Rick  Repetti Author of Evaluating Organization Development
FEATURED AUTHOR

Rick Repetti

Professor of Philosophy
CUNY/Kingsborough

Professor Repetti, Ph.D (CUNY 2005), has published on free will, ethics, Buddhism, meditation, contemplative philosophy, and the philosophy of religion, among other topics. Prof. Repetti is a Fellow of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, co-founder of the CUNY Contemplatives Network, facilitator of a weekly meditation group on campus, a meditation and yoga instructor in the community since 2000, a multiple-decades meditation practitioner, and a 4th degree black belt in Shotokan karate.

Biography

My life’s work, not just my CV, is to reconcile the tensions between the analytic and contemplative strands in my nature: I am an analytic philosopher of religion, broadly conceived to include not only issues in Abrahamic religions and natural theology, but Buddhism and other Asian philosophies, religions, and contemplative traditions, as well as metaphysics, philosophy of mind, language, science, and related areas. My primary research focus is free will.

I am strictly an analytic philosopher, notwithstanding multiple decades of meditation practice. At CUNY, I was Jerry Katz’s grad assistant, and studied with Hartry Field, Stephen Schiffer, Jerry Fodor, Jaegwon Kim, David Rosenthal, Virginia Held, Charles Landesman, Jonathan Adler, Paul Taylor, Gertrude Ezorsky and others. I took my oral comprehensive exams in philosophy of language, logic, and mathematics; then I applied philosophy of mind and language to my dissertation on free will, arguing against its incompatibility with God’s foreknowledge, fatalism, determinism, etc., and for a metacognitive causal or ‘metacausal’ revision to Harry Frankfurt’s hierarchical theory. He and Galen Strawson were among my examiners; they strongly approved my dissertation, despite my criticisms of their mutually opposed views.

Philosophy of religion is at the core of my own search for meaning, and drives most of my research. What drew me to philosophy were mystical meditation experiences I had as a teenager, which contradicted my rational view of reality. I’ve struggled to resolve that tension since, explaining why I’m steeped in analytic philosophy of religion, which in my case subsumes a contemplative, phenomenological strand. After decades of practice, I understand meditation to be a form of analytic/phenomenological inquiry: critical introspective analysis of subjective experience. A reconciliationist in disposition, the formidable ties but greater tensions between these strands define me and both drive and inform my research.

My edited collection, Buddhist Perspectives on Free Will: Agentless Agency? (Routledge, 2016), has a great line up and solid endorsements. I’m working on a monograph on the same topic (for Routledge), another collection on philosophy and meditation, and another monograph on the tension between analytic thought and mystical experience—the subject closest to my heart.

I’ve taught 16 courses at four colleges: three CUNY colleges (Brooklyn, LaGuardia, Kingsborough) and Vassar College. I’m a multiple-decades practitioner of meditation and yoga. For a decade I’ve co-led the CUNY Contemplatives Network, a CUNY-wide group of over 100 contemplative faculty (organizing conferences, lecture series, meditations, films), and led a weekly meditation group on campus, and for 17 years I’ve taught meditation and yoga in the community, among many related activities. I’m a Fellow of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society. I administer several online discussion groups, our faculty social media website, and my department’s wiki. I’m active in governance on campus, across CUNY, and in the American Philosophical Association.

Areas of Research / Professional Expertise

    Topics of professional interest: free will and moral responsibility; God’s foreknowledge and free will; Buddhist views of free will; contemplative practices and free will; meditation; Buddhist philosophy; the problem of evil and theodicy; divine command theory; the ethics of teaching philosophy of religion; atheism versus agnosticism; contemplative philosophy; contemplative pedagogy; theological pluralism; mystical non-duality and its cognitive value (and alleged ineffability); comparative religion; the grounds for worship; perfect being theology; comparative theodicy (which theodicy best coheres with the best possible being?); Asian philosophy; Classical philosophy; and global ethics.

