The Instigator
TessElena
Pro (for)
Winning
3 Points
The Contender
YoshiBoy13
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points

Do we have free will?

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 1 vote the winner is...
TessElena
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/26/2015 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,220 times Debate No: 70721
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (23)
Votes (1)

 

TessElena

Pro

We've probably all seen the comic of a dinosaur that said, " if atoms and particles all behave in probabilistic ways, but our mind is made of atoms and particles, how can free will exist?"
My debate is inspired by that. This debate is opened to anyone interested. I will let my opponent begin.
YoshiBoy13

Con

Point:
Our brains are much like a computer in the sense that they figure out what to do given a certain set of circumstances. All decisions are made by due logical process coming to a certain conclusion.
For Example:
Circumstances: I am hungry. There is a chicken sandwich in the fridge. Eating a chicken sandwich would make me not hungry. Being not hungry is desirable.
Conclusion: I eat the chicken sandwich.
Circumstances: There is homework to be done. I am not allowed to play on the computer until the homework is done. Although doing homework is not very desirable, playing on the computer is extremely good.
Conclusion: I do my homework, then play on the computer.
We could even add measures of desirability to these examples.
Possibilities: Eat sandwich (0) or be hungry (-1). 0 > -1, so I eat the sandwich.
Possibilities: Do homework (-1) then play computer (+2) or do neither (0). +1 > 0, so I do homework and play computer.
Therefore:
We make decisions on a daily basis with these algorithms, and our free will manifests itself in the ability to pick what has the best outcome.
Debate Round No. 1
TessElena

Pro

I was hoping to debate for, not against, free will, but I suppose it this could work either way.

According to my opponent"s argument, " humans make decisions based on an algorithms and free will manifests itself in the ability to pick what has the best outcome." Taking the circumstances from his examples:
The hungry person has no choice but to eat a chicken sandwich because he would otherwise be punished with hunger. He can decide that perhaps he would like to eat a ham sandwich instead because chicken sandwiches do not agree with him, but his tastes would be caused by genetic or cultural reasons outside of his control. He can say he does not want a chicken sandwich because he is against animal cruelty. However, his decisions to do so may also be motivated by altruism, which can provide a level of happiness food simply cannot. Humans have no choice but to answer to whatever makes him/her the happiest. Therefore, free-will does not exist.
The prime reason that person decides to do homework before playing computer games is to avoid punishment or to attain some sort of reward. In that sense, he had to finish homework early.

Conclusion: Humans do not have free-will because they have no choice but to choose the optimal choice. The optimal choice may concern either morality or physical wellbeing.
YoshiBoy13

Con

I was hoping to debate for, not against, free will, but I suppose it this could work either way.
The analogy you made regarding the dinosaur comic implied you were arguing against free will, at least I thought so.

Humans have no choice but to answer to whatever makes him/her the happiest. Therefore, free-will does not exist.
This statement seems to miss the crucial point that I outlined in the first argument. Free will is not the by all and end all, it is not the final thing that influences your decision. Ask yourself what makes him/her the happiest.

He can say he does not want a chicken sandwich because he is against animal cruelty.
That is his choice to make - whether or not his views about animal cruelty will impact his eating of a sandwich, and indeed, whether he regards animal cruelty as a valid point or not. This is his free will, to choose whether he will regard the chicken before it was cooked, and whether it will impact his choice of bread filling.

The prime reason that person decides to do homework before playing computer games is to avoid punishment or to attain some sort of reward. In that sense, he had to finish homework early.
Doing the homework early can be seen as the optimal choice. However, we humans are not perfect creatures who can ascertain the best thing to do in every situation, and even if we can, we might not be motivated.
Say, for example, that the homework is a really big essay that isn't due until the following week. Even though doing the essay as soon as he gets back home is the best way to go about it, he might not see it that way. And even if he knows he should really finish the homework soon, he might just put it off until he really has to do it, as in, the night before. This is a situation where, even though he knew the optimal choice, he didn't pick that optimal choice - because of his free will.

