The Instigator
phantom
Con (against)
Tied
10 Points
The Contender
Yraelz
Pro (for)
Tied
10 Points

Expert's Debate competition R1: On balance, free will is more likely to exist than not

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 6 votes the winner is...
It's a Tie!
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/25/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,144 times Debate No: 42946
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (48)
Votes (6)

 

phantom

Con

Resolution: On balance, free will is more likely to exist than not

Definitions
Since quite frequently much of the debate regarding free will is centered around semantic disagreements, the definition for free-will will be broad and unspecific. The exact type of free will that my opponent will advance will become evident as he makes his case, but for now I will define free will as, "a philosophical term of art for a particular sort of capacity of rational agents to choose a course of action from among various alternatives"[1].
To exist: refers to free will existing in humans

Rules & Setup
Voters must provide adequate and thorough RFD's for each of the voting points they give to the participants. Otherwise they may be counter vote-bombed.

R1: My opponent can either use this round simply for acceptance or he can post his case for free will in this round. It's up to him. If he uses this round for arguments he cannot use the last round for anything, however.

The last round no new arguments are allowed. Note, if my opponent decides to use the first round for arguments, R3 is his last debating round.

Good luck to my opponent.

[1] http://plato.stanford.edu...

Yraelz

Pro

Bam, agreed, your move. =D
Debate Round No. 1
phantom

Con

My argument involves two sections, one a descriptive ontology of reality, which my opponent may or may not disagree with, and two a metaphysical argument regarding free will that pro will almost certainly disagree with. I would rather condense it all into one section rather than making an argument for one and then the other, since that that would be too strenuous.


The determinism/indeterminism dichotomy

All events, as far as we know, are either determined or random. This is the basic ontological claim that underlines my case. The world is mostly deterministic and can be explained by the laws of physics. All the known and unknown laws of science will explain a game of pool and any other occurrence in life. For example, suppose I'm in a desert without water, I've never been so thirsty, but I see a fountain. I experience a sensation of stimuli, my brain translates it into meaningful data, various chemicals and neurotransmitters interact, my wants and needs set in, and various internal and external events take place. I experience hope, relief an desire and I rush to the fountain and take a drink. All the physical factors in the situation accumulated into only one possible outcome, my taking a drink. I could not have possibly refrained from taking a drink unless other factors were present, such as a person telling me the water was poisoned, a delusion that I shouldn't drink it because I would turn into a toad if I did, or because I wanted to prove that one could in fact exercise free will (a futile effort). However, if none of those factors are present, I will drink the water, no matter what. We cannot say given the factors, I will either drink or not drink. There's only one possibility, not two. Under that specific physical setting I could only undergo one course of action. For me to undergo another, the physical factors would have had to be different which is why everything is causally determined (with the exception of randomness).

Causality entails inevitability. One set of effects can only result in one single result. That is what causality is. To deny that you would have to deny causality. For me to not drink the water, or even to not drink it in the exact way that I did, you would have to change some other variables, external or internal. If I was a different person I might not have drunk the water, or if the external setting was different I might not have acted as I did, otherwise there was only one possible outcome. Unless perhaps randomness was in play.

Since randomness hardly plays any role in our lives, I will mention it only as a disclaimer since the world is not truly 100% determined. Quantum physics reveals some randomness in nature entailing that not all events are causally determined [1]. I doubt my opponent will contest this and I hope we can mostly ignore it since it has little relevance to free will. It's impossible for randomness to be the key to free will since randomness is entirely out of the realm of control and in the same way it does not affect my argument in any way except as a mere annoyance to get out of the way. I state it simply to provide a disclaimer that some events might not be 100% causally determined but I want to make clear that this is unimportant since the exceptions are only due to random quantum scale fluctuations and hardly ever affect life anyway.


The illusion of free will

Free will cannot exist under the physical facts of the universe. To be free requires a person to be free from constraints, but every act a person takes is necessarily bound by natural forces and occurs by nothing else. A person is like a machine operating according to its mechanical build. Our actions are bound by our chemistry and the world around us. It just happens that we have the illusion of free will because of the vast complexity of our system. One reason why free-will is such an illusion is because the vast majority of causes go undetected. If we had a map and explanation for every single influence that caused us to make a choice, if we were the so-called "Laplace's demon", I make the confident guess that free will would be quite evidently false. Most of what causes us to act is entirely out of our realm of detection and ability to grasp. Otherwise, if we knew all the variables and were able to put them together into a perfect understanding, we would be able to predict the future with complete accuracy, the only exceptions being with random quantum fluctuations.

Not only is free will metaphysically impossible, it's theoretically incoherent

For an act to be free, it must be free from constraints, but the only events free of constraints are those that are random, and random events are the antithesis of control. You can't decide to buy an ice cream because of something random occurring in the brain. If you were even able to buy an ice cream because of something occurring randomly, you wouldn't be doing it purposefully since it would have sprung out of something other than your conscious control. For you to exert any type of free will you would have to transcend both causality and randomness which is theoretically absurd. Free will makes no sense. It asks for something impossible. It requires some sort of magic that allows a person to act free of the laws of constraints but still with an engineered course of action.


Summary

1. All events, as far as we know, are either determined or random.
2. Free will is incompatible with both sorts, thus we are incapable of it.
3. For there to be free will you would have to have an action that was both free from constraints as well as being self-caused and non-random, which is nonsensical.
4. If examined down to their basic whole, actions seem much less free than previously conceived.


Sources:

[1] http://www.sciencedaily.com...