Personal Interests

    I’m a multiple-decades meditation and yoga practitioner and instructor, an exercise enthusiast, a former marathoner, a 4th degree black belt in Shotokan karate, and an amateur artist.

Websites

Books

Featured Title
 Featured Title - Buddhism, Meditation, and Free Will - 1st Edition book cover

Articles

Philosophy’s Perennial Questions: Comparing Buddhist and Western Approaches, ed. Steven Emmanuel. Columbia UP

“Is Anything We Do Ever Really Up To Us?"


Published: Dec 31, 2017 by Philosophy’s Perennial Questions: Comparing Buddhist and Western Approaches, ed. Steven Emmanuel. Columbia UP
Authors: Rick Repetti

In this collection on the applicability of Buddhist philosophy to the perennial problems of Western philosophy, I focus on the problem of free will, I summarize its various iterations in Western philosophy (religious, scientific, etc.), and how various Buddhist conceptual, theoretical, and doctrinal elements, as well as practical methods (particularly meditation) may be brought to bear on the problem.

Fusion Philosophy, edited by Christian Coseru

“Two Truths about Buddhist Agency: the Path from the Personal to the Impersonal"


Published: Dec 30, 2017 by Fusion Philosophy, edited by Christian Coseru
Authors: Riccardo Repetti
Subjects: Asian Studies

This paper explores Mark Siderits's use of the early Buddhist "two truths" doctrine, which distinguishes between conventional/pragmatic truth and ultimate truth, as a way of handling the free will problem. Whereas Siderits argues that the two modes of discourse are semantically insulated, rendering them compatible in a certain sense, I argue that the Buddhist path delineates a progression from the one to the other, thereby bridging the gap between them.

A Mirror Is for Reflection: Understanding Buddhist Ethics, ed. Jake Davis. Oxford UP

“What Do Buddhists Think about Free Will?”


Published: Dec 29, 2017 by A Mirror Is for Reflection: Understanding Buddhist Ethics, ed. Jake Davis. Oxford UP
Authors: Rick Repetti
Subjects: Asian Studies

In this collection on Buddhist ethics, I critically review the bulk of the extant literature on Buddhist views about free will and moral responsibility.

 Handbook of Mindfulness: Culture, Context and Social Engagement, eds. Ron Purser, David Forbes & Adam Burke, pp. 473-93

“Meditation Matters: Replies to the Anti-McMindfulness Bandwagon!”


Published: Oct 28, 2016 by Handbook of Mindfulness: Culture, Context and Social Engagement, eds. Ron Purser, David Forbes & Adam Burke, pp. 473-93
Authors: Rick Repetti
Subjects: Asian Studies

In this collection of mainly critical treatments of mindfulness, I differentiate between mindfulness as a trait and a practice designed to cultivate that trait, I review major objections to its secular application outside traditional Buddhism (viz., it fails to challenge the status quo, it waters down Buddhism, etc.), I pit some of these objections against each other, and I respond individually to these objections.

Buddhist Perspectives on Free Will: Agentless Agency, ed. R. Repetti (Routledge), pp. 193-206

“Agentless Agency: The Soft Compatibilist Argument"


Published: Aug 02, 2016 by Buddhist Perspectives on Free Will: Agentless Agency, ed. R. Repetti (Routledge), pp. 193-206
Authors: Rick Repetti
Subjects: Asian Studies

I argue that Buddhism can counter the most powerful arguments for free will skepticism or hard incompatibilism (the consequence argument, the manipulation argument, the randomness argument, and the impossibility argument), thereby making a case for free will optimism or soft compatibilism (compatibilism between free will and any conception of causation or conditioning).

Buddhist Perspectives on Free Will: Agentless Agency, ed. R. Repetti, pp. 1-10

“Hermeneutical Koan—What Is the Sound of One Buddhist Theory of Free Will?"


