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In “Confessions of a Deluded Westerner,” Michael Brent insists no contributions to Buddhist Perspectives on Free Will (Repetti) even address free will because none deploy the criteria for free will that Western (incompatibilist) philosophers identify: the ability to do otherwise under identical conditions, and the ability to have one’s choices be up to oneself. Brent claims the criteria and abilities in that anthology are criteria for intentional action, but not all intentional actions are free. He also insists that Buddhism, ironically, cannot even accept intentional action, because, on his analysis, intentionality requires an agent, which Buddhism rejects. I have four responses: (i) Brent ignores the other half of the debate, compatibilism, in both Western and Buddhist philosophy, represented in the anthology by several contributors; (ii) the autonomy of Buddhist meditation virtuosos is titanic compared to Brent’s autonomy criteria, which latter are relatively mundane and facile, rather than something Buddhists fail to rise up to; (iii) such titanic Buddhist autonomy challenges, and possibly defeats, all major Western arguments against free will; and (iv) several contributors address the possibility of agentless agency. These responses could have been taken right out of the anthology, not only from my contributions.


Originally published in the Journal of Buddhist Ethics.

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