A Metamodern Approach to the Buddhist Problem of Free Will

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The problem of free will in Buddhism arises from apparent inconsistencies in its essential doctrines of not-self, dependent origination, and karma. These as well as other Buddhist teachings set up two conflicting theoretical poles: a view of causality and determinism in which there is no substantial self that persists through time and no free will, and on the other hand, a view in which something is reborn and reaps the consequences of its karma, implying a form of moral agency and responsibility that seems impossible without belief in some type of substantial self. This conflict also engenders the Buddhist distinction between absolute truth and conventional truth. In previous scholarship on this problem, the procedure has generally been to decide which aspects of either pole of the conflict are most important and then reconstruct the other aspects in a way that falls in accordance with them. Thus, the paradigm of thought on this problem in the West has been one of compromise within a postmodern deconstructionist dialectic, in which the scholar leans toward either pole of the conflict and attempts to force the other one into agreement. This has led to a variety of proposed solutions, all of which are at least slightly unsatisfactory, both philosophically and to the Buddhist in practice. In recent years, however, scholarship has begun to move away from this paradigm, and I propose in this thesis a new paradigm and solution: a metamodern approach to Buddhism that collapses the distance between the two poles of the conflict, as exemplified by its response to the Buddhist problem of free will.