The Instigator
raymaster
Pro (for)
Winning
3 Points
The Contender
ConformistDave
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points

Determinism is self-defeating

Do you like this debate?NoYes+0
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 1 vote the winner is...
raymaster
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/2/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,493 times Debate No: 41566
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (1)
Votes (1)

 

raymaster

Pro

In this debate I will argue that determinism is a self-defeating belief.

Determinism: the belief that all events are caused by things that happened before them and that people have no real ability to make choices or control what happens. http://www.merriam-webster.com...

That is the definition that will be used for the purposes of this debate. Once this "challenge" has been accepted, I will lay out my full case with premises and a conclusion.
ConformistDave

Con

Thanks for posting this argument raymaster. I accepted this debate, because it will be you that has the burden of proof as it is impossible for determinism to be self defeating.I would prefer to use stanford encyclopedia of philosophy's definition of casual determinism as I find merriam-webster's to be faulty. SEP defines casual determinism as "the idea that every event is necessitated by antecedent events and conditions together with the laws of nature." If you accept my modifications to this debate than we can continue on. Happy debating!

Works sort of cited
http://plato.stanford.edu...
Debate Round No. 1
raymaster

Pro

Thank you ConformistDave for accepting my challenge. I look forward to an interesting debate. I am fine with SEP's definition of determinism, and so I will proceed to make my case.

Premise 1: If determinism is true, then each person's beliefs have been pre-determined.

Determinism, as defined by Con, entails that every event that occurs is necessitated by antecedent events and conditions in accordance with the laws of nature. This means that when an individual comes to a conclusion after examining the evidence pertinent to an issue (such as determinism), their coming to this conclusion was necessitated; that is, it had to occur. Thus, if causal determinism is true, my belief that determinism is self-defeating was in the works all along, and I could not have not come to this conclusion because my choice to reject determinism was necessitated by prior events (which were themselves necessitated by prior events, and so on). If I later change my mind, this will also have been necessitated, and have been in the works all along.

Premise 2: If a person's beliefs have been pre-determined, then they are not held rationally.

As stated under premise 1, if determinism is true, then any beliefs a person has have been necessitated by previous events, which have themselves have been necessitated by previous events, and so on. Thus, all choices are simply events in a great cosmic machine which operates according to the laws of nature. An evaluation of any event within the machine will itself have been determined by the the laws of nature. This poses a problem for the possible of any rational evaluation of one's beliefs. One cannot rationally evaluate if causes have lined up to give one rational beliefs, because an evaluation of the causes is itself necessitated by causes which may or may not have worked in one's favor. (And in any case, most of us to not have time to examine all the relevant chemical reactions in our brains when we make decisions.) To hold an belief rationally, or to rationally evaluate one's beliefs, there must be the possibility - at least in some cases - of being able to freely choose to evaluate the evidence in an objective way. One must be able to "step outside" the machine in order to evaluate anything within it - such as scientific data. (This does not guarantee that one will always get true beliefs after freely choosing to look at the evidence. In science, for example, theories are always changing in order to deal with new data. However, knowing when a theory is no longer sufficient, or when it has been proven false, requires rationality).

Premise 3: An argument for causal determinism presupposes rationality.

The person who argues for determinism must believe that they are making a rational argument and logically proceeding from premises to a valid conclusion, or that all of the relevant scientific data support their point.

Premise 4: Therefore determinism is self-defeating.

Since arguments for determinism presuppose rationality (like all arguments), but determinism itself undermines the possibility of rationality, I conclude that determinism is a self-defeating argument. I have endeavored to express myself as clearly as possible, and I hope that all of my points are accordingly intelligible. I look forward to hearing Con's reply.
ConformistDave

Con

Premise 1: If determinism is true, then each person's beliefs have been pre-determined. It seems as though my opponent is begging the question. There is no belief to reject a deterministic universe, however there is a universal will that exists but it is made up of precedent events. for example if jane were to cook a turkey for thanksgiving dinner would she have only cooked this meal in this context? would she have always cooked turkey on thanksgiving? Maybe if she had lived in the 1500's her style and meal of cooking would very much different than last thanksgiving. She would not have changed her mind unless there were to be a different context of sorts. Same rule applies to any newtonian framework. if gravity exists the pull wont exist unless another context exists, i.e. gravity to jupiter or io or such.