Published: Aug 02, 2016 by Buddhist Perspectives on Free Will: Agentless Agency, ed. R. Repetti, pp. 1-10
Authors: Rick Repetti
Subjects: Asian Studies

This introductory chapter introduces and summarizes all the issues addressed in this edited collection on Buddhist views of free will, explaining each article and how it relates to those before and after it in the collection.

Buddhist Perspectives on Free Will: Agentless Agency, ed. R. Repetti, pp. 22-33

“Why There Ought To Be a Buddhist Theory of Free Will.”


Published: Aug 02, 2016 by Buddhist Perspectives on Free Will: Agentless Agency, ed. R. Repetti, pp. 22-33
Authors: Rick Repetti
Subjects: Asian Studies

In this collection of articles on Buddhism and free will, I address the views of certain scholars of Buddhist philosophy who think Buddhism should not be in the business of free will theorizing, for various reasons, and offer my own reasons for thinking that Buddhism has much to offer to our understanding of the subject, as well as reasons for thinking the buddha himself had a favorable view of the subject.

Science, Religion & Culture 2:4, pp. 115-124

“If God Didn’t Satisfice, We Could Still Exist”


Published: Dec 01, 2015 by Science, Religion & Culture 2:4, pp. 115-124
Authors: Rick Repetti

I argue that Robert M. Adams' "Must God Create the Best?" fails to show that God's creation of imperfect beings like us is acceptable because we would not exist if God were restricted to creating perfect beings. Adams argues that we have imperfect features that are constitutive of who we are, so, were God to alter those features, we wouldn't exist. I argue that his identity theory contradicts his theology's identity theory, which maintains that we are souls. Souls can inhabit different bodies.

Science, Religion & Culture, 2:2, pp. 81-98

“Buddhist Meditation and the Possibility of Freedom”


Published: May 01, 2015 by Science, Religion & Culture, 2:2, pp. 81-98
Authors: Rick Repetti

I argue that Buddhist meditation cultivates the ability to decondition the mind in such a way that the practitioner is able to detach from, and thus not react to or act on, typical cognitive/volitional impulses and other mental state factors that generally determine reactions in ordinary agents, and that this ability may be used to counter the four major arguments in support of free will skepticism: the consequence, manipulation, randomness, and impossibility arguments.

Journal of Buddhist Ethics, vol. 21, pp. 279-352

“Recent Buddhist Theories of Free Will: Compatibilism, Incompatibilism & Beyond"


Published: Mar 14, 2014 by Journal of Buddhist Ethics, vol. 21, pp. 279-352
Authors: Riccardo Repetti

This is the last in a 4-article series reviewing Buddhist views of free will. Recent compatibilist and incompatibilist lines, mirroring Theravāda and Mahāyāna Buddhist perspectives, respectively, are reviewed. Gier and Kjellberg articulate both perspectives; Federman and Harvey advocate Theravāda compatibilism; and Wallace argues that although determinism and free will are incompatible, subtle complexities of Mahāyāna Buddhist metaphysics circumvent the free will and determinism dichotomy.

Journal of Buddhist Ethics, vol. 19, pp. 130-97

“Buddhist Hard Determinism: No Self, No Free Will, No Responsibility”


Published: Apr 19, 2012 by Journal of Buddhist Ethics, vol. 19, pp. 130-97
Authors: Riccardo Repetti

This is the 3rd article in a 4-article series reviewing Buddhist views of free will; this article critically reviews Charles Goodman's view that Buddhism is hard determinist (it views causation as lawful, thus allowing no alternate possibilities required for free will), and that Buddhism rejects the self, in which case there can be no autonomous self. I argue against both claims.

Journal of Buddhist Ethics, vol. 19, pp. 33-95

“Buddhist Reductionism and Free Will: Paleo-compatibilism”


Published: Apr 11, 2012 by Journal of Buddhist Ethics, vol. 19, pp. 33-95
Authors: Riccardo Repetti

This is the 2nd in a 4-article series of reviews of Buddhist views of free will; this article critically reviews the view of Mark Siderits, who argues that because early Buddhist philosophy differentiates between conventional and ultimate truths, free will is conventional and determinism is ultimate, they cannot be incompatible because they exist in different discourse domains. I examine certain problems for this approach.

