The Instigator
cmahdavi
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
bossmanham
Pro (for)
Winning
14 Points

Free Will

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/30/2010 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 2,576 times Debate No: 13841
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (29)
Votes (2)

 

cmahdavi

Con

I will attempt to argue against the idea of free will.

Free will is a crucial component to many ideologies, religions and beliefs. I am not suggesting people cannot be responsible or that certain things in the universe are not chaotic in nature. There is a BIG difference between saying something is uncaused versus it is caused by this thing that is a will and that the will we are speaking of is free. I am not suggesting that certain actions are not more autonomous (caused more by factors within the body) than not (coercion or forced action)
First I will try and suggest that a will itself, as something separate and independent of the physical world yet is able to stimulate the physical word 'magically' (hey if it isn't science based and not God caused why not call it what it is = supernatural or magic (magic is shorter) ) is absurd. To suggest a will controls my body's action one has to be ready to answer the following questions:

What part of my body (or what part of my brain?) is the will attached?

How does it know which body to attach itself?

How does it know which actions, desires, thoughts, behaviors cells, molecules, atoms, etc. to control?

Can we gain and lose it? (if so how?)

How does this not fall victim to occham's razor? Or argumentum ad absurdum?

How do the wills keep from sharing a body or having a body without a will?

Then the idea of a "free" anything has to avoid just being considered "magical." This "thing" that exists is exempt from all other rules of the universe. How can one know that this thing (which is undetectable) is exempt from the rules of the universe other than we hope what we see (people's actions and my actions) are uncaused therefore a product of free will?

Since then the burden of proof lies on a the person suggesting a new or extra entity exists, and there are a great deal of absurd consequences to accept if a person adopts the position of free will, I'm going to go and say it doesn't exist. But then again I am wrong about a lot of stuff and you only get better by being proved wrong so thank you for anyone willing to teach me some things on this topic
bossmanham

Pro

I am taking the position that free will is a coherent position.

My opponent is arguing against the very idea of free will. This means they must show that free will is not only not true, but that it is somehow necessarily not true.

Now, we must not equivocate on what we are talking about here. I take it from reading my opponent's opening argument that they are an incompatibilist, as am I. They take the position that free will is not compatible with determinism and determinism is true. I take the same position, but I think determinism is false. I believe in libertarian free will.

I will defend two argument to support free will. The consequence argument and an argument from rationality.

The first argument goes as such:

1) If we do not have free will, we are not responsible for our actions.

2) We are responsible for our actions.

3) Therefore, we have free will.

Now this isn't precisely the form that the consequence argument normally takes, because it's purpose was to argue for incompatibilism. But, the conclusion of the consequence argument is what makes up premise 1 in my argument. I will cite Peter Van Inwagen's formulation of the consequence argument to support premise 1:

If determinism is true, then our acts are the consequences of the laws of nature and events in the remote past. But it is not up to us what went on before we were born, and neither is it up to us what the laws of nature are. Therefore, the consequences of these things (including our present acts) are not up to us.(1)

My opponent has already said they agree with premise 2, that we are responsible for our actions.

Therefore, it would follow that we in fact have free will. Notice that this is a deductive conclusion. Even if I couldn't answer all of the questions posed, my opponent would still need to find a way to defeat Van Inwagen's argument, which is my premise 1.

My second argument:

1) If we don't have free will, then we necessarily believe as we do.

2) If we necessarily believe as we do, then rationality is an illusion.

3) Rationality is not an illusion.

C1) Therefore we don't necessarily believe as we do.

C2) Therefore we have free will.

I think the only controversial premise would be number 2. 1 is just a short definition of determinism. 3 is obvious, otherwise why would my opponent want to have a debate.

In defense of premise two, think about what the process of rational thought is. Rational thought is the weighing of ideas and considering of options in coming to a conclusion. If determinism is true, you must necessarily choose what you do in fact choose. You cannot choose otherwise. So if you are considering two different options, A or B, then on determinism it is already decided which you will choose. You aren't actually weighing any options. The option you will choose has already been determined. Thus, if determinism is true, you aren't really considering and weighing options, but simply going trough the motions of a puppet. And if that is true, it would follow that rationality is an illusion.

But, seemingly my opponent agrees with me and does not think that rationality is an illusion. Therefore it would follow deductively that we have free will.