Premise 2: If a person's beliefs have been pre-determined, then they are not held rationally. I would challenge my opponent to debate any other determinist and to claim that they are not rationalists or rationally thinking. My opponent claims that "all choices are simply events in a great cosmic machine which operates according to the laws of nature. " He simply puts the cart before the horse presupposing that choices were not influenced by another event and so forth. He then begins to challenge scientific data in regards to making a rational decision about the universe. If a scientific theory is proven false there again exists a framework that will correct itself.

Premise 3: An argument for causal determinism presupposes rationality. Those who argue for the existence of determinism are making rational arguments, and therefore determinism is not self defeating.

Thanks for posting the first round and be on with round 3!

works cited
http://www.informationphilosopher.com...
http://www.ucl.ac.uk...
Debate Round No. 2
raymaster

Pro

Thank you ConformistDave for your prompt reply.
Before going on to look at Con's response to my premises, I would like to quickly comment on Con's sources. In particular, I am not sure what relevance the link regarding Schrodinger's Cat (http://www.informationphilosopher.com...) has to this debate. I would like to ask con to clarify the purpose and relevance of this source.

Premise #1:
Con has argued here that I am begging the question, which would mean that the conclusion is one of the premises [1]
They have not clearly demonstrated, however, that this is the case with my first premise. In fact, the first premise follows logically from the definition of causal determinism "the idea that every event is necessitated by antecedent events and conditions together with the laws of nature."If every event is necessitated by antecedent events, then one's beliefs must be necessitated by antecedent events. Thus, if determinism is true, each person's beliefs are pre-determined. He continues by arguing that "There is no belief to reject a deterministic universe, however there is a universal will that exists but it is made up of precedent events." To begin with, I'm not sure what is meant by a "universal will." That aside, his statement that "there is no belief to reject a deterministic universe" is problematic because this is precisely the question at hand. We are, after all, debating, whether or not determinism is self-defeating, and if it is, this would be a reason to reject a deterministic universe. By making this statement in one of the premises of his argument, Con is begging the question. Furthermore, there are a number of objections to a deterministic universe besides the one I a making in this debate [2]. Finally, Con's statement does nothing to disprove my first premise.

Premise #2:
Con has misunderstood my point. I am not arguing that all determinists are irrational and are looking at the evidence in an irrational way. I am arguing that no belief is held rationally if it is pre-determined. As I stated in Round 2, rationality is not a sufficient condition for having true beliefs (it is always possible to overlook a piece of evidence, of to simply not have all of the relevant data), but it is a necessary one. Thus, I do not think that all determinists are irrational. I think that they are incorrect, however, precisely because their rationality depends on determinism being false. Con has made no arguments to show how rationality is possible under a deterministic framework, or to show how one can rationally evaluate one's beliefs if even that evaluation is pre-determined, or to show how one can evaluate the causes at work in nature if those causes have pre-determined the evaluation. Con has not given us a reason to believe that rationality is possible if one's choices are pre-determined, just as the actions of chemicals in a beaker are pre-determined. Con then goes on to say that "[pro] then begins to challenge scientific data in regards to making a rational decision about the universe." This, however, is a misrepresentation of my position. I challenged no scientific data; rather, I argued that the possibility of rationality evaluating scientific data is contingent on having the freedom to be rational.

Premise 3:
Con does not attempt to refute my claim that an argument for determinism presupposes rationality. Thus, this point still stands. And once again, he does not explain how rationality is possible under a deterministic framework.

It would seem, then, that my arguments still stand, and that since an argument for determinism presupposes rationality, yet also undermines the possibility of rationality, that determinism is a self-defeating argument. I look forward to hearing Con's reply.

[1] http://www.fallacyfiles.org...
[2] https://sites.google.com...
ConformistDave

Con

Thanks for your prompt replies as well raymaster.
Premise 1: Thanks for clarifying about the relevance of schrodinger's cat. I would like to refrain from arguments over logical fallacies as this is not a linguistics discussion, but a scientific based one. The reason that I have brought schrodingers cat experiment into conversation is because it is impossible for any notions of free will to exist and thus automatically makes determinism not self defeating. Simultaneously, only within a function collapse of a superposition could any notion of free will ever exist. A universal will and a will to power exists, however as nietzsche's sister famously proclaimed it is not free.

Premise 2: There is no way to sufficiently or empirically prove that belief is held rationally if it is pre-determined. You can only simply view events in a historical sense, i.e. the allies won world war 2. humans are a different animal because we have much different capabilities than any other great ape. We can only find efficient ways to use intelligence.