*All other unsourced claims were purely philosophical and required no source or required none for other obvious reasons.
Yraelz

Pro

I see my opponent has done a splendid job of defining 'free will' as magic and 'determinism' as science. In light of said definitions I would like to urge the voters to be very cautious with this debate. A quick glossing of the 'free will' wikipedia article will reveal twenty or more disparate definitions of free will[1]. In fact, the inability to rationalize free will has been, to date, mainly an issue of definitions. As such, I suggest that this debate be evaluated primarily for coherence of argument; our definitional disagreements are inevitable.


A Small Game of Logic
If it be that humanity is just a collection of well greased machines then I will be rectifying this debate in short order. I challenge my opponent to a match of chess! A match to be conducted while this debate proceeds. In a world of purely deterministic rulings it would be ideal to grant credence to the most well greased machine. For the voters who believe that determinism must exist my opponent and I will duke out our respective intelligent capacities on the field of chess. If I win said game a prerequisite for voting against me will necessitate that each voter also challenge me to a game of chess! If I beat both my opponent and you, the voter, then in all likelihood I am the best machine among the three. My arguments will therefore be more important 'causes' for voting than the arguments from my esteemed opponent.

At it's core my opponent suggests that our logical processes are simple revolutions of proverbial cogs. If that be the case then you, my voters, have no reason to prefer your 'cogs' over mine or those of my opponent. If you believe in determinism, then this is the best way to rectify this debate. =)


And The Many Flaws that Determinism Encountered
Luckily Con has already done much of the groundwork for my argumentation. He already elucidated some small amount of quantum mechanics. I'll clarify and say that quantum effects fall into probability distributions, and are therefore not random in nature. However, in either world, determinism is evidently demonstrated as false. Since initial causes can be 'random' (non linear) in nature, there is no way to 'determine' all events. Even the very processes which we use to govern decision making are, on a base level, subject to quantum effects. Thus both the 'causes' and the 'producer of effects' are indeterminate; this renders the 'effects' indeterminate.

There are a series of additional philosophical problems which center around hard determinism. Namely Newcomb's paradox, wherein an all knowing predictor could never exist due to it's own determined events[2]. And infinite loops of retrocausality, wherein knowledge of the future would be a causality event in the past [3]. The incoherency of these philosophical concepts necessitates the non-existence of determinism.

I'll briefly mention that advances in Chaos Theory suggest the complete inability to predict future realities, even within macroscopic systems. I'll come back to this later if my opponent would like to argue determinism.


Causality, The Prerequisite for Free Will?
Technically speaking my opponent probably shouldn't be able to win a debate opposing free will without combating a specific definition of free will. His current proof is tantamount to defining free will as a sky hook (magical non-caused event) followed by the statement, "sky hooks don't exist."

I will advocate and defend the two-stage model of free will. If necessary I'll prove genetic meta-decision making processes, though it doesn't appear that this is necessary as of yet. I will define the 'Actor' of free will as the conscious mind. That is, the part of the human brain capable of self reference [4].

The key question to this debate is going to be as follows, "where does free will arise?" I'm sure there is one answer that everyone reading can agree on: free will cannot exist if nothing exists. In fact, the very notion of free will relies on things existing, because free will relies on reacting to situations, events, objects,and concepts. Without an initial happening there can never be a crucial junction in which to make a decision. Thus, free will relies on causality. In fact, free will is the implementation of causality.


The Two-Stage Model of Free Will
The two stage model of free will relies on my opponents conceptions of causality and quantum events. It is as follows.

Stage 1: In stage 1 an event occurs. Occasionally the conscious mind has time to consider this event, and it will begin to formulate a series of possible effects (actions) to implement. However, since a base of neurophysics owes it's existence to quantum effects, many of these ideas will be generated, in part, as a probabilistic distribution. The greater the temporal duration of this process, the greater the number of possibilities likely to be generated.

Stage 2: The stage1 is terminated through one of three pathways. First, it is possible that a suitable effect to implement cannot be determined in the allotted time. Thus nothing would be implemented. Second, it's possible that a satisfactory effect arises and thus is selected over unsatisfactory effects. And third, it's possible that multiple satisfactory effects arise, given enough time, and the most ideal is then selected.

You may be wondering, "how does this model combat the points made in Con Rnd 2?" There are a few key answers to this question:

1. Every definition of free will must entail an actor that exists on the macroscopic level. If you define the entire universe purely in terms of atoms then there exists no way to question free will. "Does XXXXX have free will?", means nothing in a world completely defined by atoms.

This is where two fallacies come into play. First my opponent displays the fallacy of composition. He suggests that all macroscopic entities must maintain purely the properties of their microscopic components. This is obviously fallacious, consider the analogy of the airplane. Since the airplane can fly (as a whole) does this mean that the tray table (a component) can independently fly? Obviously not. Macroscopic entities (as a whole) are not constrained to the properties of the microscopic world (the components).

Secondarily, my opponent relies on a false dichotomy which is constructed with the first dichotomy as a premise. On a microscopic level either things must be determined or not. Thus he suggests that a lack of macroscopic determinism would necessitate a lack of microscopic determinism. However, I have already demonstrated that component interplay can give arise to properties beyond the components themselves.

Thus, free will is only a relevant topic for the macroscopic universe; it cannot be disproven by the microscopic universe. In that light a non-reduced actor is necessary. The conscious mind is the suitable actor because of its ability to self appraise. In this way the conscious mind can consider its own probabilistic courses as initial causes and then build abstractions that don't exist within reality.