Now, as it pertains to the questions my opponent has asked, I'm not sure how they are relevant. I don't see an argument from my opponent that the existence of free will depends on adequate answers to these questions. Really, there hasn't been an argument against free will at all. My opponent has simply criticized agent-causation, which I didn't even need to argue for my case. If my opponent can give some reason to think that answering these question is necessary for my argument to succeed, then I will answer them.

So, as I have been the only one to offer an argument, my opponent must first tear down my arguments and then construct one of their own that shows that free will actually doesn't exist.

(1)Peter van Inwagen, An Essay on Free Will, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983), p. 56.
Debate Round No. 1
cmahdavi

Con

First let me say thank you for taking me up on my first debate. I appreciate any constructive criticism. Thanks also for doing this in a rational, respectful way. It is appreciated.

Quote: "They take the position that free will is not compatible with determinism and determinism is true. I take the same position, but I think determinism is false. I believe in libertarian free will."

-- Not necessarily the case, there can be chaos in the universe and it not be due to free will. If there is chaos in the universe than determinism is false. I believe there is some chaos in the universe (at least in the quantum world) so I'm not nailed to determinism. Just against free will.

Argument:
"1) If we do not have free will, we are not responsible for our actions."
***responsible means what? A dog can be responsible for eating my dinner before I get to the table it doesn't mean the dog had free will. If that's too complicated an animal (not to suggest you couldn't understand merely that it is a higher order thinking creature) substitute jellyfish for dog and my point stands.

"2) We are responsible for our actions."
We are responsible in that we are the most significant contributor to something happening. In other words, I am not as responsible for Obama being elected as my elected representative is. The person in China who doesn't have enough money for food is not responsible for Obama being elected.

"3) Therefore, we have free will."
Don't see how that follows.

Basically what is being done here is fudging the word 'responsible'. A virus can be responsible or the primary cause of my death but I don't see the virus as having free will.

So next argument (and you're right 2 is where I want to go)

"2) If we necessarily believe as we do, then rationality is an illusion."
We can be wrong. It can be the case that what is true is not obvious without further investigation. Such as quantum mechanics. We at one point in history (ancient Greece) could believe that we have to be able to choose, but as time goes by we learn more and more how more and more of our actions are in fact determined. I can stick an electrode in your brain and make you lift your arm. I have determined your action. We now know the electric current in your brain is what determines arm raising. Now this is an almost ridiculous simplification but point still holds. The first premise that we necessarily believe that our choices are free is also suspicious. I don't see how anyone MUST believe something other than we exist. I don't believe in choice, kind of defeats the premise there...

The defense of premise 2 all hinges on determinism which I don't maintain because I understand that there are certain unpredictable things in the quantum world that do not have free will (and you'd have a hard time defending a charmed quark does have free will) suggesting that something could have gone differently and saying it has a will to choose are not the same thing.

Main point:
We are talking about the source of an action, not the alternatives. I believe in possibilities, just not agency.

If you don't want to answer the questions ok. I think if you assert a will exists they ought to be addressed but the argument you're taking is all about options, which I concede there are.
My argument against agency claims introducing agency violates Ockham's Razor. Which if that is not enough is subject to the fallacy of argumentum ad ignoratium. http://en.wikipedia.org...

I also point out that even though options are given to all creatures, (such as the scorpion could have moved to the left) we do not ascribe agency to all creatures, just the ones most like us. This only proves we want to have agency, just like we want to have an immortal soul that will be given a mansion once we die (sorry for the Ricky Gervais movie reference).

I don't see how just because an explanation appeals to our emotions it becomes rationally necessary where if it is not the case rationality is an illusion.

I don't see a qualitative difference between the decision making process of a gorilla and a human I just see a quantitative one. We are more complicated thinker true, but my opponent in order to assert this new thing called will that is free emerges (or has a brute emergence - thank you panpsychics) they have to show how or why when the same parts are arranged in one way to produce a horse brain we have no free will but in a slightly different way we have human brain which has free will sometimes. We are not allowing the addition of any more parts than the same protons and electrons that make up the panda, the jellyfish or the hedgehog, otherwise all the questions I asked in the beginning involving these magic parts must be answered.