Premise 3: Is there a rational basis for determinism? In the article you previously cited the writer states "The case for free will is clear; it is a self-evident, directly perceived fact". I feel as though his arrogance is showing because the human brain contains ridiculous amounts of particles so any thought experiment regarding any future notions of free will is fallacious. The author seems to base his philosophies upon his personal perception which I find to be deceitful. The author then again attempts to critique determinists like Sam Harris and company to pursue his own agenda, but i feel as though he misses the mark completely.

works cited
http://arxiv.org...
Debate Round No. 3
raymaster

Pro

I would like to begin by thanking Con for clarifying his remarks about a universal will" and his inclusion of a source about Schrodinger's cat.

Since this is often the point in debates where structure begins to collapse and rigorous organization disappears, I will organize this post in to three sections.

Section #1: The nature of debate.

Con has stated that he would like to refrain from discussions of logic (which he erroneously refers to as linguistics [1] [2]"). This becomes problematic for two reasons. First, if an argument contains a logical fallacy, it is useless for demonstrating or proving anything. This is especially the case with circular reasoning (the fallacy we have been discussing), since, no matter how many premises you place between the point where the question is begged" and the conclusion, it will always end up saying nothing more meaningful than A, therefore A" since the conclusion is in the premises. Second, the topic of this debate (Determinism is Self-Defeating) is directly concerned with logic. What it means for a belief to be self-defeating is that one cannot hold that belief without also holding a contradiction. My burden of proof is to draw out the contradiction in believing that determinism is true; Con's burden of proof is to demonstrate that believing in determinism entails no such logical contradiction. However, the question before us is, in point of fact, a question of logic. If Con did not wish to discuss logic (which he did discuss in his previous post), he should not have accepted the debate.

Section #2: Premises which are in question, and premises which are not.

My original argument contained three premises and a conclusion which logically follows from the premises. That is to say, if the premises are true, the conclusion is logically unavoidable. My first premise was If determinism is true, then each person's beliefs have been pre-determined." Although Con originally argued that this was circular, he has dropped this point and has not given us any further reasons to believe that this is false, or does not logically follow from the definition of determinism. Therefore, this point still stands. My third premise (An argument for causal determinism presupposes rationality") has not been successfully refuted either; indeed, Con continues to bring up scientific evidence to support determinism, and I cannot imagine that he does so without thinking that he is being rational in his arguments.

Section #3: What about premise 2?
If a belief is pre-determined, it is not held rationally - that was premise #2. Does it still stand? I think it does, and for five reasons. 1) although con has presented several pieces of scientific evidence to support determinism, he has not provided anything like a rigorous proof that it is true. As stated in the video which he included, physicists have not found a unifying theory which would demonstrate that the behavior of all matter is pre-determined. Con has also argued that there are too many particles in the brain for free will, but he has presented no "unifying theory of the human brain" which would demonstrate causal determinism at the mental level. Whether such unifying theories will be discovered is not so much a scientific belief as a belief about what science will discover in the future - a realm which no one seems to have access too. 2) It is not enough for con to state "it is impossible for any notions of free will to exist and thus automatically makes determinism not self defeating." He must show precisely where my argument breaks down in its logical structure (or which of the premises is false) in order to prove that my conclusion is false. Otherwise, he would be left with the curious position of saying that the scientific evidence leads to a self-defeating conclusion. Con must resolve the logical contradiction.
3) His attempt to do so is circular. He attempts to show that rationality and determinism are compatible through evolutionary analysis of the human brain. However, any analysis of scientific evidence presupposes rationality. Thus, he is arguing that rationality is possible because we have more advanced brains developed through evolution, and he knows that we have more advanced brains because he has derived this from rationally evaluating evidence. "I know I am rational because my rational analysis of the evidence proves this is so." I am arguing here that the evolutionary theory is false or irrational. My point is that the question of rationality is logically prior to any evaluation of evidence, and therefore an attempt to argue rationality from evidence is circular. It gets much worse when con freely admits "There is no way to sufficiently or empirically prove that belief is held rationally if it is pre-determined. You can only simply view events in a historical sense, i.e. the allies won world war." But this means that mental events like the formation of beliefs can only be viewed in the historical sense, and that must logically include THAT belief as well as a belief in determinism (and even incredibly basic ones such as the logical validity of the Barbara syllogism), and thus cons arguments have become self-defeating; he is attempting to rationally argue that knowledge of rationality is impossible.
4) If P then Q, or the causal determinism forced me to think that P follows from Q? This is what the debate has come down to. We all know from experience that believing something just because events in the past have given one a predisposition to believe something is irrational. If I believe that democracy is fundamentally good just because I am predisposed to do so by virtue of my having grown up in America, my belief is not rationally founded. But if determinism is true, then every belief I have is held not just because of a predisposition but because I am forced to hold that belief because of antecedent causes. How then is rationality possible? It seems that logic and rationality depend not on a framework in which cause A necessitates effect B (the conclusion of an argument), but in which one can (at least in some cases) be free to see that Conclusion B follows logically from premise A. Reason must depend on something utterly different than causal determinism. This seems to be the only what to avoid the utterly self-defeating conclusion that "There is no way to sufficiently or empirically prove that belief is held rationally if it is pre-determined."