2. The two-stage model is the synthesis of the probabilistic distribution of quantum effects and Con's causality. Consider the ramifications. In a world where effects are generated via probability, determinism is impossible. The same person placed in the same exact same situation for a second time would likely implement a different effect. That person's conscious mind would be grappling with a different set of possible effects, and through that they would potentially choose a different course of action.

My opponent will argue that, given the generated effects, the person would only ever choose one option. My question will then be simple, "how is that not free will?" The conscious mind obviously contains personalities and predispositions. But those realities still have to determine the best decision based on the probabilistically generated effects. Thus the interplay between stage 1 and stage 2 produces a unique free will.
Debate Round No. 2
phantom

Con

I wholeheartedly agree with pro that the free will debate is often centered only on definitions. That is why I never defined free will in the beginning. I did not know which definition my opponent would defend and speculation would have taken too long.

I am not (quite) arguing determinism

I think I need to clarify this. While my arguments did, and perhaps will, take on a somewhat deterministic nature, I do not maintain that all events are causally determined. As I stated last round, quantum physics contradicts determinism, so I see no need to hold on to its claim that all events are determined. My opponent wastes a whole contention on a fact that we agree on, that determinism is flawed.

Also, if pro thinks his paradoxes do more than refute complete determinism, he'll have to give a bit more, such as actually presenting the paradox instead of merely mentioning it without an argument nor source to go along with it. But as he only states that they refute determinism, and since I disagree with determinism, I'll leave it.

Probability vs. Randomness; probability matters not

This is another issue I'd like to clear up. As my opponent noted, quantum events are not always random, but rather probable. I agree with my opponent here and thus wish I had not stated my argument exactly how I did last round. However, I do not believe it changes anything. Disproportionate chance is just as significant, or insignificant rather, as equal chance. All it means is that x will happen 6 out of ten times whereas y only happens 4 out of ten times instead of both happening 5 out of ten times. X will be more probable instead of it being completely random

Instead of a dichotomy I am willingly forced to admit a trichotomy of events that occur. Willingly because it does not contradict the main essence of my argument.

The three types of events that are found in our universe:

1. Event whose chance of occurring was 100% probably
2. Event whose chance of occurring was random
3. Event whose chance of occurring was probable or improbable


"A small game of logic"

Even if my opponent was the world's undefeated chess champion, that would be no cause to vote for him. For while he may be the "best machine" when it comes to chess, that has nothing to do with a philosophical debate surrounding free will. In the latter case, the best way to resolve the outcome is for the voters to trust and use their ability to comprehend and evaluate arguments. I don't see what this has to do with free will.

"Machines" was an analogy. Humans are much more complex than machines but the connecting similarity is that both operate purely according to how their system and the environment dictate, not by some transcending entity that allows them to act free of their constraints.

"Causality, The Prerequisite for Free Will?"

All I need to do is argue against pro's definition of free will. I do not need to make my own exact definition, though I did set up some perimeters which were enough to make a case around. Pro can be assured that I would have attacked a specific definition had there been one, but as I went first, I did not have one. There is no reason to believe in free will until a definition has been given and thus my burden dictated no obligation to give one.

It would be nice to know what "genetic meta-decision making processes" are because frankly I have no idea, but thankfully pro has only alluded to the future support for whatever those may be.


"The two stage model of free will"

This interpretation contains either errors or gaps on multiple points.

Pro grounds this model in quantum physics and seems to argue from there that different possible scenarios can arrive from conscious deliberation and abstract thought. However, viewers should judge carefully here. All of us have an intuitive sense that we have alternative choices in life and my opponent uses quantum physics to prove different possible events can occur so it might make sense to see quantum physics as confirmation of this sense. However, pro has not shown how quantum effects are so present in our decision making. How do quantum events generate ideas? Is the uncertain position of an electron supposed to allow me to choose what to put on my hot dog? The quantum realm is the basis of a more deterministic though still microscopic realm which itself is the basis of the every day macroscopic realm. Quantum events are minuscule. The unpredictability of a certain quantum outcome entails, not, which choice I make, but something minuscule in nature. It has nothing to say about ordinary decision making. [1]

Actually, in the realm of conscious thought process quantum events cannot be relevant and this has gone unproven since round 2. Probable or random, quantum events are still due to chance. If pro were to somehow (for he has not done so) show how probabilities in the quantum realm allow him to choose which shoe to tie first it would still be up to chance and not his conscious freedom, whether he ties the left or right. More realistically we would say it's mostly due to determined factors with a small amount of quantum probability, but the fact remains the same that if quantum probability affects one decision over the other it is due to chance and not self causation. If a probable event happens, the reason why the improbable event did not, is unexplained and if the improbable event happened, the reason why the probable event did not occur cannot be pinpointed. It can only be explained by saying x will happen most of the time but y will happen sometimes and that's quantum physics for you.

What do probabilities equate to in everyday life? Let's suppose the following judgement reflects an accurate real life probability. "Yraelz will probably take the bus but he might instead take the metro". This equates to, "Yraelz will probably take the bus but due to the unpredictable nature of his quantum neurophysiology, he might take the metro." In other words, the fact that Yraelz takes the metro is entirely without proper explanation. The only explanation is that quantum mechanics is unpredictable. Quantum events in his brain might somehow make him choose the metro. (Pro has not shown how exactly quantum events enter into conscious choices which is why I say only "somehow"). There is nothing that links quantum probability with any kind of additional freedom of choice. If it affects choice, it does so in a way no more important than deterministic or random factors.