It seems my opponent (who again I want to thank for taking me up on my first debate, and I appreciate the rational and respectful approach he/she is taking) claims if we don't believe in free will reason is an illusion. I humbly suggest that there is a chance that the thing being asserted that is not necessary, that has no evidence, that exists in my opinion only as a way of making us feel more important than we are, may be the illusion, and not reason.
bossmanham

Pro

I appreciate the continued engagement from my debate opponent. This is turning out to be pretty fun for my first debate experience here.

I'll get right into my rebuttal. Con, I think, is starting to delve into topics that aren't relevant to the debate. Con brings up chaos in the universe, which I assume he means to be completely random and unpredictable events, to show that he isn't a determinist. It might be the case that Con is not a determinist about certain events in the universe, maybe there is some randomness, but we are talking about the will and whether it is determined or free. If the will is not free it is determined by past occurrences and external stimuli. If one of these proposed chaotic events happens, it may influence the path that the will will take, but the will is still being determined by that event. Con has stated that they don't believe an agent controls the will, so that leaves the events and stimuli to affect whatever we choose to do, and that is determinism as it applies to the will. Talking about chaos in the universe is just a red herring.

My first argument:

For someone to be responsible for an action, as it applies to this debate, would mean that there was no constraint on the individual to choose one way or the other and there was no coercion in making that choice and that the choice originated in the individual. It is a moral/rational responsibility. One simply being the actor in an event does not mean they are necessarily responsible for what they have done. For instance, a robot could be the actor in playing a piano, but that robot is not the one responsible for that action. The one who programmed the robot is. The robot could not have not done what its programmer had determined for it to do, and it was not the one who decided to act as such. It only did what it was determined to do.

Likewise, if we don't have free will, then we are constrained to do what we do by our programming; what the physical synapses in our brains cause us to do in response to external stimuli. It is not us deciding what to do, but it is the events around us that cause us to act. Therefore, we cannot choose otherwise and we are not the origin of our choices.

The dog example fails, I think, to refute what we're speaking of as being responsible in this debate. We do not hold dogs morally responsible when they steal food, because dogs, as far as we know, do not do things with intention. If they do lack a will of any kind, they are simply responding to the external stimuli. That is why we don't charge dogs with theft when they steal food. We don't think they are in control of those kinds of urges. But we as humans not only are responsible for what we do, we expect people who break the law to have been able to not break the law. They should have acted otherwise, and that implies that they actually can.

Has Con provided a reason to think my first argument is faulty? I don't think so. They complained about my use of the word responsible, but after clarification, that the responsibility in question is moral/rational responsibility, and expansion on my argument, I think it clearly holds. Until Con can refute either of the premises of this first argument, then by modus tollens, it follows deductively.

Second argument:

As I predicted, premise 2 is the controversial premise. I don't think Con has actually attempted to deal with the premise. In attacking the premise Con says, "We can be wrong. It can be the case that what is true is not obvious without further investigation. Such as quantum mechanics. We at one point in history (ancient Greece) could believe that we have to be able to choose, but as time goes by we learn more and more how more and more of our actions are in fact determined."

I don't know how this is supposed to counter to my argument. Con is begging the question in a couple of different ways. 1) Con is assuming a rational process of coming to knowledge when he says that we have discovered that our actions are determined after all. That is exactly what is up for debate; is a rational process of discovering truth possible if our wills are determined? 2) He's assuming our actions are determined, which is the subject of this debate. Not to mention that this really doesn't matter. Of course we can be wrong about things. But if our wills are determined, then what we're wrong about we couldn't have been right about. As philosopher William Lane Craig points out:

**"There is a sort of dizzying, self-defeating character to determinism. For if one comes to believe that determinism is true, one has to believe that the reason he has come to believe it is simply that he was determined to do so. One has not in fact been able to weigh the arguments pro and con and freely make up one's mind on that basis. The difference between the person who weighs the arguments for determinism and rejects them and the person who weighs them and accepts them is wholly that one was determined by causal factors outside himself to believe and the other not to believe. When you come to realize that your decision to believe in determinism was itself determined and that even your present realization of that fact right now is likewise determined, a sort of vertigo sets in, for everything that you think, even this very thought itself, is outside your control. Determinism could be true; but it is very hard to see how it could ever be rationally affirmed, since its affirmation undermines the rationality of its affirmation."** http://www.reasonablefaith.org...

