Why does a theory of cause and effect matter?

The most fundamental idea of Buddhism is that people are unhappy for a reason; that is, there are causes of human unhappiness, and removing this unhappiness requires removing its causes. This very simple observation led naturally to increasingly complex discussions of causality in general. Indian Buddhist scholastics made various attempts to classify the kinds of cause and their effects and to show how the kinds of cause were related to one another. Others called into question the very idea of causality, or at least they questioned the possibility of classifying causes with precise and workable categories. This chapter begins with the way that the causes of unhappiness are given in canonical texts that are supposed to be records of the Buddha’s teachings, then moves on to how one important scholastic Buddhist categorized causes, and finishes with how the whole project of discussing causality was called into question.

Canonical dependent origination