The Instigator
kasmic
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
Fkkize
Pro (for)
Winning
9 Points

Compatibilism

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 3 votes the winner is...
Fkkize
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/9/2016 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,487 times Debate No: 87968
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (26)
Votes (3)

 

kasmic

Con

Clarification: I am not really convinced of this topic and in an effort to delve into the topic further I am hoping to debate the topic at hand.

Fkkize

Pro

Let's do this.
Debate Round No. 1
kasmic

Con

I want to thank Fkkize for accepting this debate; this should be both educational and enjoyable! A note to those reading, this is an exercise of study for me. Much of my case and arguments will not be of my own making. I apologize for the large amount of this that will undoubtedly be quotes.

Before I present my case against compatibilism, it seems prudent to frame this debate. By compatibilism is meant “The View that free will is compatible with determinism.” (1) This is important to remember as this debate is not about whether “free will” is real or an illusion. Likewise, it is not about whether determinism is a correct worldview. Rather, it is if these two principles are compatible. In order to demonstrate these principles compatible or incompatible, it is important to have a basic understanding of both principles.

Determinism: “A common characterization of determinism states that every event (except the first, if there is one) is causally necessitated by antecedent events…… that the facts of the past, in conjunction with the laws of nature, entail every truth about the future. (2)


Free Will:For the most part, what philosophers working on this issue have been hunting for is a feature of agency that is necessary for persons to be morally responsible for their conduct.” (2)

My Case:

There are two main arguments used to illustrate the incompatibility of determinism and free will.

1:
Determinism makes it impossible for us to “cause and control our actions in the right kind of way.”(3)

“Moral responsibility requires autonomy or self-determination: that our actions are caused and controlled by, and only by, our selves. To use a slogan popular in the literature: We act freely and are morally responsible only if we are the ultimate source of our actions.” (3)


The acceptance of determinism eliminates this kind autonomy. This is because acceptance of determinism accepts that we are not the ultimate source of our actions and that every event is “necessitated by antecedent events.” (2) If we are not the Ultimate source of our actions we are not acting freely.

2: “Determinism deprives us of the power or ability to do or choose otherwise.” (3)

determinism entails that what we do is the only thing we can do, and that because of this we never really have a choice about anything.”(3)


It seems reasonable that a person is only acting freely if they could have acted in some other way. To accept determinism is to reject this possibility. Actions are merely the “facts of the past, in conjunction with the laws of nature, entail every truth about the future.”(2)

Summary of arguments:

It seems clear to me that these two principles of free will and determinism are incompatible. One may subscribe to free will, or determinism, to accept both would be to accept opposing thoughts. This is fickle, and would be inconsistent.

Sources:


(1) https://www3.nd.edu...
(2) http://plato.stanford.edu...
(3) http://plato.stanford.edu...

Fkkize

Pro

I wanted to debate this topic for a long time now, so I thank kasmic for giving me the opportunity


He gives a fair presentation of both the issue and my position. It should be noted however that compatibilism does not entail a belief in determinism (which fortunately does not affect his arguments). I for once think determinism is most likely false.

Yet I am not a libertarian, why is that? One reason is that so far I have not encountered a possible decision making process that is neither determined by antecedent causes, nor random and arbitrary. This is usually referred to as agent causation, about which we will talk again later.

Should someone (Con) find a way to make sense of such a process, then compatibilism would be significantly weakened.

Con presents two arguments, that under Determinism we are not the ultimate source of our actions and that Determinism deprives us of the ability to do otherwise. I am going to address them in reverse order.


The second argument

Free will (FW) is, as Con acknowledges, a necessary condition for moral responsibility. This, prima facie, does not entail the ability to do otherwise.

For p to entail q there has to be no possible situation in which p obtains, but q does not.

Or in other words, there is no possible situation, in which an agent S has moral responsibility, but lacks the ability to do otherwise. To see whether this is true, let us consider a famous thought experiment by Harry Frankfurt:


Allison is contemplating whether to walk her dog or not. Unbeknown to Allison, her father, Lloyd, wants to insure that that she does decide to walk the dog. He has therefore implanted a computer chip in her head such that if she is about to decide not to walk the dog, the chip will activate and coerce her into deciding to take the dog for a walk. Given the presence of the chip, Allison is unable not to decide to walk her dog, and she lacks the ability to do otherwise. However, Allison does decide to walk the dog on her own. (1)


This is one of the so called “Frankfurt-cases”, cases in which someone’s choice is free but the outcome is deterministic.

