From a traditional perspective, karma is the direct, causal result of one’s intention (cetanā). Furthermore, early Buddhist texts describe that intention arises out of the interaction of psychological factors (e.g. dispositional formations, consciousness, and affect) as well as physical factors (e.g. the sense organs and their objects). This doctrine of “dependent arising,” may be understood to express the claim that subjectivity and agency arise in dependence upon specific, impersonal conditions. The influential Mādhyamaka School developed this doctrine by emphasizing that because all things are dependent, they must also be “empty” of an intrinsic nature. Śāntideva, among other Mādhyamika thinkers, places great value on dependent arising and contends that only this understanding of the empty nature of things will lead to pure altruism. Hence, both early and later Buddhist authors alike take an understanding of actions as arising according to lawful, natural principles to be not only compatible with moral responsibility, but a crucial foundation for ethical development. This panel asks, what sort of freedom makes the best sense of Buddhist normative claims? And do these philosophical positions have anything new to offer the modern debate over determinism and moral responsibility?
Panelists David Pizarro (Cornell University) Mark Siderits (Seoul National University, KR) Riccardo Repetti (Kingsborough College) Christian Coseru (College of Charleston)