Mindfulness, Free Will and Buddhist Practice: Can Meditation Enhance Human Agency?

Buddhist Studies Review 31 (1):125-140 (2014)
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Recent philosophical and neuroscientific writings on the problem of free will have tended to consolidate the deterministic accounts with the upshot that free will is deemed to be illusory and contrary to the scientific facts. Buddhist commentaries on these issues have been concerned in the main with whether karma and dependent origination implies a causal determinism which constrains free human agency or — in more nuanced interpretations allied with Buddhist meditation — whether mindfulness practice allows for the development of at least some potentially free volitions and actions. After examining some of the key arguments in this debate, it is suggested that the present-moment attention and awareness central to mindfulness practice may offer a way out of the impasse presented by the alleged illusion of free will. The meditative spaciousness of non-judgmental, present-moment awareness can help to foster the capacity to transform those mental formations which constrain autonomous thought and action. This conclusion is informed by the general thesis that free will is not a given — an innate aspect of the human condition — but, like wisdom or rationality, a potential quality of mind which may be developed through training, education and skilful means.



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Citations of this work

Buddhist Perspectives on Free Will: Agentless Agency?Rick Repetti (ed.) - 2016 - London, UK: Routledge / Francis & Taylor.
Buddhist Meditation and the Possibility of Freedom.Rick Repetti - 2016 - Science, Religion and Culture 2 (2):81-98.

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