I look forward to hearing Con's reply.

[1] http://www.merriam-webster.com...
[2] http://www.thefreedictionary.com...
ConformistDave

Con

Section 1: The nature of debate
My opponent has stated that he would like to keep this debate running smoothly, and yet will still entertain the company of ambiguous semantics disguised as "logical fallacies". I would like to refrain from accusing another debate member of circular reasoning especially as I have taken the con side of this argument. Determinism is in no way self defeating not even one iota, and yet my opponent seems to think he can still press on forward in a house made of straw. There are no logical contradictions or false beliefs to be held in any debate when it comes to the matter of determinism. There were no fuzzy discussions of logic that took place until my opponent conveniently placed them into this debate to distract from reality. My purpose of coming into this debate was to defeat any claim that determinism is self defeating, and nothing more or nothing less. My opponent claims that this debate will come down to nothing more meaningful then if A therefore A since the conclusion is in the premises, which is completely fine by me as that is a completely rational stance to take. The only claim my opponent can make against the argument of determinism is an event of chance, if somehow a=the obscure. Since he has not provided an example of chance we can disqualify him from any present argument.

section 2: Premises which are in question, and premises which are not.
My first premise was If determinism is true, then each person's beliefs have been pre-determined. belief is a fuzzy word, and i suppose that my partner would like to argue with fuzzy words considering he can not make a scientific case as to how determinism would be self defeating. My third premise (An argument for causal determinism presupposes rationality") has not been successfully refuted either; indeed. arguments for casual determinism includes the fact that you can not make rational claims unless there is a predictability of sorts. Otherwise the world just becomes a lottery ticket, and thus there can be no rational claims.

section 3: what about premise 2?
1. scientific evidence is not rigorous proof?
2. hmu when you discover every single cell in the human brain, and we can become nobel prize winners.
3. scientific evidence presupposes rationality?
4. again with the beliefs. you have no evidence that a belief is nothing more then a psychology. prove to me that a belief is anything more then a psychological phenomenon.
5. yes, if a=b and b=c then a=c. conclusion b will follow from premise a. thank you for proving that determinism is not self defeating.
I look forward to hearing pros final reply.

works cited
http://www.philosophypathways.com...
Debate Round No. 4
raymaster

Pro

Any further discussion of whether determinism is self-defeating may be pointless since Con seems to believe that any discussions of logic or logical fallacies are "ambiguous semantics", "fuzzy discussions", or "distractions from reality."Con has also stated that it is perfectly rational for the conclusion of an argument to be in the premises, which leads me to believe that he does not understand how good reasoning works. I am including two links in my citations - one about logical fallacies, and one on circular reasoning in particular. Hopefully this will clarify the importance of using logical valid arguments in any debate - even debates about determinism. [1] [2]

Con's response to Section 1 comes in three parts: his dismissal of logic (which I have previously addressed), blanket statements that determinism is not self-defeating, and an argument that the only way to argue against determinism is by arguing for chance. Con's statements that "Determinism is in no way self defeating not even one iota", and "There are no logical contradictions or false beliefs...when it comes to the matter of determinism" are generalizations that completely disregard all the arguments I have made to the contrary. And since my burden of proof was not to argue for chance but to show that determinism is a self-defeating belief (an argument I have made without reference to the element of chance Con thinks necessary), it is not clear that this statement is anything more than a red herring. [3]

In Con's response to section 2, he states that belief is a fuzzy word. One has to wonder if that can be anything but a belief. At any rate, I have provided a definition in case the meaning of "belief" has been unclear [4]. The point of premise 1 was that if determinism is true, then all events - including mental events - are pre-determined, and this should be obviously true. Con essentially agrees with my third premise although he makes the new point that rationality is only possible if there is a predictability of sorts, and that the only alternative is a universe with the predictability of a lottery ticket. Of course, there needs to be a level predictability in the world in order for rational claims to be possible. This is different, however, from the strongly deterministic claim that every event is necessitated by previous events. And there is no reason to suppose that the only alternative to a deterministic world is a lottery-ticket-world in which everything is unpredictable. In sum, my first and third premises still stand.