So, it seems there are at least some possible situations in which the agent does have moral responsibility, but lacks the ability to do otherwise.

Therefore, it is not the case that we can assert an entailment relation here.


The first argument

The reason I addressed the second argument first, is that it represents a special case of the more general first argument. What does the ability to do otherwise entail? To me “to do otherwise” seems to mean:


in any given situation, where there are multiple choices open to an agent, it is not the case that the beginning of the causal chain leading up to her choice lies anywhere outside herself.


In other words, to do otherwise an agent has to be the ultimate source of her choices. This is what is referred to as agent causation.

As I said, so far I don’t know any sensible account of agent causation and although I do appreciate the rhetoric force the cursive bit above has, I do not believe it is something we should want to have.


To illustrate why, imagine a case where S has clearly overriding reason to perform some act, but does not act in accordance with this reason.

Say some rational agent S knows for a fact that before a race horse H1 was doped to outperform horses H2-Hn. Let’s assume further the odds of H1 winning to be 99:1. Ignoring moral issues, it seems very clear that if S wants to win the betting, the most rational thing to do is to bet on H1.

In a deterministic world S bets on H1 every time, no matter how often we run the scenario. But what about an indeterministic world? H1 being doped is clearly external to S and clearly provides/ should provide an overriding reason for S. Why should this not determine S’s choice?

On one hand, if agent causation implies in some cases S was to bet on any other horse, S would make clearly irrational decisions and agent causation would thus NOT be worth wanting as a necessary condition for free will (accountability).

On the other hand, if agent causation implies S was to make the same (rational) decision every time, her actual ability to do otherwise is no different to the hypothetical freedom she has under determinism, that is she could have done otherwise had she wanted to do so at that time. Thus, agent causation is either not something we should want to have or it is vacuous.

If I make choices, I want them to depend or rather be determined by what I want to do, what I have most reason to do and what I desire, which does not at all sound unreasonable to me, yet all of these things depend on external influences.


A compatibilist account

Until now I have merely objected my opponent’s arguments, so even if I am successful in defeating them, some might bite the bullet and declare free will to be a nonsensical concept to begin with. Therefore, I will present a simple hierarchical-mesh model of free will, on order to illustrate that even under determinism we can be responsible for our actions.


As stated earlier, it just seems reasonable for us to want our choices to be influenced by our desires. Some of these desires count in favor of performing certain actions, like desiring to eat when you are hungry or to rescue the kid drowning in a pond a few meters away from you. We may call these desires
1st order desires.

Other desires are about such 1st order desires. For example, you might desire to be the kind of person who does the morally good thing and thus “desires to desire” rescuing the kid, even though you also may not (1st order) desire to get your clothes dirty and as a result being late for work. We may call these desires 2nd order desires.

In principle there is no limit to the order of desires we introduce, however two are already sufficient to demonstrate how we can have responsibility without referencing the notion of causal ultimacy.


To do so, let us consider a scenario where it seems the agent bears no or at least diminished responsibility for her actions. I limit myself to only one as I believe readers are able to see how this generalizes to other scenarios.

Imagine Kate is a kleptomaniac. She does not want to feel this constant urge to take other people’s possessions. Thus she has the 2nd order desire to not be a kleptomaniac. Nonetheless she inevitably encounters a situation in which her kleptomania makes her desire (1st order) to steal and further makes her act on this desire.

Although stealing is clearly wrong, it seems only reasonable to assign diminished responsibility to kleptomaniacs, at least in certain situations.

Thus, I propose an agent bears moral responsibility, that is free will, if (and only if) she acts on 1st order desires which align with her 2nd order desires.

(1) http://www.iep.utm.edu...

Debate Round No. 2
kasmic

Con

First let us examine Harry Frankfurt’s thought experiment. (Pro’s round 2 under “the second argument.) Pro states that “This is one of the so called “Frankfurt-cases”, cases in which someone’s choice is free but the outcome is deterministic.” It seems reasonable to recall that a person is only acting freely if they could have acted in some other way. In this given example we see that the type of “freedom” that my opponent is suggesting does not entail this ability. This type of freedom is clearly an allusion. Would you consider yourself free to choose so long as you always choose what an external force allows? Certainly not.