Emergent properties and abstractions

Concepts are not made up of atoms so I agree with pro that the world cannot be defined purely by atoms. I never committed the fallacy my opponent seems to be accusing me of. I never maintained that all macroscopic entities possess only their purely microscopic properties. However, all macroscopic properties are still based on the individual properties of that entity (the plane's ability to fly is based on the engines and wings etc...). Emergent properties are completely consistent with my position. I don't see where pro takes the assumption that I thought otherwise.

Immaterial abstractions by the conscious mind are compatible with my case. If pro were to prove these abstractions came from an immaterial mind, that would be something, but considering what he has argued, we're still left with the assumption that abstractions are products of the material brain. Thus abstractions follow the rules of physics along with its constraints. What causes an abstraction is physical and abstractions themselves run on causality. Thoughts are abstract but the process of thought is still governed by causality.
[2] http://plato.stanford.edu...
Yraelz

Pro

I play trap hole. I will concede all arguments leading up to "Causality the prerequisite for free will." They are quite inconsequential at this point.

Causality the Prerequisite for Free Will(.)
This time I'll begin by dealing with a small issue of quantum mechanics in the brain. My opponent states, "Quantum events are minuscule. The unpredictability of a certain quantum outcome entails, not, which choice I make, but something minuscule in nature. It has nothing to say about ordinary decision making." However, just a few sentences before he unknowingly answers his own question, " Is the uncertain position of an electron supposed to allow me to choose what to put on my hot dog?"

In fact I will contend that hot dogs are the key to this question. The brain's decision making processes, at its base, is governed by a series of electrical feedbacks. The ability for neurons to send actions potentials (electricity) across synapses is only possible because of electrons[1]. The fact that electrons exhibit the wave/particle duality necessitated by quantum mechanics means that the brains very communication mechanism is dominated by quantum mechanics [2]. I'll agree with my opponent, quantum mechanical effects are minuscule in nature; neuro-communication effects are also quite minuscule in nature. =)


Finally let's consider the topic of this contention. As I argued last round free will necessitates causality. In a world sans causality, free will could never be exercised. Free will requires causes to react to, otherwise the term becomes meaningless. Consider this thought experiment: "in a world devoid of all things, what free will could ever be enacted"? There is no free will that could be enacted. In that world there exists no brain, no causes, and nothing to act upon. In this way my opponents position is supporting the existence of free will. Causality is a necessary prerequisite.


The Two Stage Model of Free Will
And now for some definitional analysis that should make this debate pretty clear. Remember my opponent agrees that microscopic properties define the quantum world. Also recall that he is comfortable with macroscopic entities possessing emergent properties in addition to their microscopic properties. In this debate I am arguing free will as an emergent property confined within one basic definition:

"I will define the 'Actor' of free will as the conscious mind. That is, the part of the human brain capable of self reference."

In other words, if the conscious mind is capable of making decisions then we have found an emergent property called free will. At this point my opponent is not disputing that the conscious mind can make decisions. He is only arguing that those decisions are predictable and/or probabilistically defined.

Regarding decision making processes the core of Con's argument is this:

"More realistically we would say it's mostly due to determined factors with a small amount of quantum probability, but the fact remains the same that if quantum probability affects one decision over the other it is due to chance and not self causation."

The faulty linchpin of all of this analysis is, "self-causation". Think about it. First of all, free will requires a causality in order to exist. Con's argument is tantamount to saying, "if we can predict the effects (or if they happen randomly) then there can be no free will." That's not coherent with any definition of free will. A conception of free will must be grounded in logical thought processes, otherwise free will is simply nonsense. Logical thought processes are predictable by their very nature; predictability and causality are therefore tenants of free will. The fact that my opponent (with the aid of a super computer that can account for quantum effects) could predict which shoe I would tie first has no bearing on free will. It only reflects on my personality and proclivities. If it did have bearing on my free will then newcomb's paradox could exist, this is obviously logically inconsistent.

Secondarily I chose my actor for a very specific reason. The conscious mind can be it's own cause. On a very general level the conscious mind is capable of using conclusions to derive additional conclusions. We'd generally call this logic, but in terms of my opponents case it would be an instance of 'self-causation'. In more specific terms the conscious mind is capable of reflecting on past actions and deactivating or activating parts of the genome [3]. This serves as a meta-weighing mechanism for future actions (not governed by the conscious mind) and thus, the conscious mind can again become it's own cause.


Let's Recap
1. Choices are not inherently predictable because quantum effects underlay the brains basic mechanisms.
2. Free will, outside of the probabilistic mechanism in #1, must rely on causality in order to exist. A universe sans causality could never have any conception of free will.
3. Free will should be predictable. Because the concept of free will must be grounded in logic and causality.
4. The conscious mind is capable of self-causation. The conscious mind will initiate effects which will become causes for future actions.

Since the actor is defined (the conscious mind) and since my opponent agrees with emergent macroscopic properties (free will, in this case) this debate is quite clear. My opponent, who agrees that the question of free will is definitional, is only supporting the existence of free will inside of this framework. In order for him to win this debate he will need to clarify his own version of "self-causality" and be able to refute it. Otherwise, the definition which my opponent is fighting against is tantamount to "magic". I believe that the two stage model of free will is a much more cohesive definition.

Sources
1. http://www.mind.ilstu.edu...
2. http://www.examiner.com...
3. Ridley, Matt. Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters. HarperCollins 2013. Print.
Debate Round No. 3
phantom

Con

As this is the last round, I will not be making any new arguments. Instead, I will summarize and clarify where needed.