Con has five arguments against my second premise. I will mirror his format in my responses so that our points can be easily compared. 1) The scientific evidence he has presented does not prove a deterministic universe. As I stated before, a belief that science will prove determinism is a belief about the future, and no one, not even President Obama, knows the future. 2) The relevance of this statement is unclear. 3) In order to evaluate scientific evidence you have to presuppose your own capacity to be rational. Since the question of rationality is logically prior to scientific research, arguing for rationality from scientific research is circular. 4) It may be asked, what is Con's beef with psychology, and why is that relevant to the question at hand? I have already supplied a working definition of belief, so it should now be clear what is meant by the word. 5) "if a=b and b=c then a=c." Contrary to his earlier rejection of logic, Con now seems to be a true believer in logical theory! However, this does nothing to prove that determinism is not self-defeating. In fact, he has not even attempted to refute my claim that "Reason must depend on something utterly different than causal determinism." I find nothing in any of Con's rebuttals that show that a belief can be held rationally if it is necessitated by antecedent events, therefore Premise 2 still stands.

Since my premises stand, and my conclusion follows logically from the premises, the claim that determinism is a self-defeating belief still stands. I would like to thank Con for being a challenging debate partner. I hope this debate has been as challenging and rewarding for him as for me.

[1] http://www.logicalfallacies.info...
[2] http://www.logicalfallacies.info...
[3] http://www.logicalfallacies.info...
[4] http://www.merriam-webster.com...
ConformistDave

Con

In debating the fact that determinism is self defeating I would claim that it was my opponent in whom the discussion became pointless, as he was only able to accuse myself of not understanding how "good reasoning works". He simply could not explain how a deterministic view was not self defeating, and attempted to deploy smoke and mirror tactics by again accusing myself of circular reasoning. His links provided little content to this debate and would have been better off not mentioned. I have used logical arguments in this debate and have provided scientific evidence to support my claims.

Section 1: My opponent proceeds to complain about "generalizations" and makes no rational claims that determinism is self defeating.
Section 2: Every event is necessitated by previous events. if there are no previous events akin to other events, then there can be no predictability in the universe. /my opponent's premises fall flat on its face by admitting this fact.
1)if the scientific evidence I have provided does not indeed prove a deterministic universe then please by all means make a scientific argument against that. /My opponent has done no such thing throughout the entire debate.
2)???
3)In order to evaluate scientific evidence you have to presuppose your own capacity to be rational. Since the question of rationality is logically prior to scientific research, arguing for rationality from scientific research is circular. /My opponent must also belief that a Copernican model is circular reasoning as well (no pun intended)
4) It may be asked, what is Con's beef with psychology, and why is that relevant to the question at hand? I have already supplied a working definition of belief, so it should now be clear what is meant by the word. /My opponent questions the rationality of science continuously while simultaneously has no objections to a rationality of his own psychological phenomenon known as "belief".
5) "if a=b and b=c then a=c." Contrary to his earlier rejection of logic, Con now seems to be a true believer in logical theory! However, this does nothing to prove that determinism is not self-defeating. /Says You! That statement is utterly ridiculous.

I would like to thank my opponent for creating this debate and I am glad he found this debate rewarding as well. That being said, I have found that my opponent had no sufficient evidence to his claim that determinism is self defeating. I have provided a plethora of content to back up my arguments as my opponent has not. I would urge anyone with the idea that determinism is self defeating to seriously review the data at hand. Thanks again.
Debate Round No. 5
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by raymaster 3 years ago
raymaster
I meant to say that "I am NOT arguing that evolutionary biology is false or irrational."
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by philochristos 3 years ago
philochristos
raymasterConformistDaveTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Both debaters had problems with grammar, so I tied them on that. Arguments obviously go to Pro for making a coherent argument showing that determinism is self-defeating. Con's responses were mostly incoherent, and he didn't really seem to understand all of Pro's points.