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 the future predetermined

Post by clw_uk » Tue Aug 25, 2009 1:18 am

I brought this up recently, mawkish has something interesting to say, that quantum mechanics does away with ideas of determinism or predeterminism (he could probably expand more)



metta
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Modus.Ponens
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Re: Is the future predetermined

Post by Modus.Ponens » Tue Aug 25, 2009 1:39 am

clw_uk wrote:I brought this up recently, mawkish has something interesting to say, that quantum mechanics does away with ideas of determinism or predeterminism (he could probably expand more)



metta
Hi clw_uk

Regular quantum mechanics destroys the notion of causality and establishes a probabilistic paradigm. However there is a modern theory that reproduces the results of QM but mantains causality. I prefer to believe the modern theory.

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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adosa
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Re: Is the future predetermined

Post by adosa » Tue Aug 25, 2009 1:51 am

retrofuturist wrote: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,
Retro. :)

Right. And isn't pre-determination one of the wrong views the Buddha warned about?

adosa
"To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas" - Dhammapada 183

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acinteyyo
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Re: Is the future predetermined

Post by acinteyyo » Tue Aug 25, 2009 9:11 am

The Buddha said:
But, Udāyi, let be the past, let be the future, I shall set you forth the Teaching: When there is this this is, with arising of this this arises; when there is not this this is not, with cessation of this this ceases. (Majjhima VIII,9 <M.II,32>)
all conditioned phenomena are determined but not pre-determined! it is said: "with arising of this this arises, with cessation of this this ceases" and not "with cessation of this, this arises". determinism is wrong view, unfortunately I don't know the Sutta exactly but I think it was DN 1.
Thag 1.20. Ajita - I do not fear death; nor do I long for life. I’ll lay down this body, aware and mindful.

Individual
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Re: Is the future predetermined

Post by Individual » Tue Aug 25, 2009 4:53 pm

Stefan wrote: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?
The future will unfold as it can be expected to if we do nothing to stop it. Often, we might think we have resolved on changing our actions, only to find later that we falter again, as we have a hundred times in the past.
The best things in life aren't things.

The Diamond Sutra

chownah
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Re: Is the future predetermined

Post by chownah » Wed Aug 26, 2009 2:29 pm

From a personal point of view I think that it is not possible to know absolutely if the future is predetermined or not. I can not imagine any method or test which could conclusively determine the answer....if anyone knows of one please post it...i won't hold my breath waiting for a foolproof method to appear. I think the Buddha would say that this is out of range and that we are limited to the six sense doors and their objects to make up the entirety of our experience..and these tools are not adequate to settle this question about the future. And to go one step further...if this question can not be settled in any way then of what value can it be to discuss it?

From a Theravada Scriptural persepective it seems that the Buddha indicated on several occasions the importance of efforts in following the path and the exertion of effort seems to only make sense if the view accompanying the effort is that the effort will have an effect on the future outcome. So it seems to me that the Buddha was teaching that we should at least from time to time have the view that the future is not determined.

chownah

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Re: Is the future predetermined

Post by Individual » Sat Aug 29, 2009 4:16 pm

chownah wrote:From a personal point of view I think that it is not possible to know absolutely if the future is predetermined or not. I can not imagine any method or test which could conclusively determine the answer....if anyone knows of one please post it...
Highly advanced physics in which the origins of universes (the origin of our space-time) is more clearly understood (that is, discovering the multiverse, delineating several timelines, creating a neutral bubble outside our space-time so as to allow scientists to study the ebb and flow of space-time objectively, by being independent of it). It's speculative and maybe just fantasy, but who knows?

The probabilism of quantum mechanics are said to have already debunked pure determinism.
The best things in life aren't things.

The Diamond Sutra

chownah
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Re: Is the future predetermined

Post by chownah » Mon Aug 31, 2009 3:13 pm

Individual wrote:
chownah wrote:From a personal point of view I think that it is not possible to know absolutely if the future is predetermined or not. I can not imagine any method or test which could conclusively determine the answer....if anyone knows of one please post it...
Highly advanced physics in which the origins of universes (the origin of our space-time) is more clearly understood (that is, discovering the multiverse, delineating several timelines, creating a neutral bubble outside our space-time so as to allow scientists to study the ebb and flow of space-time objectively, by being independent of it). It's speculative and maybe just fantasy, but who knows?

