chapter  1
11 Pages

Why the Buddha did not discuss ‘the problem of free will and determinism’

It is widely recognized that the problem of free will and determinism, a standard topic in contemporary Western philosophy, was not addressed in traditional Buddhist thought. In this chapter, I propose some reasons for this lacuna in the teaching of the Buddha as represented in the four primary Nikāyas (baskets or collections) of the Pāli Canon. The heart of the reason is the Buddha’s practical orientation: he said he would only discuss topics that directly pertain to overcoming suffering, and little in his teaching about this directly brought the problem into focus.