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Friday, February 24, 2012

God and free will in Indian philosophy and in Mīmāṃsā in particular

Possibly because God is rarely seen as directly interfering in worldly matters (He rather uses karman to do it), I am not aware of philosophical discussions about whether human beings alone are responsible of good and evil or God is corresponsible as well, insofar as He favours the first and lets the latter happen. One also does not find the kind of reflections one finds in Islamic thought, asking why God does not let future evil-doers die while they are still harmless children, in order to prevent them from doing evil and, hence, to eternally suffer in hell... Nor does one find the problem of the coexistence of God's goodness and free will. I tend to think that the Christian answer to this problem would be that free will is so precious, that God prefers people to be free rather than forcing them to be good. This might be due to the fact that God himself wants to be chosen freely and freely loved. But one might object that this desire of Him implies that there are also evil-doers, who might harm other people. How can one justify a desire, if this indirectly implies harming others?

Mīmāṃsā authors deny any role to god as a philosophical entity. They may personally adore a personal God, but tend to be quite strict in denying to Him/Her any ontological foundation. In other words, god has no place as a justification for the system and there is, consequently, no need to discuss one's freedom in respect to his omnipotence. The absence of any comparison with god also entails that Mīmāṃsā authors do not need to specify in which sense one can be said to be free, given that one is not as free as god is, since, for instance, god can assume every possible form and we cannot. (Pratyabhijñā authors, in this connection, suggest that the limited subjects only enjoy a fraction of the God's infinite power of freedom.)

Are you aware of discussions about God and free will in Sanskrit texts?
On free will in Mīmāṃsā, see this post.

4 comments:

Vidya said...

You say that there are reflections in Islamic thought asking why God does not let future evil doers die there by preventing them from doing evil and have given the christian answer to that. What answer do they give to these reflections in Islamic texts (if they do)?

I am only aware of discussions of whether anugraha is explicitly referred to in the BSB of śankara which is closely related to freewill

elisa freschi said...

Thank you Vidya. Could you explain again what you mean by your last sentence and/or give me a closer reference?
As for Islamic thought, my source are Alessandro Bausani's works (Bausani is a well known scholar of Islam and converted to Islam). He says that exactly due to such paradoxes, one is led to think that God is omnipotent and His will cannot be questioned by human beings. He cannot be judged according to our wishes and needs (human justice being one of them).

Vidya said...

Thank you for the reference. IT is interesting,that some schools treat this a divine lila or will of God and others view it from the perspective of human limitation!

There was a work named Role of divine grace in the soteriology of śamkarācārya - Malkovsky. If we add the notion of anugraha or grace, then the whole dimension of freewill and God being chosen freely gets shifted and introduces a veto power into the system. Of course it c/would be justified that anugraha too would only be a result of accrued actions.

elisa freschi said...

Well, if anugraha is the result of good karman, then God has no intrinsic power any longer! His decisions are not free, but rather depend on the laws of karman, which would be OK for a Spinoza-like God, but not for a personal one, like the Kṛṣṇa adored by Gaudīya Vaiṣṇavas, for instance.
The dilemma seems to me really hard to solve, unless one is willing to take a compatibilist position, saying that eiher God usually does not interfere but may do it in certain cases or that good karman brings you very close to salvation, but the remaning steps can only be performed with God's help (the latter was the position of S. Thomas Aquinas, if I remember correctly). Thanks for the reference, I will try to look for Malkovsky's book.

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