Determinism, Free Will and Morality: A Jain Perspective

In Shrinetra Pandey & Sanjali Jain (eds.), Determinism in Śramaṇa Traditions. Delhi, India: pp. 77-84 (2020)
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The problem of determinism and free will has occupied the minds of human beings since time immemorial. Philosophers have dwelt on it at great length. The problem is alike for both those who support determinism and those who do not. From one side, it is argued that since all the actions are causally determined, the belief that we are free is an illusion; from the other side, it is argued that since we know that we are free, universal determinism is false. Some others argue for both – truth of determinism as well as that of free will but then the question of morality is left aside. The paper attempts to deal with the problem in the light of Jaina philosophy. It is further aggravated when one takes into account one of the central theme of Jaina philosophy – omniscience. Determinism then becomes a necessary corollary of the doctrine that there is a person who knows everything – past, present and future. But, if determinism is true, how does Jainism account for free will? What would be the Jaina position when one talks of moral obligation / responsibility? Is the Jaina position on determinism absolutistic or non-absolutistic? If it is absolutistic, then how does it affect anekāntavāda? The paper seeks to address these issues with some plausible solutions.

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Jinesh R. Sheth
University of Mumbai


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