Con says, "The defense of premise 2 all hinges on determinism which I don't maintain because I understand that there are certain unpredictable things in the quantum world that do not have free will." But we aren't talking about unpredictability in the quantum world, we're talking about whether the will is free. If it is not, then it is determined. So while Con may not believe all events are determined, certainly he believes the will is; he's said he does. If not, then I have no idea what we're debating.

Con may be surprised to learn that quantum indeterminacy is actually quite popular among free will theorists such as Robert Kane. They think that it may actually point to the origin of making free choices. Con is using a free will argument.

Con is correct in that we are talking about the source of actions. Unless we choose our actions, we aren't the source of them. Something else would be.

Con seems to not realize that agent causation is not the only theory of libertarian free will. There are several options that do not appeal to an immaterial agent.

Since my opponent's quibble with premise 2 didn't really substantively deal with it, and begged the question, I think that argument 2 is still sound.

I have offered 2 arguments for free will that I think are good and have withstood the scrutiny offered so far. But remember, my opponent also bears a burden of proof. If you recall, they claim that free will is not only false, are arguing against the very idea of free will. So, my opponent needs to 1) refute my arguments, 2) argue that free will is in fact false, and 3) show that free will is somehow an incoherent concept. Unless and until this is done, I think it is clear that free will is coherent and we actually posses it.
Debate Round No. 2
cmahdavi

Con

cmahdavi forfeited this round.
bossmanham

Pro

My opponent has forfeited his last speech without refuting my arguments for free will and without providing an argument against free will. I suggest that you cast your vote for the pro position for these reasons.

Check out this video with John Searle, an eminent free willer.
Debate Round No. 3
29 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by blackhawk1331 6 years ago
blackhawk1331
entity -independent, separate, or self-contained existence
courtesy of Webster's dictionary

""There's no proof because it doesn't exist as an entity. It exists as an idea. It's just an explanation for our ability to make decisions"

Well...nawwwww....You can have evidence of abiblities too. For exmaple, we are able to raise a hand or utter a word. Those actions don't exist as entities either but there's ample evidence that humans have those abiblities. But that's not the case when it comes to free will. There's no evidence that we are able to make free decisions :)"

An entity is something that exist as an independent existence. The ability to raise one's hand, therefore, is an entity because that ability exists independent of any other ability. The same applies to speaking. And free will isn't an ability, it's a name that was placed with an ability. Free will itself is just a name. The ability is to make our own decisions, and there's proof we can do that. For example, I am choosing to enter this comment instead of doing homework.
Posted by J.Kenyon 6 years ago
J.Kenyon
"That's because you're a Christian :p"

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

:P
Posted by Danielle 6 years ago
Danielle
"I'm debating Cerebral_Narcissist on the existence of God (as Pro!), so :P"

That's because you're a Christian :p
Posted by J.Kenyon 6 years ago
J.Kenyon
Besides, I'm in three debates right now, so I won't be ready for a while anyway : )
Posted by popculturepooka 6 years ago
popculturepooka
Fair enough, Lightkeeper.
Posted by J.Kenyon 6 years ago
J.Kenyon
"I firmly believe in silence during debates so that the debates can be given a fair shot without distractions and ideas from the comments section."

So? I meant in a real debate, not a comment section "debate."
Posted by Lightkeeper 6 years ago
Lightkeeper
debaters *
Posted by Lightkeeper 6 years ago
Lightkeeper
@Kenyon&popculture:

Because I firmly believe in silence during debates so that the debates can be given a fair shot without distractions and ideas from the comments section. I just think it's better form when it comes to formal debate.
Posted by Lightkeeper 6 years ago
Lightkeeper
Just watch the debate in the tab on the left (above) and see how it unfolds. When that's over, we can talk about it.
Posted by popculturepooka 6 years ago
popculturepooka
"There isn't any."

That wasn't my question. I asked what evidence you would take to confirm that free will exists.

"And all the evidence available points against the existence of free will."

Which evidence would that be?
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by blackhawk1331 6 years ago
blackhawk1331
cmahdavibossmanhamTied
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Vote Placed by bossmanham 6 years ago
bossmanham
cmahdavibossmanhamTied
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Total points awarded:07