religious life and an opportunity is
afforded for the entire extinction of sorrow."
AN I 249.
>> 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.

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Re: Is everything already determined?

Post by Mawkish1983 » Fri Jul 31, 2009 8:05 am

Pannapetar wrote:Quantum mechanics does not disprove determinism in the physical world, because there are deterministic interpretations of quantum mechanics.
Well I've leave the philosophical interpretations to the philosophers. Heisenburg's uncertainty principal, however, is clear; the exact position and the exact momentum of a particle cannot be simultaneously known. Note that 'particle' is a bit abstract and the reason they're not known is because their 'position' and 'momentum' are defined as a probability distribution. Put simply, the universe makes it up as it goes along and there's no reason to conclude it would make the same thing up twice in the same situation. Like I said, rewind time and start again and you'll get something different. This is what makes quantum physics so different from classical physics.

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Re: Is everything already determined?

Post by Cittasanto » Fri Jul 31, 2009 8:09 am

hi missed this post?
yes it looks like it at first glance!
clw_uk wrote:Is this what you were looking for?

"And did you ever say to me, 'Lord, I will live the holy life under the Blessed One and [in return] he will declare to me that 'The cosmos is eternal,' or 'The cosmos is not eternal,' or 'The cosmos is finite,' or 'The cosmos is infinite,' or 'The soul & the body are the same,' or 'The soul is one thing and the body another,' or 'After death a Tathagata exists,' or 'After death a Tathagata does not exist,' or 'After death a Tathagata both exists & does not exist,' or 'After death a Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist'?"

"No, lord."

"Then that being the case, foolish man, who are you to be claiming grievances/making demands of anyone?


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Blog, Suttas, Aj Chah, Facebook.

He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.
John Stuart Mill

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Re: Is everything already determined?

Post by Pannapetar » Fri Jul 31, 2009 8:35 am

Mawkish1983 wrote:Well I've leave the philosophical interpretations to the philosophers.
These are not -strictly speaking- philosophical interpretations, but different interpretations within physics. Please have a look at this wonderful Wikipedia entry that lists the various interpretations. Physicists are themselves divided on the question whether the physical universe is ultimately deterministic or not. As things stand now, the majority seems to think that nature is indeterministic.
Mawkish1983 wrote:Heisenburg's uncertainty principal, however, is clear; the exact position and the exact momentum of a particle cannot be simultaneously known.
Yes, but even the Uncertainty Principle can be interpreted in two ways, namely that (a) it describes a property of nature, or (b) that it describes only the limitation of the interaction between nature and an observer. It is not -in the strict sense- proof for an indeterministic universe. For example, Einstein followed the second thought when he introduced the concept of hidden variables.

I am playing devil's advocate here, because the indeterministic interpretation is in fact much more plausible to me, but it is important to make the above distinction, namely that QM strongly suggests indeterminism, but ultimately cannot prove it. BTW, chaotic systems, or respectively nonlinear dynamical systems, which you also mentioned, are 100% deterministic, but computationally complex and therefore intractable. Philosophically, this means that chaotic systems don't suggest indeterminism but that they are not computable and therefore not predictable.

Cheers, Thomas

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Re: Is everything already determined?

Post by kannada » Fri Jul 31, 2009 10:59 am

Does the big bang mean that everything is already determined?
I believe the 'Big Bang' theory to be flawed from the outset. If the big bang is supposed to be the source of both space and time, what did the universe expand into?

Also, if nothing existed at the point of this 'big bang' there wasn't anything to be pre-determined...

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Re: Is everything already determined?

Post by adosa » Fri Jul 31, 2009 11:00 am

Determinism by its very nature denies the Law of Kamma. The universe might be predetermined without this thing we call "mind".....especially the human mind. We have the ability to make choices. Once we make a choice to do this or do that we set of a chain of events that impacts the entire universe. In nutshell Dependent Origination. Maybe perceptively to us, maybe not, but nonetheless the course of events has veered from a predetermined course. Fortunately.

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Is the future predetermined

Post by Stiphan » Mon Aug 24, 2009 10:13 pm

There is the prediction of Dipankara Buddha that Gautama (then Sumedha) would become a Buddha, and even predicted Gautama's chief diciples. There is the prediction of Kondanna when Gotama was a baby that he would become an Enlightened person rather than a Cakkavattin. There is the prediction about Metteyya. There is the prediction that King Ajjatasattu, after his stay in hell would become a pacekkabuddha, same for Devadatta.

