Sunday, September 28, 2014

Does Buddhism Propose Determinism or Predeterminism?

Does Buddhism propose determinism or predeterminism? I think this is a question that needs to be asked. Any attempt to answer this question presupposes that we agree on how we define the terms “determinism” and “predeterminism.” Let us presuppose the definitions given by the Wikipedia (s.vv.): “Determinism is the philosophical position that for every event, including human action, there exist conditions that could cause no other event.” And “Predeterminism is the idea that all events are determined in advance. Predeterminism is the philosophy that all events of history, past, present and future, have been already decided or are already known (by God, fate, or some other force), including human actions.” Even if we consider Buddhist ideas of karmanagotraka (“one who no spiritual disposition”), gnas dang gnas gnas ma yin pa (“possibles and impossibles”), and pratītyasamutpāda, I do not think that Buddhism can be said to posit the ideas of determinism and predeterminism. Instead perhaps Buddhism can be said to posit the philosophy of “conditionalism.” The fact that “x” can or cannot become “y” has nothing (or little) to do with determinism and predeterminism. It is simply a matter of whether correct and sufficient causes come together or not. Such a philosophy of conditionalism is not what one might call “indefinitism,” “arbitaryism,” or “chaoticism.”