Fkkize agreed with the definition provided of free will. The thought experiment above includes no moral responsibility. Reconsider, the experiment where Allison is the Dog. The Dog is either going to "choose" to do what its master Lloyd desires, or will be forced to. Not much of a choice. No one would argue the Dog to have moral free will. The only difference between my opponents example and mine is that he assumes the human somehow has moral free will when the dog does not. This assumption being bare leaves this example hollow. As Sam Harris has stated “Compatibilism amounts to nothing more than an assertion of the following creed: A puppet is free as long as he loves his strings.” (1) In this particular thought experiment I would say that my opponent is arguing A puppet is free so long as it is unaware of its strings. Thus, it seems to me that this argument it to suggest that an illusion of free will is compatible with determinism. But an illusion of free will is not free will.

To Do Otherwise:


Pro interprets “to do otherwise” as “in any given situation, where there are multiple choices open to an agent, it is not the case that the beginning of the causal chain leading up to her choice lies anywhere outside herself.” Not to deepen this discussion to far, but such a claim would have to clearly define the “self.” Certainly any sensible definition would include consciousness. This causes a problem as modern understanding of the brain demonstrates that our consciousness is more or less just a spectator and thought our thoughts and desires are not of our own creation but rather the result of something outside of consciousness.

To suggest that people could do otherwise than they have is as pointless a statement as if things were different they would be different. Remember, determinism entails that what we do is the only thing we can do, and that because of this we never really have a choice about anything.”(2)

Pro provides an illustration as to why he thinks people could act otherwise. This contention misses the mark as it is an argument against determinism itself and not an argument for compatibilism. He concludes that “If I make choices, I want them to depend or rather be determined by what I want to do” This is a clever statement that plays on the semantics of “determined.” Determined in this sense is something you choose to determine, determinism is accepting that “every event (except the first, if there is one) is causally necessitated by antecedent events…… that the facts of the past, in conjunction with the laws of nature, entail every truth about the future.”

Pro next presents what he calls a compatibilist account. This entire segment hinges on “desires.” The issue is that under determinism, our desires themselves are caused. determinism entails that what we do is the only thing we can do, and that because of this we never really have a choice about anything.” Likewise we could conclude from determinism that it entails that we desire what we desire because it is the only thing we could desire due to previous causes.

Conclusion:

Remember this debate is not about whether determinism and/or free will are true principles, but rather if they are compatible. I confess at this point I am unconvinced that they are not compatible.

Sources:

(1) “Free Will” by Sam Harris
(2) http://plato.stanford.edu...

Fkkize

Pro

Fkkize forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
kasmic

Con

Due to issues on this website, Fkkize was unable to post his argument last round even though it was completed on time. Here is the link to Fkkize’s 3rd round.

http://www.debate.org...

I am going to respond directly to a few of the statements made by Pro.

A: “I spent roughly a third of my opening statement rejecting the idea of moral responsibility requiring the ability to do otherwise”

This statement by pro illustrates well the topic being debated. I do not find the argument presented convincing, nor does it seem reasonable to assign moral responsibility to an “agent” who did not have the ability to do otherwise. What sense does it make to assign moral value, or determine an action right or wrong if it is the only action that could have taken place? There is none, and furthermore pro has not provided any solid reason to think there is.

B: “If Allison was NOT forced, everyone would most certainly attribute moral responsibility to her, but if the dog was not forced, we would still not attribute moral responsibility to dogs, that would be ridiculous.”

I agree with the last sentiment, and even stated “No one would argue the Dog to have moral free will.” Going on to conclude “The only difference between my opponent’s example and mine is that he assumes the human somehow has moral free will when the dog does not. This assumption being bare leaves this example hollow.”

C: “As such I do not at all see why we should be afraid of "our strings", if we are morally responsible agents anyway.”

I never suggested we should be afraid of our strings, rather that determinism suggests there are strings and that being accepted would be incompatible with freewill. Surely my opponent is not suggesting that a puppet is free . Again this highlights the real point of this debate. Can a puppet be morally responsible? Determinism implies human action being guided much like a puppet by strings. This is clearly incompatible with free will.

D: “I did not state I want to determine my choices or desires, I said I want my choices be determined by my desires (which I do not freely choose).”

This is about as close to conceding without saying it I think my opponent could get. Not determining your desires which cause your so called “choices” makes it unreasonable to hold one morally accountable. Choice begins to lose all meaning when used this way. If determinism is accepted then your choices are determined by something you have no control over and thus could not be moral responsible.