So does this mean that the future is predetermined/predictable/knowable? Or just some of it?

Yet, If I look back at my own life, I can see that I could have made other choices and decisions than the ones I did, which would have led to totally different outcomes. So this makes me a strong believer in that the future cannot possibly be predictable, and that it is not predetermined.

Any thoughts?
Last edited by Stiphan on Mon Aug 24, 2009 10:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Is the future predetermined

Post by DNS » Mon Aug 24, 2009 10:33 pm

The recent movie, Knowing followed the idea that possibly everything is pre-determined. It was pretty good and entertaining and some good discussions on determinism and free will.

I think like you do, that not everything is pre-determined. Certainly many people are pretty predictable, such as those who make little progress and conversely, some like the Bodhisatta, who have made much merit. For those, their futures are probably easy to see if you are an arahant or sammasambuddha. But for those in the middle, I think there is some mix where there can be some choice and volition.

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Re: Is the future predetermined

Post by Stiphan » Mon Aug 24, 2009 10:39 pm

TheDhamma wrote:The recent movie, Knowing followed the idea that possibly everything is pre-determined. It was pretty good and entertaining and some good discussions on determinism and free will.

I think like you do, that not everything is pre-determined. Certainly many people are pretty predictable, such as those who make little progress and conversely, some like the Bodhisatta, who have made much merit. For those, their futures are probably easy to see if you are an arahant or sammasambuddha. But for those in the middle, I think there is some mix where there can be some choice and volition.
Thanks! Interesting view.
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Re: Is the future predetermined

Post by Jechbi » Mon Aug 24, 2009 11:27 pm

Stefan wrote:Any thoughts?
I think the only practical way to understand this question is with regard to oneself. In which case, the question also includes some assumption about an imagined future situation one might face. And fundamentally, the question is: Does it make any difference what I do right now in this moment?

To which the answer is an emphatic yes. It makes a difference what you do right now in this moment. The underlying question is not so much whether the future is predetermined, but rather whether you are an automaton right now in this present moment. It's fundamentally a question about self-identity.

Here's one approach to the question: There's a way to the cessation of dukkha. What is that way? And regardless of whatever self-identity view one holds, does that change the task at hand?
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
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Re: Is the future predetermined

Post by Modus.Ponens » Tue Aug 25, 2009 12:04 am

I think the future is completely predetermined. I think the universe is a like a machine, moved by the laws of physics. Knowing all the initial conditions of the universe and its laws we can predict everything. It is our inability to know all initial (or present) conditions that produces the ilusion that some things are random or not predetermined. Subjectively we have the feeling of free will but objectively, we don't have that free will. But since we live in our subjective mental world free will is real for us and thus we create karma and so on. This is my opinion.

Metta
He turns his mind away from those phenomena, and having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: 'This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.'
(Jhana Sutta - Thanissaro Bhikkhu translation)

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Re: Is the future predetermined

Post by retrofuturist » Tue Aug 25, 2009 12:48 am

Greetings,

If everything were pre-determined, would the Buddha have bothered teaching for 45 years and finished with "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

Pre-determination renders any spiritual pursuit meaningless.

Metta,
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Re: Is the future predetermined

Post by Guy » Tue Aug 25, 2009 1:07 am

Hello Stefan and All,

Quite a tricky question indeed...

On one level I believe the will has been conditioned by various factors including culture, brain chemistry and physics. We may feel like we are making choices but perhaps that feeling of choice has been conditioned also.

On another level, I believe that there is a possibility to "transcend" the will and the conditioned world through the Jhanas and the Immaterial States. This is a matter of faith since I have not yet entered Second Jhana where the will has supposedly ceased.

However, when we look at the issue from a moral perspective I believe the most pragmatic approach is to believe that we do make choices, otherwise we might fall into the trap of blaming the world for our moral wrongdoings and making no effort to become better people.

Maybe we have no choice other than to make an effort to become better people?

I simply don't know conclusively. I think this is one of those things which is perhaps better to put to one side and maybe if/when we reach nibbana it will all become apparent.

With Metta,

Guy
Last edited by Guy on Tue Aug 25, 2009 2:06 am, edited 1 time in total.
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