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This is the first part of a three-article series that examines Budd-hist accounts of free will. The present article introduces the issues and reviews earlier attempts by Frances Story, Walpola Rāhula, Luis Gómez, and David Kalupahana. These “early-period” authors advocate compatibilism between Buddhist doctrine, determinism (the doctrine of universal lawful causation), and free will. The second article reviews later attempts by Mark Siderits, Gay Watson, Joseph Goldstein, and Charles Goodman. These “middle-period” authors embrace either partial or full incompatibilism. The third article reviews recent attempts by Nicholas F. Gier and Paul Kjellberg, Asaf Federman, Peter Harvey, and B. Alan Wallace. These “recent-period” authors divide along compatibilist and incompatibilist lines. Most of the scholarly Buddhist works that examine free will in any depth are reviewed in this series. Prior to the above-mentioned early-period scholarship, scholars of Buddhism were relatively silent on free will. The Buddha’s teachings implicitly endorse a certain type of free will and explicitly endorse something very close to determinism, but attempts to articulate the implicit theory bear significant interpretive risks. The purpose of this three-article series is to review such attempts in order to facilitate a comprehensive view of the present state of the discussion and its history.


"Earlier Buddhist Theories of Free Will: Compatibilism" was originally published in 2010 (Volume 17) in the Journal of Buddhist Ethics.



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