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Do we have free will?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/5/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,323 times Debate No: 51692
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (2)
Votes (1)




This is a philosophy question about whether if humans really have free will given that they are composed of atoms and particles that behave in set ways.
Not sure how this will join in if you would like.
I respect all religions, but please don't cite the Bible as a source of evidence.
I believe the word free will is quite self-explanatory in terms of definition- The freedom of will .


I accept. You may put forward your points.
Debate Round No. 1


Human beings are born with free will. Despite the fact that atoms and cells that composite the human body operate in mechanical ways, we would be assuming that everything that's happened to a human being is either biological or chemical. We would be assuming that we have absolutely no say in what happens to our bodies and our minds.
However, Human beings do have free will to a certain degree. While we are a composite of cells and atoms, the " self" has control .How else would one explain why people think about philosophy or other subject matters that do not concern immediate survival? If humans really were slaves to purely biology and chemistry, it would be as if describing humans to be slaves to instincts. Biology and chemistry are used for human survival. They are used to keep cells and the body alive. However, the unique arrangement of these mechanics within each individual is what makes up " self". From there, the " self" can than utilize these resources to carry out its desires. Do neurons really control our thoughts? Or is it the particular arrangement of neurons that form " self" that is ordering our bodies around? THe " self" than has free will.
To sum it up, each individual is born with a unique set of arrangement in terms of cells, atoms, and neurons. These cells, atoms, and neurons operate in mechanical ways. However, the unique arrangement itself is what gave rise to " self". The " self" thus have free will and is separated from the basic mechanics because it does. Just because beliefs are formed through neurons, doesn't mean neurons have complete control over as to what you choose to believe in. You are controlled not by neurons, but by a specific arrangement of neurons. The specific arrangement,however, is self. Thus, self does have free will.


Well, unfortunately I cannot rebut as you have not argued why humans have free will, but rather refuted a point I have not made. You have only argued (without evidence) that we are something beyond our body, and we are a "self" rather than just biology thus have free will, but you have not made the link, and I will actually argue why humans do not actually have free will, even if we can think, as they are not the same thing.

"Free will - the power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one's own discretion."

1. The Idea of a Perceptual Set Does Not Allow Pure Free Will To Exist

What do you see here? 13, or B? Most likely you will see both, but it depends on whether you look at it horizontally or vertically. You see, this is how a perceptual set works. What you see is never sensed, it is always perceived. And perceiving is subjective, and this can be affected by your perceptual set. Examples of things which affect your perceptual set are[1]:

(i) bodily needs (e.g. physiological needs)

(ii) reward and punishment

(iii) emotional connotation

(iv) individual values

(v) personality

(vi) the value of objects.

So that means a maths teacher with a PhD in Mathematics, who loves maths but hasn't been able to teach it for months and he find numbers amazing, would see this most likely as a 13. So where does free will come in? Because he does not have a choice on what to predominantly see it as, he does not have full free will to see it as he wishes, because his life has affected his perceptual set, he cannot choose the way he sees things. Even if we don't take this example, you cannot affect certain things which also affect your perceptual set. Culture, upbringing and things you are taught, or things which are just there. You can never really choose how to see or do things because your choices are affected by the
uncontrollable or biased subconsciously.

Do you see the grey dots between the squares? Well they weren't added, they are in your mind. No grey dots are in this picture, as shown by when you look at one it disappears, but they show because in extremely simplistic terms,the brain fills it in due to the dots. The squares are the context and the grey dots are what you see, so take the squares and the dots are gone. Do you have a choice to not see the dots when looking at the blocks? Well no, so you are restrained by context and the same applies for real life. Another example is this:
percpetual set culture
People were asked which they prefer/are more comfortable with, and African children/adults were more comfortable with it[1], reasons ranging from art to hunting. Did they have a choice to be more comfortable or prefer it more? No, they were restrained by their culture.

As long as people have perceptual sets and factors affecting their view on things, or their actions, you can never have full control over your beliefs and actions. Somebody brought up in a western country is more likely to find this:

more beautiful than this:

And they won't have a choice. The same for everyday actions. You may choose to do something, but the reason why and your views on that action will be based on your perceptual set. You can never have true free will because you as a person, your actions and everything about you will be affected by your perceptual set. So true free will on its own, cannot exist. I have many more arguments, but I will be awaiting your rebuttal and new points. Thank you.
Debate Round No. 2


1Alyssa forfeited this round.


I hold my arguments until a response from Pro.
Debate Round No. 3


I apologize for not having gotten back to con sooner.