E: “Ghandi"s fasting was caused by his desire to free India, hunger is caused by a variety of physiological reasons”

You could argue Gandhi exercised free will here. But you could not do say and say that determinism is true. If Gandhi’s actions where determined by things outside his control than he is not their causer and cannot be held responsible for their repercussions.

Conclusion:

I want to thank Fkkize for doing this debate with me. I value his insight and enjoyed the back in forth. That stated, I find myself currently unconvinced that compatibilism is plausible. I think all should as it is clear that accepting Determinism would make it impossible for us to “cause and control our actions in the right kind of way” to be held morally accountable. Likewise, “Determinism deprives us of the power or ability to do or choose otherwise.” Which, as I stated above, What sense does it make to assign moral value, or determine an action right or wrong if it is the only action that could have taken place? There is none, and furthermore pro has not provided any solid reason to think there is.

I conclude as I did in round 2

It seems clear to me that these two principles being; free will and determinism, are incompatible. One may subscribe to free will, or determinism, to accept both would be to accept opposing thoughts. This is fickle, and would be inconsistent.

Vote Con!
Fkkize

Pro

I thank kasmic for pardoning my unwanted forfeiture. In the following I want to stick to Con's format.


A:

Con says he does not find my arguments convincing. Fair enough. That, however, does not free my opponent from the burden of responding to them. Surely, if they aren’t convincing, to a degree that legitimizes appealing to the same intuition every single round (“free will requires the ability to do otherwise”), then we should expect him to be able to give some reason to think my arguments and objections are mistaken.

My opponent opened with the of course intuitive notion of freedom of will requiring the ability to do otherwise.

From round 2

It seems reasonable to recall that a person is only acting freely if they could have acted in some other way

I objected to that and presented a compatibilist account of how we can have free will without this condition, to which he responded by appealing to the notion I objected to.

From round 3

determinism entails that what we do is the only thing we can do, and that because of this we never really have a choice about anything.

In response I used W. T. Stace’s argument for compatibilism, a genuine argument, not a reiteration of what I had already said before, to which he, once again, responds by appealing to the very notion I objected to.

From round 4

“[It does not] seem reasonable to assign moral responsibility to an “agent” who did not have the ability to do otherwise

Not determining your desires which cause your so called “choices” makes it unreasonable to hold one morally accountable

If Gandhi’s actions where determined by things outside his control than he is not their causer and cannot be held responsible for their repercussions
As such he is committing either the proof by assertion or ad nauseam fallacy, that is, repeating the same claim over and over again as if that in and of itself constitutes proof for his position.


B:

I can see nothing new here, as I responded to the claim of merely assuming Allison to have free will whilst the dog does not in the preceding round.

In fact, I take it to be an intuitive appeal of this desire-based account that it explains why only humans can be free agents, whilst dogs, for example, cannot. Not all, but only humans are able to reflect on their desires. Animals, small children and severely mentally handicapped people do not possess this ability.

We can, again, see that my account gives the intuitively correct verdict in such cases, which is, of course, one of its virtues.


C:

Con states “Determinism implies human action being guided much like a puppet by strings”.

He says he does not intend to scare people with this analogy. However, comparing humans to puppets suggests that

1) humans are inanimate, that is without any desires or other psychological states of their own

2) there is a puppeteer, another intentional agent who just does whatever he wants with the puppet, without any regards for the desires and other psychological states the puppet has (should it have any at all, see point 1)

All of this, whether or not he intended to, does, if not scare people, trigger some other kind of negative emotional response towards determinism, a response not in the slightest supported by reason. I have already explained why it is precisely the immediate psychological states in humans this analogy does not account for, which are so very important for the freedom of will. Further, determinism clearly is not an agent of its own, but I dealt with that last round.

I conclude, once more, that this analogy is misleading at best.


D:

He appeals, again, to the idea of moral responsibility requiring the ability to do otherwise and even treats it as if this criterion was an established fact.

It is not and besides its intuitive appeal, he has not argued for why we should accept this criterion in any way.

As such, I have nothing to add here.


E:

Con, again, appeals to the ability to do otherwise, just like with A, C and D, and is perhaps even, in case I interpret this correctly, begging the question against compatibilism when he says:

You could argue Gandhi exercised free will here. But you could not do say and say that determinism is true

(I read this as “You could argue Gandhi exercised free will here. But you could not say that while also saying that determinism is true”)

As such there is nothing for me to say that I have not said earlier in this round or a preceding one.


