Journal of Buddhist Ethics

An online journal of Buddhist scholarship related to ethics.


Tracing the Trajectory of Buddhist Free Will Theorizing

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 25, 2018

Tracing the Trajectory of Buddhist Free Will Theorizing

Katie Javanaud
Keble College, Oxford

This paper documents the key trends and developments in the history of Buddhist free will theorizing, indicating potential new avenues for research. Part 1 traces the debate from its origins in the late 19th century to the present day. Though scholarship remains divided as to whether a Buddhist free will problem can even be formulated, this paper contends that such skeptical arguments can be defeated. An important aspect of Buddhist free will debates concerns the commensurability of causal determinism and dependent origination: by evaluating their similarities and differences it becomes clear that dependency relations encompass, but are not limited to, causal relations. Part 2 examines psychological/spiritual responses to the problem, where the focus has shifted away from metaphysics. Finally, this paper initiates an exploration into the prospects of articulating a pan-Buddhist response to the free will problem.
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