Both culture and biology exert such a great influence over who we become that I have to wonder whether free will, if it exists at all, can be said to make all men accountable for their actions. I’m not thinking about this so much in relation to religion as to science though I’m sure there is much which could be said from either side. Are men destined to be oppressors and violators without adequate cultural intervention? Must women always be on guard against the lust and domination of men? Is that our biological inheritance and do our cultural practices ameliorate or exaggerate those tendencies?
What has me thinking about it is having just finished reading John Irving’s The Cider House Rules and now finishing up The World According to Garp. Why do some people embrace the worst stereotypes or seemingly not see them as negotiable? Why do some see the harm they would do and stop themselves while others seem not to reflect at all?
This state of affairs seems typically messy in the way nature is seen to be in the lives of other organisms. I wonder how effective religion has been increasing the space between impulse and action in which free will can operate. Do we have free will enough and is it wide spread enough in the population to give us hope? I might need to read something more upbeat next, though I think both books are incredible.