Although I appreciate my opponent for bringing up interesting perceptual sets as means to prove his point through psychology, I believe he has missed my point.
" self" is the unique combination of chromosomes and cells within our body. Because of a certain arrangement of such matters, do we have self. Yes, self is created by something that may appear to be automatic. However, the product that came out of it is completely not. " Self" has the ability to make decisions, that is the center point I am making here.
As for the perceptual sets, while it is true that humans can see things one way or the other as limited by their biology, they do have the free will to determine how they ultimately want to perceive the event. How is anyone to say that what one sees is not a product of what one has already perceived? The math professor would see the symbol I3 as 13 because he loves math and find math very fascinating. He can also see the symbol as B if he would like, but he doesn't. One could also argue that once he realized that 13 can be seen as B, couldn't he choose to perceive it this way from now on? If one truly has no free will, how can one have subjective judgement? Shouldn't all of one's actions be perfectly predicable and survival-based?
Allow me to cite an example. Throughout history, starvation has been used as means of protest against an authority. Biologically, it does not make sense to forsake one's basic survival. Every cell within the body will be screaming for the person to eat something. However, the person chose to ignore the pain and push forward because the specific neuron patterns within his brain has free will. Free will means he is not just the his building blocks, but something with thought and priorities.

Again, I apologize for the lateness.


Thank you, but firstly I would like to offer some rebuttal.

Firstly, I would like to clarify that the ability to make decisions is not free will. Free will is the power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one's own discretion." The important bits here are, "constraint of necessity or fate". Decisions can only be frames within somebody's perceptual set and that is my point. Of course somebody can choose to starve in protest against authority, yes it is his/her choice, but why does he/she think it is a good idea? Why does he/she think it will work? The answers to these will either be because he has been led to believe so, taught or seen it work, which are all part of your perceptual set so he already has preconceived bias about its effectiveness. Or he would have thought it through himself, but using which paradigm? Which method of thinking? Whichever method of thought he used he had either been taught or grown into due to his culture/society. However he thought of it, the actual thinking would have been part of his perceptual set, part of how he perceives things. He does not have true free will because any method he used to decide will have bias.

This explains five types of thinking styles. Becoming one of these will affect your perception and will not give you true free will in the way you think. Becoming one of these styles comes from indoctrination, teaching, falling into your culture, etc. It is not your choice but it will lead to bias and preconceived ideas, in which you cannot have free will if you already have preconceived ideas. One cannot have true free will because that person will be a child of their culture, teachings or bringing up. You may have the ability to make decisions, but you will never have full control over all of them, which is not complete free will. To say priorities makes my points clearer. Priorities are something people are gained through culture or thought. A western country will indoctrinate the idea that liberty, autonomy, equality and happiness are priorities because of how these are issues the people strive for. Even if you can draw yourselves away from believing it, the way in which you are taught to think or taught to decide morals will still follow a cultural paradigm. You cannot truly pick priorities because this relies on thought, which I have explained why that does not work, or just being taught, which is self-explanatory. You keep on bringing back the idea of self and biology, that self is something beyond biology and psychology which is true, but true self cannot contain any influence whatsoever, which is impossible to achieve.

"One could also argue that once he realized that 13 can be seen as B, couldn't he choose to perceive it this way from now on? If one truly has no free will, how can one have subjective judgement? Shouldn't all of one's actions be perfectly predicable and survival-based?"

Here is a perfect example of everything I have said. He may see it as B now and can choose to see it this way, but he is more comfortable seeing it as 13, because of his love for maths. Without going into too much detail, a love for anything requires that you are brought up with that thing put in some sort of positive light, or psychologically you love it. Maths is something that must be taught, is made to be important and is made to be a big part of life. Without this importance and positive outlook, if maths was something that was shunned by society then he might have not loved it. Certainly if he had a choice and it was viewed in a negative light, he would be less likely to enjoy it because of the bias and notion he has about it, and because he won't get the chance he had with it, because society shuns it, so he is a slave to society either way.

No-one can have true subjective judgement. If we could, a popular mentality wouldn't exist. People wouldn't be drawn to certain morals and everyone would be individual. But the reason a popular mentality exists, is because people had subjective views which were similar, and by indoctrinating them to their children, sharing with people and acting on them, it gained enough weight to pull in more children, more people and their children until it seemed objective. I think murder is wrong, but I know full well it is for two reasons. Firstly, society has said so, and second taking away a life upsets people, ruins lives and opportunities and requires a lack of empathy, but why do these matter? Society has said so.

I believe here I have both refuted and reinforced my earlier arguments. I look forward for your rebuttal and finishing my arguments.
Debate Round No. 4


1Alyssa forfeited this round.


Vote Con.
Debate Round No. 5
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by 1Alyssa 2 years ago
@Dwint. Hey, that's an interesting idea. I would love to debate with you about that.
Posted by Dwint 2 years ago
Will you argue that free will exists? If so, I would like to debate this. I would argue that the self doesn't exist so neither does free will.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by 9spaceking 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:04 
Reasons for voting decision: con had very strong arguments.