Conclusion: Humans do not have free-will because they have no choice but to choose the optimal choice.
Conclusion: My point is that free will will pick for you what is the optimal choice, based on your motivations, what you already have to do, and generally how much you can be bothered to do it. Free will is the thing that means that although you know the right path, you might not always do it. Pro's arguments show the optimal choice as what you end up doing. My arguments show how free will pick what the optimum choice will be - the step in decision making that comes straight before Pro's.
Debate Round No. 2
TessElena

Pro

The bulk of my argument is that free-will"s existence is merely an illusion. Human beings will be presented with many choices throughout their lifetime. However, in most cases, the choice has already been made for them. In other words, whatever makes a person happiest, whatever is a person"s priority is not up to his/her decision. Instead, it is up to factors such as genetics, environment...etc.

Regarding the chicken sandwich and animal cruelty argument, the person cannot choose whether he liked chicken sandwich, against animal cruelty, or whether if his/her distaste of animal cruelty can cause him/her to not want to eat the chicken sandwich. A person"s taste is influenced by genetics and the environment and his/her beliefs are shaped by the environment. Moreover, according to sciScientificerican, " the vast majority of our thinking efforts goes on subconsciously." Therefore, even the thought process, to which the person would decide whether if animal cruelty can prompt him/her to not eat a chicken sandwich is controlled by factors outside of our control.

I would also like to refute the homework example using the same logic above. Even though people can theoretically make different decisions, they are not in charge of the thinking process. They may initiate it, but the result that comes out is largely out of their control. Whether he picked the optimal choice or not, it is not up to him.
YoshiBoy13

Con

While yes, the decision taken in a certain circumstance would be influenced by upbringing and environment, it is not the only thing that would impact such a situation. For example, say someone had been brought up on the premise that the colour blue was evil and bad in all ways, that person would not be likely to buy a blue sweater if other choices were available. However, if there were red and green sweaters also available, free will would kick in as there would be initially no preference to either one.

Pro maintains that the decision is not really yours to take, as it is done subconciously. However, free will also manifests itself in the subconcious, as shown by the nature.com article in the comments. Free will was what made the people press that button (just read the article, ok) at that time, not because they were brought up on the premise that pressing any button before half past ten was evil and bad in all ways.

Pro is arguing that free will does not manifest itself after a certain point - after the decision reaches the concious mind. However, this is only in certain situations, and free will can be part of the subconcious process as well as concious. Effectively, he is arguing that there is no free will - sometimes - after free will has already taken part in the decision making.
In conclusion, just because free will does not show in one part of picking a choice, it does not mean it is not there at all.
Debate Round No. 3
TessElena

Pro

Rebuttal to Paragraph 1-
My argument stands that upbringing, environment, and genetics shape a person, and he/she only has the illusion of choice. Seeing that my opponent seemed to have conceded to this statement in his claim that " say someone had been brought up on the premise that the colour blue was evil and bad in all ways, that person would not be likely to buy a blue sweater if other choices were available.", It is only logical that he applied the same logic to other colors as well. Just because someone may show not preference to a red or green sweater, does not mean he/she has free will. The point is that he/she does not get to decide whether he/she likes, dislikes, or feels neutral about a certain item.
Rebuttal to Paragraph 2 and 3-
The subconscious is outside of the conscious control, and thus, " our" control. Therefore, even though the subconscious is technically our mind, it really does have a mind of its own. Therefore, it is outside of " our" control. Therefore, I will also maintain that if free-will does not show in the conscious part of picking a choice, that it does not exist because if it is not conscious, then it is out of our control.
YoshiBoy13

Con

The subconscious is outside of the conscious control, and thus, " our" control.
This is not always the case. If something is ingrained into someone's minds well enough - for example, the evil blue scenario - the subject could noticeably flinch in the presence of blue. People who have been on the forums for long enough would make an audible sigh at the first sight of posts from users known to be especially conceited and vocal (not naming any names here). It doesn't take that much for common repetitive activities to become reflex, and from there, subconcious. Free will can change what becomes reflex and subconcious before the decision even needs to be made. Although free will is present in the subconcious, it is there also in the concious. When was the last time you ate a burrito instead of a sandwich because you "felt like it", even though the sandwich was probably better for you and cheaper? Free will can come in action almost anywhere.