The probabilism of quantum mechanics are said to have already debunked pure determinism.
I think that quantum mechanics has not (and in principle can not) debunk pure determinism....it can only show us that if the the world is purely deterministic then this determinism displays itself in ways far more complex than we have so far imagined. My view is that it is good to remember that all science can at best only test whether a principle conforms to the accepted paradigm for the scientific discipline which subsumes the experiment....quantum mechanics is interesting in that it seems to strongly disagree with certain principles in the accepted paradigm for the physics of very very small things. I think that to jump to the conclusion that it has debunked pure determinism is simply to indicate that one has not yet conceived of any other explanation for the phenomena observed. Also, I think it is good to remember that probabilism is a way to describe outcomes but it does not in and of itself explain why the outcomes are probabilistic...i.e. it does not construe that the probabilistic nature of events is caused or not caused by a deterministic or non-deterministic universe...or anything else...I guess.
chownah

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BlackBird
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Re: Is the future predetermined

Post by BlackBird » Wed Sep 02, 2009 1:02 pm

Buddhism is not fatalistic.

I don't think the future is predetermined, more like past kamma provides a framework and conditions current behaviors. It ain't called volitional activity for nothing. As I'm sure has been said, if everything was predetermined there would be no way to achieve liberation, to achieve Nibbana.

:anjali:
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta

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Wind
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Free-will is it an illusion?

Post by Wind » Tue Jul 20, 2010 4:45 am

Christians would say God gave us Free-will. Does Free-will exist? Or is it similar to Anatta where it's only an illusion?

Kenshou
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Re: Free-will is it an illusion?

Post by Kenshou » Tue Jul 20, 2010 5:06 am

That's kind of an interesting question. There is choice, but then again those choices or acts of will come about due to other conditions, so I'm not sure which way to go.

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jcsuperstar
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Re: Free-will is it an illusion?

Post by jcsuperstar » Tue Jul 20, 2010 5:18 am

there is a sorta limited freewill, your present situation is determined by your past kamma, but that does not mean your present kamma has no influence over it, and both influence your future situation.
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat

PeterB
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Re: Free-will is it an illusion?

Post by PeterB » Tue Jul 20, 2010 7:56 am

Is anatta an illusion ? Or is it atta that is the illusion ? And anyway do we not mean delusion ? atta is an idea isnt it ? Not something we encounter at lunch or in the bathroom and mistake it for something else.

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mikenz66
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Re: Free-will is it an illusion?

Post by mikenz66 » Tue Jul 20, 2010 8:28 am

Well, the free-will question is intimately related to anatta. The "person" who we think is in control really isn't, since that person not only doesn't exist, but doesn't have control. If everything is dependent on causes and conditions, as the Buddha teaches, is there any point in even asking about free will?

Before Peter has to say it, the Buddha's message is radical --- and scary. But (I'm told) liberating...

Mike

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Re: Free-will is it an illusion?

Post by tiltbillings » Tue Jul 20, 2010 8:30 am

mikenz66 wrote:Well, the free-will question is intimately related to anatta. The "person" who we think is in control really isn't, since that person not only doesn't exist, but doesn't have control. If everything is dependent on causes and conditions, as the Buddha teaches, is there any point in even asking about free will?

Before Peter has to say it, the Buddha's message is radical --- and scary. But (I'm told) liberating...

Mike
But there is choice.
>> 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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jcsuperstar
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Re: Free-will is it an illusion?

Post by jcsuperstar » Tue Jul 20, 2010 8:32 am

mikenz66 wrote: is there any point in even asking about free will?
Mike
of course, lest one think we are fatalists
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat

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mikenz66
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Re: Free-will is it an illusion?

Post by mikenz66 » Tue Jul 20, 2010 8:59 am

Hi Tilt,
tiltbillings wrote: But there is choice.
Yes, but (partly to play devil's advocate here): isn't that "choice" just part of the illusion of atta?

Is everything not conditioned (including volition)?

Mike

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jcsuperstar
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Re: Free-will is it an illusion?

Post by jcsuperstar » Tue Jul 20, 2010 9:02 am

oh this is where Buddhism becomes confusing, because yes you are right, but what then is it conditioned by if not past choices?
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat

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tiltbillings
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Re: Free-will is it an illusion?

Post by tiltbillings » Tue Jul 20, 2010 9:07 am

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Tilt,
tiltbillings wrote: But there is choice.
Yes, but (partly to play devil's advocate here): isn't that "choice" just part of the illusion of atta?
Atta is not an illusion, and if there were no choice, there would be no awakening.
Is everything not conditioned (including volition)?
?
>> 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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jcsuperstar
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Re: Free-will is it an illusion?

Post by jcsuperstar » Tue Jul 20, 2010 9:21 am

at the risk of causing frowny faces I'll quote ajahn Buddhadasa here
"You are a self that is not a real self. If you do not understand this, you do not understand Buddhism".
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat

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