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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Free will in Indian philosophy

Free will is one of the most central topics of Western philosophy. In contrast, it is hard even to find an adequate synonym in Indian philosophy. Why? Possibly because:
  1. 1. Indian philosophy is not dominated by Theism as a philosophical position (there have been several theistic philosophies, but the core of Indian philosophy —Nyāya, Mīmāṃsā, Vaiśeṣika, Sāṅkhya, Buddhism, Jainism…— does not need a personal God),
  2. 2. the theory of karman introduced determinism as a pre-condition, so that the only option left was some sort of compatibilism and everyone automatically adjusted.

Most Indian authors are in fact by default compatibilists. They assume automatically that we are determined by karman, but also that karman is not an inestricable chain. If it were one, no liberation would be possible without a Divine intervention. Predestination is, thus, admitted by some Theistic schools such as Madhva's one (and possibly presupposed by some verses of the Bhagavadgītā referring to eternal hell). However, predestination cannot be accepted by all the schools who stress the importance of one's path, such as Buddhism, nor be a philosophically viable option for the schools who do not recognise a personal (and, hence, arbitrary) God as fundamental to their system. If there is no God arbitrarily deciding to rescue the one and send to hell the other, what would be the rationale of predestination? A Materialist might answer that one just happens to be among the lucky ones or not, but materialism is, again, an extreme position within Indian philosophy.

On the topic of free will in Indian philosophy, see this post (and all other posts under the tag "free will").

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