Also, I would like to thank my opponent for an enlightening debate and the judges for taking the time to read it.

Causality the Prerequisite for Free Will

The essential problems of determinism remain even with quantum mechanics

That free will is compatible with causality and that causality can be a part of free will is entirely insignificant. There is no reason anyone should contest it. The actual problem that causality poses to free will is much more complex. My opponent's case requires quantum probability. So, while it is true that a world without causality would be a problem for free will, it is also true that a completely determined world would leave no room for pro’s free will either. Pro's case only works with quantum uncertainty. Why does this matter seeing as I've already complied to indeterminism in the quantum realm? Well, my whole case from round 1 was that the essence of the deterministic argument against free will remains even with quantum indeterminism because quantum uncertainty only refutes the deterministic claim that all events are determined, but not its essential problem to free will.

Determinism may be technically false in one way, but the technical blunder does not give us free will. Pro's free will requires both causality and uncertainty. This world has both. The only problem is that the problems posed to free will in a completely deterministic world are untouched by the uncertainty discovered in quantum mechanics. In other words, it does not matter that not all events are determined. Those events that are uncertain bare no weight to whether free will actually exists.

Quantum uncertainty cannot be an argument for free will

In a determined world, all events are 100% certain. In this world there are exceptions. Pro's definition does not allow for free will to exist in a determined world because the basis of his model is that our neurophysiology is quantum based. My contention is that quantum physics adds nothing. Quantum uncertainty is mere chance. It has nothing to do with the control of choice necessary for free will.

If my opponent allows that the uncertain position of an electron is material to which shoe he puts on, then he proves my point. It is not free will when some quantum event happens one way over the other by chance. As my opponent tells us, free will requires control. What control exists in chance? If our choices are governed by quantum uncertainty, then free will is all the more evidently false. Chance disallows any control over quantum outcomes but free will requires control.


Quantum probabilities have not been demonstrated to enter into the realm of choice

Maybe the quantum realm provides the foundations to neural activity, but pro has never shown how the uncertain events in this area are specifically material to a person’s actual choice. Pro says that the uncertainty of an electron is relevant to his choosing what to put on his hot dog. It is relevant in a way because it allows his brain to operate, but we still have reason to remain skeptical of the claim that multiple courses of action are possible because of these quantum events. Quantum events entail uncertainty in the quantum realm. I’m unaware of how they cause uncertainty in something as massive as choice.

On the macro scale, quantum uncertainties add up to almost nothing. It is not enough to show that it underlies the behavior of neurons. That in itself does not imply that the uncertainty in quantum events amount to something in decision making. In other words, my choosing what to put on my hot dog (an elementary choice in itself) is far too complex for quantum uncertainty to make it an uncertain choice. Also, as stressed, even if they do enter into decision making, it does not support free will as chance, much more than causality, cannot be a part of free will.

The role of consciousness

The conscious mind only makes decisions to an extent. Consciousness allows us to evaluate the most preferable course of action and in the end it is sometimes the final process leading up to a choice. However, as I have continually stated, all choices are themselves determined by things that go beyond conscious awareness. We may think and evaluate, but whatever we choose is entirely up to our chemistry. Our personality, rational ability, physical state and environment still determine the choices we make long before conscious awareness comes into play. Yes, indeed, not all events are determined but that does not change things. First, quantum indeterminism amounts to essentially nothing on the macro scale and thus everyday choices are not affected by it. Second, even if they are, chance has nothing to give to free will. It's the very refutation of free will as explained. So we’re left to our “choices” being decided before they ever became ours.

The key to my argument is not predictability. Perhaps someone could conceive of a world where free will exits and all actions are predictable, but those actions would not be causally constrained. There would have to be something else. In this universe it is causal determinism that allows actions to be predicted. It is not the prediction that matters but that before a person even becomes conscious about what he is going to do, it was already inevitable he would do it do to his mechanistic nature and the environment.

Self-causation

There is no such thing as self-causation. What the conscious mind does is already decided before conscious awareness comes into play. Self-causation implies that the conscious mind is the sole originator of the decision which is entirely false. It was determined long ago how the conscious mind would react. The self is part of the process in every day actions, but so are a many other things none of which have any degree of free will. The only difference with the self is that it is conscious, but this does not give it any special exception, or at least, pro has shown us none.

Predictability and control

Pro’s correct in saying that free will requires a degree of predictability, but incorrect that this lets him get away with determinism. Free will requires freedom. Causal determinism is the opposite of freedom. It constrains actions. There’s no such thing as choice under determinism because only one outcome is possible in all events. Quantum uncertainty provides no freedom either because, while it is not constrained, it escapes the control necessary for free will. This is why I said free will is impossible and incoherent. It requires a physical realm not found in this universe.

Pro also seems to contradict himself. Some of the time he refutes my case by saying free will must be predictable. The rest of the time he shows how choices are not predictable. The contradiction can be clearly demonstrated with his statement, “Choices are not inherently predictable”, and his latter claim that, “Free will should be predictable”. According to pro free will should be predictable and is not. This cannot be anything other than a self-refutation.

Conclusion

Quantum physics adds nothing to the free will case. Quantum uncertainty is due to randomness or probability. One cannot make decisions based on a chance event in the brain. It wouldn't be a decision, it would be chance. There's no way to connect the two. To purposefully choose one thing over another because one event happened by chance over another cannot be called free will.

A determined world would contradict free will (assumed by pro). This is not a determined world, but the exceptions to determinism do not refute the problems that determinism offers to free will.

