The problem with the debate on "free will" is that it takes it starting point in Christian or Humanist dualism. What we need to do is to restart the discussion on "will" and "freedom" from a MONIST perspective instead. We will then likely end up in a very different place compared to the endless tug-of-war between dualists and determinists. Both those camps are wrong.
For example: "Holding a criminal responsible for his or her acts" assumes dualism to begin with. As if the body of the person and the action of the person are two different things. In Mazdayasna, they are one and the same thing. The history of a body is just another dimension of the body itself, as viewed back in time and towards the future.
So justice should not be about holding people responsible for whatever but is rather an issue of what the expected consequences are of a certain body being in a certain place (for example roaming about or being locked up) both for that body and for other bodies it will encounter. Including how other bodies may act if a certain action is followed by a certain "punishment". Think asha, not revenge!
2011/7/27 Special Kain
Dear brothers and sisters
I'd like to discuss the issue of "free will" vs. determinism since it has recently popped up here on The Ushta List. Also, freedom of choice is key in Zoroastrian philosophy.
This debate is obviously about absolutes: radically free will vs. every act is pre-programmed. Genetic determinism has been quite popular because it gives simplistic explanations for complex issues. It is something that the media can easily present to their audiences and with which ambitious politicans can justify the current power structure. Luckily, it is quite controversial and shakes the very foundations of our modern societies: the law. How do we punish criminals if no-one can be held responsible for their actions?
In fact, genetic determinism has never been widely accepted within the scientific community. We are genetically pre-programmed to develop certain character traits or get certain diseases, but it is our lifestyles and our environment which also influence the outcome: our current "self". And there is still no answer to the question which forces have a stronger influence on who we are than others. Both sociobiology and evolutionary psychology have failed. There is empirical evidence that things work differently.
We can reduce this debate to the question whether "we" make decisions or if something else (our genes, the Freudian subconscious, etc.) make these decisions for us.
So far all scientists agree that contingency comes with complexity. As complex beings, we're constantly forced to cope with contingency which means means that things aren't necessarily the way they are - they could have been different. And history has proof that people have done improbable things (please see Peter Sloterdijk: "Du musst dein Leben ändern").
The pragmatists define "free will" in terms of learning experience and self-control. The better we are at coping with complexity, the more we know and the more options we co-create, the more freedom we have. Freedom is something we give ourselves by increasing our intelligence. As John Dewey would say,freedom and intelligence come hand in hand. So the smarter we are, the more choices we have and the better we can cope with the ever increasing number of choices. Our environment gradually turns from restraints into an "ecology of choice".
So the question is not whether there is "free will" but if we're creative and smart enough to do things (the freedom-towards vs. the freedom-from). This freedom is directed at THE FUTURE. While "free will" is an entity with which we're provided irrespective of our environment, this positive and future-oriented freedom (in terms of intelligence and the ecology of choice) refers to a PROCESS.