Journal of Buddhist Ethics, vol. 17, pp. 279-310

“Earlier Buddhist Theories of Free Will: Compatibilism"


Published: Dec 21, 2010 by Journal of Buddhist Ethics, vol. 17, pp. 279-310
Authors: Riccardo Repetti

The 1st in a 4-article series examining Buddhist views of free will, this article critically reviews the views of Frances Story, Walpola Rāhula, Luis Gómez, and David Kalupahana, noting that they all seek to endorse a compatibilism between free will and Buddhist causation, which they take to be what I call a "wiggly determinism," i.e., some sort of middle way between determinism/indeterminism. I argue that any indeterminism cancels determinism.

New Directions for Community Colleges 151, pp. 5-15

“The Case for a Contemplative Philosophy of Education”


Published: Sep 16, 2010 by New Directions for Community Colleges 151, pp. 5-15
Authors: Rick Repetti

I distinguish contemplative practices, studies, and pedagogy, and argue for contemplative pedagogy, referring to 2 case studies: one in an art class where the instructor prompted students to "behold" a single painting throughout the course, distinguishing observations from interpretations, and the other in the author's philosophy class, creating a contemplative mood with quantified results (increased intrinsic curiosity, etc.).

Journal of Buddhist Ethics, vol. 17, pp. 166-212

“Meditation and Mental Freedom: A Buddhist Theory of Free Will”


Published: Jul 15, 2010 by Journal of Buddhist Ethics, vol. 17, pp. 166-212
Authors: Riccardo Repetti

Buddhist methodology supports a view of free will similar to Harry Frankfurt’s view and contrary to Galen Strawson’s. Frankfurt identifies meta-volitional effectiveness with free will, and Buddhism advocates a similar skill in the 2d fold of the 8-fold path, "right intention", which on Frankfurt's analysis would increase free will. Strawson argues that all choice is a function of mental conditions, thus unfree, but Buddhism promotes nirvana, an unconditioned state of mental freedom.

APA Newsletter on Teaching Philosophy, Vol. 3, Issue 2, pp. 18-19

"Reply to Steven Cahn's 'The Ethics of Teaching: A Puzzle.'"


Published: Apr 01, 2004 by APA Newsletter on Teaching Philosophy, Vol. 3, Issue 2, pp. 18-19
Authors: Rick Repetti

Invited response to "The Ethics of Teaching: A Puzzle," Steven M. Cahn's challenge about whether there is a principled difference between students' beliefs about God and an inaccessible benefactor uncle. Can asks if we think neither God nor the uncle exists, should we try to convince the students, and if we think there's a difference, what is it and how should we respond? I argued there may be differences, that our responses should shift accordingly, and that students be let to solve the puzzle.

Photos

Videos

Why Liberal Arts?

Published: Nov 30, 2010

Advice for students. I discuss the rationale for a Liberal Arts education, essentially as a requirement for civically engaged, informed, critical thinking citizens in a model society, as well as for students to explore and discover what they love and are good at, so they may choose the most rewarding careers.

Why Study Philosophy?

Published: Nov 30, 2010

A short introductory talk by Professor Rick Repetti, Professor of Philosophy in the Department of History, Philosophy & Political Science (Kingsborough Community College, CUNY), about the function of a philosophy education, the sort of skills developed in philosophy courses, and why philosophy training is valuable for almost any other pursuit in life.

"Mindfulness Meditation and Autonomy: A Buddhist Theory of Free Will"

Published: Nov 30, 2008

I argue that Harry Frankfurt's meta-volitional/volitional-harmony analysis of free will may be applied to the Buddhist prescription to cultivate right intentions and mindfulness, to sketch a possible Buddhist view of free will.