Thanks for the debate!

Yraelz

Pro

A brief outline of this final round: I'm going to begin with arguments that are insta-wins and move onto the murkier aspects of this debate afterwards.


Self-Causation
There is a massive reoccurring problem with my opponents case; it is well exemplified within this contention. In round 3 con implies that free will requires self-causation. However, in round 4, he states that, "there is no such thing as self-causation." In other words, "Free will is defined as the presence of a non-existent concept." As we agreed upon in round 2, this debate comes down to definitional analysis of free will. On this front I believe that my definition of free will prevails, it is both logically consistent and non-paradoxical in nature.

That said, I'll win using my opponents definition first, just to clear up any confusion. In round 3 I state that, "In more specific terms the conscious mind is capable of reflecting on past actions and deactivating or activating parts of the genome [rnd3:3]." I specifically cite Matt Ridley's book which dedicates an entire chapter to this reality. Con's response is to say, "What the conscious mind does is already decided before conscious awareness comes into play." I concede his argument, it is not a refutation to my point in the slightest. The field of epigenetics has demonstrated that retroactive reflection of actions has the capacity to methylate or demethylate sequences of DNA [rnd3:3][1][2]. This means that the mechanisms which control human activity (before the conscious mind is aware) can be retuned after the original action. In this way, future actions are dictated by conscious reflection on similar, past actions. Thus, conscious thought can directly influence future actions; self-causation, a genetic meta-decision making process, is a scientific fact.


Definitional Analysis:
As I previously mentioned, this debate occurs in two stages. First the judge must accept a definition of free will, and then they must decide if it is likely to exist or not. In my opponents round 2 he implies that free will is some sort of magical concept ("It requires some sort of magic that allows a person to act free of the laws of constraints"). In round 3 he clarifies and implies that it would require self-causation ("if quantum probability affects one decision over the other it is due to chance and not self causation."). In the former instance I believe it is logical to reject my opponent's definition at face value, magic (the black box) lacks any logical grounding. In the latter case, I have already demonstrated the reality of self-causation.

To be perfectly honest my opponent never explicitly defines free will. I believe this makes the judges decision straightforward. In round 2 I define free will as a two step emergent process which involves: 1) A quantum non-predictable probalistic step and 2) A predictable determined step. This definition is preferable because it is mutually agreeable; con literally states that he has no problem with emergent processes. He clarifies that macroscale events can exhibit properties in addition to their microscale components. Moreover my definition is logically grounded, neither step relies on magical foundings, black boxes, or undefinables. Thus I would urge the judges to prefer the Pro Round 2 definition of free will.

Now let's break down my opponents arguments. The majority of Con's arguments are against his own nebulous conception of free will. These arguments are extremely difficult to judge without knowing an explicit definition which he is refuting. His only argument against my definition of free will is that quantum events have not been demonstrated to effect decisions (step 1). So my next contention will be...


Quantum Probabilities and the Conscious Mind
To be very clear, there is no scientific study which demonstrates that quantum probabilities effect decision making. The scientific community has a, well justified, stigma against invasive experimentation on human brains. However, this also means that there is no scientific study refuting quantum effects in decision making. This entire contention comes down to the theoretical likelihood of Con's arguments against my own.

Con's main argument is, "Quantum events entail uncertainty in the quantum realm. I’m unaware of how they cause uncertainty in something as massive as choice." I believe that the fundamental fallacy here is defining choice as, "massive". At it's base choice is 'a neurons ability to send an electron across a synapse to another neuron'. The relations in the brain, an advanced neural network, are only possible because of these action potentials. If electrons fall into quantum superpositions, if they can tunnel through barriers, if they can probabilistically follow separate synapses, then they can effect choices.

Recall from round 2 that part of the definition of free will is the probabilistic generation of possible actions (effects). Step 2 only kicks in after a suitable possibility has been reached. A quantum effect as simple as an electron being fired down the wrong synapse could feasibly generate a completely different set of possibilities. Or, even an electron not reaching a synapse because it arrives in the wrong quantum state could preclude a possibility from ever being formed before Step 2 kicks in.

Regardless, the parts of the brain are amazingly fundamental, there are just a great many parts (100s of billion of neurons). It is much more logical to suggest that quantum events can effects choice events because they occur on the same scale.


Quantum Uncertainty Can Be an Argument for Free Will
Paraphrased my opponent's argument amounts to, "free will requires choice, probability is not choice." I once again agree. The step 1 of the two step model only serves to generate a number of probabilistic options. The step serves to demonstrate that determinism does not rule the decision making process. Warped back in time, under the exact same conditions, my opponent may arrive at a completely different course of action due to step 1. He may decide to wear slippers instead. Which fits perfectly with:


The Essential Problems of Determinism are Absolved by Quantum Mechanics
Con argues that a technical error in determinism does not generate free will. Correct, this is why a definition of free will is absolutely paramount in this debate. I have defined free will as the synthesis of step 1 (a probabilistic event) and step 2 (a determined event). In other words we arrive at step 1 (the nonconstrainted step) and step 2 (the constrained step). The emergent combination of these two steps generate realities which do not exist independently:

1. Effects cannot be predicted.
2. Choices are not reproducible.

Cons final argument on this issue is that, "Free will requires freedom." Hereby con falls back onto microscale mechanics, fortunately this does nothing to refute my case. Con concedes emergent properties which means my actor, the conscious mind, can exhibit properties outside of the microscale. And so the question becomes, "does the conscious mind have 'freedom to act'?" The answer is 'absolutely', the conscious mind acts (predictably) in step 2. My opponent's arguments, inside of this definition, are tantamount to saying, "the conscious mind constrains itself." That's not a constraint at all, it proves the self-causality that my opponent believes is necessary.

