Recently, some contradictory statements have been made concerning whether or not the Buddha taught free will. Here, a comparative method is used to examine what exactly is meant by free will, and to determine to what extent this meaning is applicable to early Buddhist thought. The comparative method reveals parallels between contemporary criticisms of Cartesian philosophy and Buddhist criticisms of Brahmanical doctrine. Although in Cartesian terms Buddhism promotes no recognizable theory of free will, it does promote a primitive theory of compatibilism, which shares some key features with Daniel Dennett’s position on this issue. It is argued that the implicit Buddhist stance on freedom of the will allows the existence of choice and responsibility without calling upon an ultimate controlling agency that transcends causality.