Free Will Again


Isn’t free will an endlessly fascinating topic? When is an action voluntary? On the face of it, if I want to do something and I do it, the related action is clearly voluntary. But, on analysis, we find that there is a whole spectrum of relationships between actions and the so-called volition that triggers them.

In the book ‘The Questions of Life’ (Ref. 1), Fernando Savater suggests the following scenario. I am on a train and, with my mind elsewhere (contemplating the thorny problem of free will versus determinism perhaps), I am absentmindedly playing with my rail ticket. Having been bending and re-bending it, twisting it here and there, I eventually screw it up and throw it out of the open window. Eventually, the ticket inspector arrives and asks for my ticket. Upon emerging from my intellectual reverie, I realize what has happened and I’m forced to tell the inspector that I threw it away unintentionally. Continue reading

Action – Agency

An action should have an actor (kartA). That means there should be someone to claim: “I am doing this”. Only humankind has this sense of agency, though all living beings naturally are active. Man is born as part of nature and lives as part of nature. But he does not realize his being an integral part of nature, and therefore is oblivious of the fact that his ability to know, ability of volition, and ability to do works are merely part of the creative function of nature. Because of this obliviousness he thinks he is the doer of all these actions. Such a man is called vimUDhAtmA (the stupefied one or the stupid). Only such stupid ones have the sense of agency and they alone have karma.

From Karma and Reincarnation, Swami Muni Naryanana Prasad, D.K. Printworld (P) Ltd., 1993, ISBN 81-246-0022-8. Buy from Amazon US, Buy from Amazon UK