Look judges, a debate about free will requires a defined macroscale actor. Free will means nothing on the microscale. My opponents continued attempts to discredit free will on the microscale are therefore meaningless. Step 2, using the conscious mind as an actor, should be 100% predictable. And step 1 results in non-determinism. The conscious mind is only constrained by it's own components, which are a part of itself. Thus the entire entity, the conscious mind, is free to act. My two step definition of free will is unrefuted.

Thanks for the debate!


Sources:
1. http://tinyurl.com...
2. http://tinyurl.com...
Debate Round No. 4
48 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by phantom 3 years ago
phantom
Thanks Yraelz. That was a close debate.
Posted by Yraelz 3 years ago
Yraelz
Solid, good luck Phantom!
Posted by TUF 3 years ago
TUF
Thanks so much Mikal for spending the time into that RFD, it was great.

Good job to both debaters, this so far has been the closest debate in the tournament, and for me personally the hardest one to judge. There are truly no real losers in this debate. Good luck to phantom in further rounds, and congrats to Yraelz for putting up a great bout!
Posted by phantom 3 years ago
phantom
For a second there I thought you were going to tie it lol...Thanks for settling the debate.
Posted by Mikal 3 years ago
Mikal
I just feel Con touched pros initial premise more than Pro touches Cons. Just due to the fact of how the two stage model was presented. I sincerely believe pro had this debate had he bit down more on the fact that actions can be free even if they are essentially determined instead of going with the route that actions are free based on probability and a simulator perspective.

This was entirely hard to judge and a great debate guys.
Posted by Mikal 3 years ago
Mikal
I am still stuck on this fact. That pros model does not really handle cons initial contention well. This is purely based on the definition that is presented. That whether or not someone could arrive at different decisions if the event were played back, never touches the heart of cons contention.

Pros strongest stance is that that actions can be effected but still be free.

In the end con touches on this again with

" The conscious mind only makes decisions to an extent. Consciousness allows us to evaluate the most preferable course of action and in the end it is sometimes the final process leading up to a choice. However, as I have continually stated, all choices are themselves determined by things that go beyond conscious awareness. "

I feel pro could have handled a response to this better but resorts right back to the same point that I continue to be stuck with.

in the last round he goes right back to the same point

"The step serves to demonstrate that determinism does not rule the decision making process. Warped back in time, under the exact same conditions, my opponent may arrive at a completely different course of action due to step 1. He may decide to wear slippers instead. Which fits perfectly with"

I am still wanting to kick myself in the face because I think at this point it was pros debate to win, but he went right back tot he same point that I don't feel touched cons initial contention. I wish it would have focused more on how actions can be prior determined but free. Pro was grasping at that , and had he like bit down on it, i feel he would have won.

I have to give it to phantom though, just due to the prior statements. As pro and con both stated, this is a very touchy subject to judge. It is entirely based on the readers definition of what free will is. Pro layed a solid foundation for what his defention was, but so did Con. The debate was decided on how the other person responded to their contenders definition of it.
Posted by 2-D 3 years ago
2-D
I agree that grammar should never be the determining factor in a debate and I think I used the stated counter vote"bomb rule in a good way. I only give a grammar point only if it is noticeably an issue. I spoke with the other voter who compares how many errors he has found to give a point to one side. I understand that some are more concerned with grammar so I think that method is fair enough.
Posted by Mikal 3 years ago
Mikal
"I will define the 'Actor' of free will as the conscious mind. That is, the part of the human brain capable of self reference."

and finishes with a strong statement

"My opponent, who agrees that the question of free will is definitional, is only supporting the existence of free will inside of this framework. In order for him to win this debate he will need to clarify his own version of "self-causality" and be able to refute it. Otherwise, the definition which my opponent is fighting against is tantamount to "magic". I believe that the two stage model of free will is a much more cohesive definition."

The next two rounds are summed up with final and closing arguments but stay on the same point. So by my point of view the debate has followed this outline somewhat

[1] Con opens with a case about determinism and how actions are pre determined.
[2] Pro address this with the two stage argument and states that actions would never occur the same way twice. The two stage argument. He puts probability up against cons definition of causation.
[3] Con hits a home run and points out that this does not effect his initial argument at all, or rather pro did not address it
[4] Pro finally addresses the argument with the fact that things can be determined but free.
[5] Con wraps up with the fact that casual determinism defines constraints. That the actions we take were not ours but pre determined by initial events that occurred. He is saying here because there are constraints the actions are not free.
[6] Pro points out that this debate is determined by the definition of the judge.

So in the end, I am trying to figure out how to judge this. There is not set definition of what free will is, so it is very hard to gauge the arguments that are presented. Both contenders stayed on point and tilted the debate to fit what they think free will is.
Posted by Mikal 3 years ago
Mikal
Pro starts with a very strong point.

"And now for some definitional analysis that should make this debate pretty clear. Remember my opponent agrees that microscopic properties define the quantum world. Also recall that he is comfortable with macroscopic entities possessing emergent properties in addition to their microscopic properties. In this debate I am arguing free will as an emergent property confined within one basic definition:

"I will define the 'Actor' of free will as the conscious mind. That is, the part of the human brain capable of self reference."

