Hard Theological Determinism and the Illusion of Free Will: Sri Ramakrishna Meets Lord Kames, Saul Smilansky, and Derk Pereboom

Main Article Content

Ayon Maharaj

Abstract




This essay reconstructs the sophisticated views on free will and determinism of the nineteenth-century Hindu mystic Sri Ramakrishna (1836-1886) and brings them into dialogue with the views of three western philosophers—namely, the Scottish Enlightenment philosopher Lord Kames (1696-1782) and the contemporary analytic philosophers Saul Smilansky and Derk Pereboom. Sri Ramakrishna affirms hard theological determinism, the incompatibilist view that God determines everything we do and think. At the same time, however, he claims that God, in His infinite wisdom, has endowed ordinary unenlightened people with the illusion of free will for the sake of their moral and spiritual welfare. Kames, I suggest, defends a theological determinist position remarkably similar to Sri Ramakrishna’s. However, I argue that Sri Ramakrishna’s mystical orientation puts him in a better position than Kames to explain why a loving God would implant in us the illusion of free will in the first place. I then show how certain aspects of the views of Smilansky and Pereboom resonate with those of Sri Ramakrishna.


Article Details

How to Cite
Maharaj, A. (2018). Hard Theological Determinism and the Illusion of Free Will: Sri Ramakrishna Meets Lord Kames, Saul Smilansky, and Derk Pereboom. Journal of World Philosophies, 3(2), 24-48. Retrieved from https://scholarworks.iu.edu/iupjournals/index.php/jwp/article/view/2148
Section
Articles
Author Biography

Ayon Maharaj

Ayon Maharaj is Assistant Professor and Head of Philosophy at Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda Educational and Research Institute in West Bengal, India. He is also an ordained Brahmacārin, with the name of Buddhacaitanya, in training to be a Sannyāsin monk of the Ramakrishna Order. Holding a doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley, he has published over fifteen articles on Indian, German, and cross-cultural philosophy. He is the author of two books, Infinite Paths to Infinite Reality: Sri Ramakrishna and Cross-Cultural Philosophy of Religion (Oxford University Press, 2018) and The Dialectics of Aesthetic Agency: Revaluating German Aesthetics from Kant to Adorno (Bloomsbury, 2013). He is the editor of the forthcoming International Journal of Hindu Studies.