Will and Desire: Suffering in Buddhism and Augustinian Christianity

Asian American Voices 4 (1):22–27 (2022)
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This paper discusses the existence and nature of suffering as understood by Buddhism and Augustinian Christianity. The Buddha taught suffering as arising from human desire, while Saint Augustine believed it to be a direct result of human free will. In both traditions, the existence of suffering is linked directly to humans, whether it is in their ability to have desires or will freely. These two accounts of suffering and evil are presented in the first section, along with how their respective conceptions of suffering are affected by the law of karma (in Buddhism) and the necessary existence of evil (in Christianity). Then in the second section, these two accounts are evaluated by analyzing the problem of presupposing free will within the karmic conception of existence and why St. Augustine's Free Will theodicy is insufficient to warrant the existence of evil in light of the existence of a benevolent God. The paper concludes by arguing that both Buddhism and Christianity (at least as espoused by St. Augustine) link evil to humans and as a consequence of their actions. And although these two respective understandings have great philosophical merit and could help their followers deal with evil, it is still unable to address the metaphysical existence of suffering in its entirety.

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Huzaifah Islam-Khan
Queens College (CUNY)


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