There will be two lectures this term, given in the Oriental Institute, Lecture Room 1. All are welcome
April 23 – 5.15pm
Prof. Richard Gombrich (OCBS)
The Origin of Pali
April 30 – 5.15pm
Professor Paul Bernier (Université de Moncton)
Causation and Free Will in Early Buddhist Philosophy
The problem of free will and determinism has a long history in Western philosophy; it is also an important issue in contemporary metaphysics. While this problem has not been the focus of discussions in the commentarial tradition of Buddhist philosophy, it has recently attracted the attention of many Buddhist scholars, who have defended conflicting interpretations.
As we know, causation is a central notion of Buddhist philosophy, particularly in the context of the doctrine of Dependent arising (paṭiccasamuppāda). It is very tempting to interpret this notion as entailing universal causal determinism, as many scholars have done. This interpretation, however, raises a serious problem with respect to a passage of the Aṅguttara Nikāya (A. I. 173-175), where the Buddha rejects as “wrong views” three so-called “sectarian views”. I argue that a good reason to reject these “sectarian views” is also a reason to reject universal causal determinism. This suggests that causation in Early Buddhism does not entail universal causal determinism and that it leaves room for indeterminist causation and a form of free will.