In other words, if the conscious mind is capable of making decisions then we have found an emergent property called free will. At this point my opponent is not disputing that the conscious mind can make decisions. He is only arguing that those decisions are predictable and/or probabilistically defined. "

The hit home point for this was the last statement

" He is only arguing that those decisions are predictable and/or probabilistically defined. "

This is where Pro first touches the initial contention in a noticeable manor. He is now stating that things can be defined and actions can influence the mind, but free will can still exist within the mind itself. (ie free will can exist"

He recaps and bites down on this at the end of the round

" 1. Choices are not inherently predictable because quantum effects underlay the brains basic mechanisms.
2. Free will, outside of the probabilistic mechanism in #1, must rely on causality in order to exist. A universe sans causality could never have any conception of free will.
3. Free will should be predictable. Because the concept of free will must be grounded in logic and causality.
4. The conscious mind is capable of self-causation. The conscious mind will initiate effects which will become causes for future actions. "

He calls con out on his quote
Posted by Mikal 3 years ago
Mikal
Pro starts with a very strong point.

"And now for some definitional analysis that should make this debate pretty clear. Remember my opponent agrees that microscopic properties define the quantum world. Also recall that he is comfortable with macroscopic entities possessing emergent properties in addition to their microscopic properties. In this debate I am arguing free will as an emergent property confined within one basic definition:

"I will define the 'Actor' of free will as the conscious mind. That is, the part of the human brain capable of self reference."

In other words, if the conscious mind is capable of making decisions then we have found an emergent property called free will. At this point my opponent is not disputing that the conscious mind can make decisions. He is only arguing that those decisions are predictable and/or probabilistically defined. "

The hit home point for this was the last statement

" He is only arguing that those decisions are predictable and/or probabilistically defined. "

This is where Pro first touches the initial contention in a noticeable manor. He is now stating that things can be defined and actions can influence the mind, but free will can still exist within the mind itself. (ie free will can exist"

He recaps and bites down on this at the end of the round

" 1. Choices are not inherently predictable because quantum effects underlay the brains basic mechanisms.
2. Free will, outside of the probabilistic mechanism in #1, must rely on causality in order to exist. A universe sans causality could never have any conception of free will.
3. Free will should be predictable. Because the concept of free will must be grounded in logic and causality.
4. The conscious mind is capable of self-causation. The conscious mind will initiate effects which will become causes for future actions. "

He calls con out on his quote
6 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Vote Placed by 2-D 3 years ago
2-D
phantomYraelzTied
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments. Wth, adding grammar point to Pro (per stated votebomb rule) until MyDinasaurHands adds an explanation. If there were just four grammar errors on either side I would be surprised and neither side had major grammar issues.
Vote Placed by MyDinosaurHands 3 years ago
MyDinosaurHands
phantomYraelzTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Before I get to the argument, I need to say that I found 4 grammar errors in Pro's text and none in Con's. I felt that Con's opening argument was never fully refuted, and every time an attempt was made, Con had a good reason why his side stood. I felt Con's argument against self-causation with an eventual awareness of predetermined decisions, which only make things seem self-generated, was a good defense. As for the quantum probabilities, I felt Con won in that arena by showing that quantum probability is chance, and it has chance effects on outcomes, and thus no more freedom in choice is lent to the 'actor' than without a quantum mechanic. And another thing.. frankly it was easier to read Con's statements. I certainly re-read arguments I didn't understand the first time, but with Yraelz's a re-read didn't always help. To be clear, my vote is based on who convinced me, not whose argument was easier to understand. But, that can be a factor as to why I was more convinced.
Vote Placed by bsh1 3 years ago
bsh1
phantomYraelzTied
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Reasons for voting decision: This was a truly fascinating debate. Pro's most persuasive argument, for me, was that of probability. Just because actions can be predicted, does not mean they aren't free. However, in R4, Con points out a contradiction in Pro's argument that forces me to disregard this point. Con's most convincing arguments was this: "For an act to be free, it must be free from constraints, but the only events free of constraints are those that are random, and random events are the antithesis of control." I wish it had been focused on more in the round. Ultimately, I vote Con because he shows free will to be theoretically incoherent, and quantum effects are likely due to randomness. Also, brain processes are largely random, and that's no logical basis for free decision-making. Debaters were very close, and equal in all other categories. Extremely well-done and hard to evaluate round! Congratulations!
Vote Placed by Josh_b 3 years ago
Josh_b
phantomYraelzTied
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Reasons for voting decision: i wasn't sure where this debate was going when it started, but in the end, my vote came down to one determining factor. Pro was able to prove that man's individual ability to reason was the determining factor. Without this factor, all men would act monontaneously. Thus I vote for Pro on a convincing argument.
Vote Placed by TUF 3 years ago
TUF
phantomYraelzTied
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments.
Vote Placed by Oromagi 3 years ago
Oromagi
phantomYraelzTied
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Reasons for voting decision: A difficult vote. Both sides made complete and reasonable arguments. To the extent that either argument is unfalsifiable, the BOP is key and neither side discussed where to lay that burden. Both sides conducted their argument as if they were refuting the other's BOP. By convention, default BOP belongs to the instigator and Con is further burdened by making the less conventional claim- free will is likely an illusion. Con equivocates on "free will" in the opening, when he should be locking the definition down and then has to expand his definition in R3 in reaction to Pro. He explained his reasons for doing so, but in terms of convincing arguments, Con's authority is weakened. I'm tempted to award conduct to Pro in response to Con's threat to resort to vote-bombing in the opening, but since the conduct was in all other ways cordial, I will overlook.