Cracking the debate open: Free will vs. determinism in the Dharma

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Mind over easy, modified 7 Years ago.

Cracking the debate open: Free will vs. determinism in the Dharma

Posts: 218 Join Date: 4/28/12 Recent Posts
This has been weighing on my mind for the past few weeks, while contemplating anatta:

If causality is the law (which I don't see any way around) and there are no agents to change causal phenomena, then isn't one forced to conclude that determinism is the law? Determinism by the definition I know it lines up very well with anatta, in claiming that one's will (if there is such a thing) cannot influence events.

I understand that Buddha said to avoid the question entirely. But hey. emoticon


My thoughts-

At this point, it seems like awareness acts as a pathway to what feels like more free will and control over circumstances. For example, I am aware of the sensations of itching, therefore I can watch the sensations occur without scratching, whereas if I were not aware (at least on a conscious level) of these sensations, I very well may scratch the itch without even being aware of the decision to do so, hence automatically, maybe deterministically. 

I am excited to see what you all will say, especially those of you who claim to have seen through the illusion of agency to any degree.
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tom moylan, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Cracking the debate open: Free will vs. determinism in the Dharma

Posts: 896 Join Date: 3/7/11 Recent Posts
Mind over easy:


At this point, it seems like awareness acts as a pathway to what feels like more free will and control over circumstances. For example, I am aware of the sensations of itching, therefore I can watch the sensations occur without scratching, whereas if I were not aware (at least on a conscious level) of these sensations, I very well may scratch the itch without even being aware of the decision to do so, hence automatically, maybe deterministically.
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Howdy MOE,
are you equating "awareness" with "knowing"?

To my mind, "awareness" is a more basic attribute of sensate co-arising. 

"knowing" is further along the path of the construction of our illusion. in other words,  there is a "pre-itch", the direct contact of whatever comes together to support that phenomenon which we perceive as an "itch" only after we have compared it to the mental templates and found a match. then we "know" it as an itch.

At that point though feeling has already had its say and flavoured this raw data as yummy or despicable.  without constant diligence (pre-path, pre anagami?) we stay on the wave past the point of decision and take our concept of "itch" as the reality. so, an illusion of free will.

being diligent though, we can ride back on the wave and glimpse the pre itch, or the feeling tone of it.  by choosing (intending) to stay "pre-knowing" we are expressing something closer to free will although that too is conditioned.

when we see through it all real time, and are no longer caught by the illusion what are we then?  when we see that the I is also an illusion, who is choosing?  obviously this is dogma and i don't live this way but it does compare well to my efforts.
John Wilde, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Cracking the debate open: Free will vs. determinism in the Dharma

Posts: 501 Join Date: 10/26/10 Recent Posts
Mind over easy:
This has been weighing on my mind for the past few weeks, while contemplating anatta:

If causality is the law (which I don't see any way around) and there are no agents to change causal phenomena, then isn't one forced to conclude that determinism is the law? Determinism by the definition I know it lines up very well with anatta, in claiming that one's will (if there is such a thing) cannot influence events.


What does the word "free" mean to you in this context?

Does it mean uncaused or unconstrained, both, or something else?

What attributes or abilities must it have in order to be called free?

If you drop the word free, does the question remain?

If will is a causal agent but is itself a product of numerous other causes and conditions, would you call that free will, determinism, both, or neither?
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Florian Weps, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Cracking the debate open: Free will vs. determinism in the Dharma

Posts: 1028 Join Date: 4/28/09 Recent Posts
Mind over easy:
If causality is the law (which I don't see any way around) and there are no agents to change causal phenomena, then isn't one forced to conclude that determinism is the law?


That's circular: "Determinism is the cause of determinism".

Question to play with: how does a "completely free will" work anyway? It can't let its decisions be informed by any conditions, as that would influence and hence determine its decisions. It can't let its decisions be informed by any consequences, as that would influence and determine the decisions. It can't decide by weighing alternatives, because then it would be determined by preference. It can't decide by chance, because then it would be ruled by chance...

Another question to play with: How to you arrive at the conclusion that there are only these two possibilities, and that they are mutually exclusive?

Cheers,
Florian
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Richard Zen, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Cracking the debate open: Free will vs. determinism in the Dharma

Posts: 1635 Join Date: 5/18/10 Recent Posts
Look this stuff is really complicated but cause and effect includes such complex things like the big bang, entropy and evolution:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GkCWywO93b8
Cause and effect 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQSoaiubuA0
Impermanence

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMaIiHFp-nk
Cause and Effect

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Untoik6c_gs
More impermanence

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLACGFhDOp0
Arrow of time

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91RHD0RSRxY
What time is it?

http://en.wikipedia.org/http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arrow_of_time#The_quantum_arrow_of_timewiki/Arrow_of_time#The_quantum_arrow_of_time
The causal arrow of time[edit]cause precedes its effect: the causal event occurs before the event it affects. Birth, for example, follows a successful conception and not vice versa. Thus causality is intimately bound up with time's arrow.An epistemological problem with using causality as an arrow of time is that, as David Hume maintained, the causal relation per se cannot be perceived; one only perceives sequences of events. Furthermore it is surprisingly difficult to provide a clear explanation of what the terms "cause" and "effect" really mean, or to define the events to which they refer. However, it does seem evident that dropping a cup of water is a cause while the cup subsequently shattering and spilling the water is the effect.Physically speaking, the perception of cause and effect in the dropped cup example is a phenomenon of the thermodynamic arrow of time, a consequence of the Second law of thermodynamics.[6] Controlling thefuture, or causing something to happen, creates correlations between the doer and the effect,[7] and these can only be created as we move forwards in time, not backwards.
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Daniel M. Ingram, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Cracking the debate open: Free will vs. determinism in the Dharma

Posts: 3199 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
That reality is causal is a core tennant of Buddhism. It appeals to many scientists as well.

That causality is too complex to be fully understood is also a tennant of Buddhism, with the workings of Karma being one of the Four Imponderables, as there are too many factors that weight on what happens in each moment.

That causality is the law of the land and there is no free will also works well in practice and holds up to rigorous insight practice and investigation, and ends up being one of the core foundations of deep wisdom.
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Eric M W, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Cracking the debate open: Free will vs. determinism in the Dharma

Posts: 288 Join Date: 3/19/14 Recent Posts
You may want to look into some of the contemplative branches of Christianity and Sufism, with regards to the will of the Divine. I remember Bernadette Roberts talking about something called will-to-God that I think must relate to this subject, somehow...  Also, teachings on Karma, Ka, Fate, and things of that nature all relate to this issue.

When I'm working on the first training, I assume free will. When I'm doing insight practice, there is no free will, just phenomena unfolding according to the laws of the universe, no "self" in control at all. This is more obvious in Equanimity.
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(D Z) Dhru Val, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Cracking the debate open: Free will vs. determinism in the Dharma

Posts: 346 Join Date: 9/18/11 Recent Posts
Mind over easy:
This has been weighing on my mind for the past few weeks, while contemplating anatta:

If causality is the law (which I don't see any way around) and there are no agents to change causal phenomena, then isn't one forced to conclude that determinism is the law? Determinism by the definition I know it lines up very well with anatta, in claiming that one's will (if there is such a thing) cannot influence events.



Determinism does not mean that your 'will' doesn't have an influence on events. Just that your 'will' is not independently generated out of thin air. To say will has no impact on things is fatalism.

Also we need to be careful when we are talking about 'laws' and absolutes. From a 1st person perspective causality is imputed rather than absolute. Since cause->effect, requires time. Time is imputed. More detailed post here...
http://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5354465
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Daniel M. Ingram, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Cracking the debate open: Free will vs. determinism in the Dharma

Posts: 3199 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
From an experiential point of view:

The sensations that seem to imply will and effort arise on their own, naturally, as part of the field of causality.

The sensatuions that seem to imply effortlessness arise on their own, naturally, as part of the field of causality.

Notice the sensations of will and effort arise and vanish on their own. 

Notice the sensations of effortlessness and naturalness arise and vanish on their own.

Notice intentions arise and precede actions. They arise on their own: clearly perceive this and the mystery is clarified directly.

From a dependent origination point of view, it is on Ignorance of the bare sensate truth of these things that Volitional Formations depend, meaning the sense of a will, a doer, a watcher, a compounded, separate, continuous entity.

Perceive things really, really clearly, and this Ignorance is ended by that clear perception.
Vijay V, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Cracking the debate open: Free will vs. determinism in the Dharma

Posts: 8 Join Date: 8/27/12 Recent Posts
The following talk by Alan Wallace approaches this topic from Buddisht, philosophical and scientific point of view. I heard it a couple of times and it's worth your 115 mins. 

http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/295/talk/8234/

"We must believe in free will, we have no choice"  - Isaac B. Singer


With Metta,
V
Eva M Nie, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Cracking the debate open: Free will vs. determinism in the Dharma

Posts: 831 Join Date: 3/23/14 Recent Posts
This might be one of those where the real situation is far more complex than the question implies.  For instance, you'd have to consider the nature of reality and time and probabilities.  Is the future and past stable?  Or not?  Or are there probability branches?  If the first, then the whole time line may have already happened or is set, even things you think of as free will.  If the last, then maybe you test out multiple options causing multiple probability branches.  If the first, then even the perception of free will would be suspect.  If the last, then the whole question does not even really apply. 

Other than those aspects, you might want to think about how you make decisions.  For instance, you want to go to the store but someone else borrowed the car, so you consider your options.  But there will be some options you failed to consider, why did you forget some of the options?   And why did you even decide to go to the store in the first place?  Where did the idea for going to the store and the ideas for your options originally come from?  You think you are free to choose between various options but how did you think up those options in the first place?  If  you only have a certain number of options but not all of them, is your choice really free?  You can't take an option if you don't even think of it first.   If you try to track back to the origin of ideas, IME, you can't.  You either lose track of the thread or you get all the way back only to notice that the idea seemed to appear out of nowhere. 

At least for the conscious mind, the start of the ideas come from somewhere else that we can't seem to see.  IMO, you'd have to understand more about that place where ideas come from to have any idea if there is free will, but I don't know anyway who can see clearly into that place.  From the perspective of what I can consciously see, I can see why people would say that our conscious existance is causal.  The ideas come from someplace else and I can't see from where but that place or whatever it is seems to be what 'causes' the thoughts.  The conscious me does not seem to cause them but instead to notice them afterwards.  Perhaps that is similar to the Buddhist concept of 'no self?'  But without being able to understand the place where ideas come from, I don't see how the concept of free will can be reasonably considered with any expected accuracy.  But also without being able to see to there, I don't know how I can feel confident there really is no self.  I can only feel confident that I don't see origin of self in the conscious arena.    

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