Conclusion

My opponent argued (under determinism) we 1) cannot cause our actions in the right kind of way and 2) cannot do otherwise.

I objected these are essentially one and the same argument. In the following rounds he merely talked about the later argument. Thus, I conclude he either dropped the first one or concedes my objection.

Unfortunately, he does not advance or defend his other argument to any satisfactory degree, which I have explained in detail earlier this round.

His only defense consisted in drawing an analogy to the dog, even though dogs are clearly excluded both from my and other accounts of free will. He has thus failed to establish anything actually analogous.
Sadly, he claims I have given no solid reason to think we could assign moral responsibility to someone if he could not have done otherwise. This is to ignore the compatibilist account I have given in the very beginning in its entirety, even if he is not convinced by it.

As for my own arguments, I do not believe they are entirely unobjectionable or even close to being the last substantial thing there is to say about free will. Indeed, the compatibilist account I have presented in this debate is almost identical to Harry Frankfurt’s. He presented it about 45 years ago and you can imagine how many strong objections philosophers can and have come up with during such a long time.

There are innumerable thought experiments involving, for example, some kind of manipulation of an agent’s brain which aim to show how this desire based account fails at distinguishing morally responsible and irresponsible agents. Con did not present any such or other objection that in some way shows the inadequacy of the account at hand. He merely kept pressing on the importance of doing otherwise, which is insufficient since for many examples, like the ones given by W. T. Stace, my account does give the correct answer as to whether some agent is acting freely or not.

I regret that I was unable to convince kasmic of the compatibilist position. But I thank him for this debate, it was a lot of fun and wish him good luck in the voting period
Debate Round No. 4
26 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by kasmic 2 months ago
kasmic
As far as this debate being a representation of the website, that's high praise.
Posted by kasmic 2 months ago
kasmic
Saying a thing does not make it so. Further, have you more than ad hominem to offer? If not I'm not sure the purpose of your post except to be rude.
Posted by skipsaweirdo 2 months ago
skipsaweirdo
Fkkzie posts a false analogy fallacy with the so-called thought experiment that is claimed to be analogous to free will and it wasn't. Then this logically inept doofus uses this straw man for his debate and the logically inept dream team that cast votes gives him the win. This is representative of the joke this Web site seems to be.
Posted by kasmic 1 year ago
kasmic
I'm willing to debate most anything, if you are willing to overlook my ignorance haha.
Posted by Fkkize 1 year ago
Fkkize
Thanks for the votes and feedback. I'll try to come back to some of the points you made in your RFD.

Thanks again to kasmic for debating this with me. It's hard to find anyone willing to debate anything philosophy related other than the existence of God.
Posted by TUF 1 year ago
TUF
It was a great debate I have been sharing the link to garner more interest. Hopefully more people give it a glance
Posted by kasmic 1 year ago
kasmic
Great feedback Tuf, thanks for your insight and rfd.
Posted by kasmic 1 year ago
kasmic
Yeah, I forgot to switch it to select winner.... I'm not worried, the topic won't draw the masses. Thanks again Fkkize, before this debate I knew next to nothing about this topic. Now, at the very least I feel like I have a basic understanding.
Posted by TUF 1 year ago
TUF
On another note, not using the select winner system might bite you in the butt with conduct votes from users who don't read the debate enough to realize an argument was made. I'm sure moderators will remove votes, but in general just doesn't seem beneficial to use the 7 point system.
Posted by TUF 1 year ago
TUF
I would agree entirely with that and came to the same conclusion myself. I honestly like your representative of compatability better than what is on youtube. There was an inherent bias in the video from Sam Harris (though he has some solid logic). I watched another one from a college professor that seemed to more accurately present compatability. Either way my external research of the topic will have nothing to do with my overall decision on the debate I promise. Also I might interject a few of my own opinions in my rfd but they will also no determine how I choose the winner.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by TUF 1 year ago
TUF
kasmicFkkizeTied
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Reasons for voting decision: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1KHJ0X-Cf6X0pE34l9bLzSh3pPAVcSnVynSLceqrjvg0/edit?usp=sharing
Vote Placed by tejretics 1 year ago
tejretics
kasmicFkkizeTied
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments
Vote Placed by n7 1 year ago
n7
kasmicFkkizeTied
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments.