Buddhist arguments for free will

In a world that is entirely conditioned (saṅkhata), how can we justify the existence of free will? Is it a postulate (logical but undemonstrable)? Are there any suttas that discuss free will?

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Why should we justify the existence of free will?


That’s only half the picture. There is also the unconditioned which is entered progressively through exercising wise attention, each an act of free will.

"The Blessed One said, “Monks, the ending of the fermentations is for one who knows & sees, I tell you, not for one who does not know & does not see. For one who knows what & sees what? Appropriate attention & inappropriate attention.”

—Majjhima Nikaya 2

The conditioned is used skilfully to reach the unconditioned. However it’s important to maintain a clear division between the two:

" “But how does a monk know, how does a monk see, so that ignorance is abandoned and clear knowing arises?”

“There is the case, monk, where a monk has heard, ‘All things are unworthy of attachment.’ Having heard that all things are unworthy of attachment, he directly knows every thing. Directly knowing every thing, he comprehends every thing. Comprehending every thing, he sees all themes[2] as something separate.”

—Samyutta Nikaya 35.80

This has been discussed many times on the forum already. Please use the search :mag: at the top right


Free will is an axiom in any phenomenological approach.

Else there exists no proof of free will in either philosophy and/or sience.

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Science suggests something in between: Neuroscience and Free Will on Vimeo

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“Of course we have free will. We have no choice but to have it” Christopher Hitchens

Free will has to be assumed. In other words, it’s conventionally real. Try to find it ultimately though and you can’t. The same with anything else.


Interesting @Rukkhamula. I have the same thoughts as your deleted posts. The other person who used to say that is Late Bhante Punnaji.

Thank you for saying what needs to be said!

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Interesting—it seems there is a lot we agree on so far. Hopefully that’s a good thing. But after I wrote it I realized it was the wrong place and deleted it.