The point is that he/she does not get to decide whether he/she likes, dislikes, or feels neutral about a certain item.
Of course people can choose what they like, that's the whole reason why they like it - because they show a preference to it, because their free will decides it's better in some way.

My argument stands that upbringing, environment, and genetics shape a person, and he/she only has the illusion of choice. Seeing that my opponent seemed to have conceded to this statement
I have not - I have only admitted that they are key parts in making a decision - and not they by all and end all of the process. Those three aspects: upbringing, environment and genetics, do contribute massively to the decision-making thought process, but it is not the only thing that there is. Free will is also a key part of that process, especially when the other three do not create a strong preference for one side or the other. It does impact in cases such as the evil blue scenario, albeit not as much.

Just because free will does not always decide between choices in every decision there is to be made, does not mean it is not there at all.
Debate Round No. 4
TessElena

Pro

Rebuttal 1:
I will repeat my previous statement because I do not believe my opponent has fully addressed it in his rebuttal. What is within our subconscious is not within our control. It is not for our access, we cannot consciously influence it, and thus, it is not evidence of free will. Some may argue that influencing the conscious mind can influence the subconscious mind. However, there is not evidence supporting such statement either. If my opponent chooses to argue that our subconscious may entail a free-will we are not aware of, I will respond by saying that when one is not aware of a choice it is not free will. Afterall, how can one choose if he/she is not aware that he/she can? Reflex, by nature, is also not up to free-will. I believe it's very own definition can suffice to explain so.
Even free-will supposedly under our conscious control is also an illusion. As stated previously, genetics, environment, and the subconscious controls our actions. As a human being, we have no choice but to choose the optimal choice. However, the word " optimal" can mean different things to different people. It does not always have to be the most logical choice. For example, the Islamic religion has an annual holiday called Ramadan where its practicers fast for a month. Fasting is by no way a good choice for survival. However, it is the " optimal" choice for its practicers because they have come to see religion as supreme. However, how the bulk of my argument lies in the fact that these practicers do not have a choice as to how they feel about religion due to genetics, subconscious, environment(political socialization...etc.)...etc as argued earlier. Therefore, even though it seems that people have the choice to decide whether they would like to be religious or not, their decisions were already made for them due to the factors mentioned above. Much of science supports my point of view as well. Here is a direct quotation for psychology today:
" New "threats" to the possibility of free will have come from fields such as neuroscience and genetics. Many neuroscientists, armed with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and other brain-scanning tools, argue that, now that we can peer into the brain, we can see that there is no "agent" there making choices. John Searle (1997) approaches consciousness from a biological perspective and argues that the brain is no more free than is the liver or the stomach. Geneticists are discovering that many psychological experiences are linked with gene-environment interactions, such that people with a specific gene are more likely to react in a certain way."
Furthermore, another experiment by neuroscientist Ben Binet further proved the point. In his experiment, he found that brain activity within a participant increased before he/she is aware that he/she is moving his/her arm. Thus, proving that neurobiology, not free-will, is the main controller.
Rebuttal 2:
My argument is that people do not have a choice as to what their preferences are. Thus, free-will does not exist.
Rebuttal 3:
Refer to argument 1 and 2
Additional Argument:
I would like to add one other argument, which I did not come up with. As stated in my intro: If atoms behave in certain ways out of our control, and our cells are composed of atoms, tissues of cells, organs of tissues, and entire essence of the items mentioned beforehand. How can we have free will?
YoshiBoy13

Con

I will repeat my previous statement because I do not believe my opponent has fully addressed it in his rebuttal. What is within our subconscious is not within our control. It is not for our access, we cannot consciously influence it.
This may not be true when applied instantaneously, but with repeated usage and conditioning, a person can use their free will to influence decisions to come. For instance, over the past few weeks, I have been altering my handwriting, so that where I used to write a without the hook at the top, it gradually became so that I would write the hook, as with this font's a. I chose to change my style of handwriting to this from my own free will, and it eventually became subconcious. My point is that anything, if done often enough, with the help of free will, will become subconcious.

My argument is that people do not have a choice as to what their preferences are. Thus, free-will does not exist.
However, in places where there is no particular bias towards one choice or another, free will comes into play more strongly than where preferential biases would normally take control. Ever felt the urge to just shout out some swears in a place where it's socially inapropriate to do so (also known as generally being impulsive)? Sure, your rational mind shut the idea down almost as soon as it was formed, but free will is what made these thoughts form in the first place. People do have a choice - it's just not all the time, just not in every instance of a decision to be made.

I would like to add one other argument, which I did not come up with. As stated in my intro: If atoms behave in certain ways out of our control, and our cells are composed of atoms, tissues of cells, organs of tissues, and entire essence of the items mentioned beforehand. How can we have free will?
Free will is not something that shouldn't be able to understand. For example, pretend you invented a time machine, and instead of doing something useful with it, you went back to the 1400s with knowledge about chemistry. But when you looked around, you saw that nobody actually knew how things like reacting acids with bases worked. They knew they did work, they just didn't know how. They probably would have labelled it as some form of magic, for instance. However, we currently do know how reacting acids with bases works, although we didn't back six hundred years ago. But although they didn't understand exactly how it worked, didn't mean that it wouldn't work. Free will in the 2000s is like chemistry in the 1400s - we know it works, but we don't know how. Just because we don't know how free will works down to the nuts and bolts, doesn't mean that we won't ever. Pro seems to imply that we won't ever know how free will works. We know the parts that make it up, we just don't know in what way they will fit. It's like doing a jigsaw puzzle without the image on the box. You don't know what the image will be, but that's not to say you won't ever.

Unless, like me, you're really impatient.
Debate Round No. 5
23 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by YoshiBoy13 1 year ago
YoshiBoy13
I lost... :( Well, I'm not infallible and I have no illusions as such. Due congratulations to @TessElena for a well-deserved victory.
Posted by YoshiBoy13 1 year ago
YoshiBoy13
@footballchris561
I used my free will to decide that writing differently was improvement.
Posted by footballchris561 1 year ago
footballchris561
@TessElena
I'm on your side. I was just pointing out how illogical the statement was.

@YoshiBoy13
You did have a motivated reason. Your reason was self improvement. Sophistication is improvement right?
Posted by YoshiBoy13 1 year ago
YoshiBoy13
@footballchris561 - I just thought it would make me seem more sophisticated... somehow.
The point is that there was no real reason for me to go one way or the other, but I decided using free will to do it.
Posted by TessElena 1 year ago
TessElena
@footballchris561, I don't believe your analogy is fair in this instance. Free-will, or the lack thereof, is anything but magic. Instead, it i s a series of biological and chemical responses to which we have no conscious control of. Please read my arguments!
Posted by footballchris561 1 year ago
footballchris561
"Free will in the 2000s is like chemistry in the 1400s"
Yeah they didn't know how it worked so they thought it was magic. Just like how people right now believe free will is magic. There is an explanation. People would rather just believe it is magic.

"I have been altering my handwriting, so that where I used to write a without the hook at the top"
Why do you want to change your handwriting that way though?
Posted by TessElena 1 year ago
TessElena
@YoshiBoy13 Same! It was great debating with you!
Posted by YoshiBoy13 1 year ago
YoshiBoy13
Whoo. Glad I got through that. Many thanks to @TessElena for a wonderful debate.
Posted by Lookingatissues 1 year ago
Lookingatissues
Posted by Lewis_P 4 days ago
You posted," You guys may both find this article interesting..." Thanks for posting this address, I just read the piece from "NATURE WEEKLY International journal of Science," and found the article quite informative and suggests to me that "Free will," that is supposed to operate really doesn't, that what is described as "Free Will," is a humans preprogramed response to stimuli.
Posted by Lewis_P 1 year ago
Lewis_P
You guys may both find this article interesting:

http://www.nature.com...
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by footballchris561 1 year ago
footballchris561
TessElenaYoshiBoy13Tied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
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Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Con had no proof and used no logic in his arguments only claiming that's how things are without logically supporting his statements. Pro managed to explain his argument logically well enough pointing out the problems that the idea of free will has.