The Instigator
AndrewB686
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
TrueScotsman
Con (against)
Winning
3 Points

Free will does not exist

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
TrueScotsman
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/15/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,216 times Debate No: 40637
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (4)
Votes (2)

 

AndrewB686

Pro

This debate is addressing the ancient problem of free will. I will be taking the pro position and therefore assert that free will does not exist. Instead, I will argue in favor of determinism, more specifically hard determinism, as opposed to libertarianism or compatibilism.

I will now define the previously mentioned terms.

Determinism is a theory or doctrine that acts of the will, occurrences in nature, or social or psychological phenomena are causally determined by preceding events or natural laws

http://www.merriam-webster.com...

Compatibilism (or soft determinism) is the belief that free will and determinism are compatible ideas, and that it is possible to believe both without being logically inconsistent.

https://en.wikipedia.org...

Libertarianism argues that free will is logically incompatible with a deterministic universe and that agents have free will, and that, therefore, determinism is false.
(a subset of indeterminism)

https://en.wikipedia.org...(metaphysics)

For the purpose of this debate, I will be advocating hard determinism. Hard determinism is a subset of determinism that argues the concept of free will and a deterministic universe are incompatible.
(usually contrasted with compatibilism, or soft determinism)

1st round is for acceptance
2nd round is for arguments
3rd round is for rebuttals
4th round is for closing statements

Good luck to my opponent and may the best man win.
TrueScotsman

Con

Hi AndrewB686,

I accept the Con position to your contention that Free Will Does Not Exist. Although, I generally take a cautious and somewhat agnostic position on the matter. I will be presenting the evidence for Free Will from a philosophical and scientific perspective, to at least refute the initial contention that claims absolutely that it cannot exist.

Look forward to your arguments!

Kind Regards,
TrueScotsman
Debate Round No. 1
AndrewB686

Pro

-Thank you, TrueScotsman, for accepting my debate. I look forward to seeing your arguments in the future.

-Before I being my arguments, I must define free will. I apologize for not doing so in the first round.

-Free will is the freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention.

http://www.merriam-webster.com...

-I will now present my arguments in favor of hard determinism.

1) Causality

-Free will is incompatible with natural law. Everything action and occurrence is the result of an antecedent cause that, in turn, produces an effect. In order for freedom of the will to exist, humans would have to possess the ability to control all the factors and influences that determine our subsequent actions and behaviors, but we cannot. Humankind is subject to the law of cause and effect, which leaves no room for free will because the cause of our consciousness is not subject to our control.

-Bertrand Russell said "The law of causation, according to which later events can theoretically be predicted by means of earlier events, has often been held to be a priori, a necessity of thought, a category without which science would not be possible." (Russell, External World p.179)

http://www.informationphilosopher.com...
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https://lh3.googleusercontent.com...

"Three different models explain the causal mechanism of free will and the flow of information between unconscious neural activity and conscious thought (GES = genes, environment, stochasticism). In A, the intuitive model, there is no causal component for will. Will influences conscious thought, which in turn influences unconscious neural activity to direct behavior. In B, a causal component of will is introduced: unconscious neural activity and GES. But now will loses its "freedom." In C, the model that Cashmore advocates, will is dispensed with. Conscious thought is simply a reflection of, rather than an influence on, unconscious neural activity, which directs behavior. The dotted arrow 2 in C indicates a subservient role of conscious thought in directing behavior. Credit: Anthony Cashmore."

http://phys.org...

-Anthony Cashmore is the professor of Biology at the University of Pennsylvania. The above excerpt is a transition into my next argument, although it still explains how a causal agent nullifies the notion of free will.

2) Unconscious neural activity is the antecedent cause of our consciousness

"As Cashmore explains, the human brain acts at both the conscious level as well as the unconscious. It"s our consciousness that makes us aware of our actions, giving us the sense that we control them, as well. But even without this awareness, our brains can still induce our bodies to act, and studies have indicated that consciousness is something that follows unconscious neural activity. Just because we are often aware of multiple paths to take, that doesn"t mean we actually get to choose one of them based on our own free will. As the ancient Greeks asked, by what mechanism would we be choosing? The physical world is made of causes and effects - "nothing comes from nothing" - but free will, by its very definition, has no physical cause."

http://phys.org...

-We do not have control over the majority of our mind, the unconscious dominates the conscious. Neurophysiological processes determine every perceived option or path that appears to be available, thereby allowing for an explanation of the will to be understood. Humans become aware of our thoughts, desires, and intentions only after they have manifested within the recesses of our mind.

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"The recordable cerebral activity (readiness-potential, RP) that precedes a freely voluntary, fully endogenous motor act was directly compared with the reportable time (W) for appearance of the subjective experience of "wanting" or intending to act. The onset of cerebral activity clearly preceded by at least several hundred milliseconds the reported time of conscious intention to act. This relationship held even for those series (with "type II" RPs) in which subjects reported that all of the 40 self-initiated movements in the series appeared "spontaneously" and capriciously."

http://brain.oxfordjournals.org...

-The experiments of Benjamin Libet elucidate the aforementioned manifestation of "wants" or "desires" by performing experiments that test the nature of decision making. Neural activity determines a specified outcome before the subject in question is consciously aware that the decision has been made. How can we be free if we do not determine our thoughts?

"Where our intentions themselves come from, however, and what determines their character in every instant, remains perfectly mysterious in subjective terms. Our sense of free will arises from a failure to appreciate this fact: we do not know what we will intend to do until the intention itself arises. To see this is to realize that you are not the author of your thoughts and actions in the way that people generally suppose."

http://www.informationphilosopher.com...

-Sam Harris expertly deconstructs the notion of free will by examining the reason why we feel it exists. Acts of volition are accompanied by a felt intention, thus distinguishing them from involuntary acts. Can one act upon an intention that does not occur to one"s mind? If the logical conclusion cannot be thought of, what is one to do?

3) Genes, Environment, Background

"A study of more than 800 sets of twins found that genetics were more influential in shaping key traits than a person's home environment and surroundings. Psychologists at the University of Edinburgh who carried out the study, say that genetically influenced characteristics could well be the key to how successful a person is in life."

"Ever since the ancient Greeks, people have debated the nature of a good life and the nature of a virtuous life. Why do some people seem to manage their lives, have good relationships and cooperate to achieve their goals while others do not? Previously, the role of family and the environment around the home often dominated people's ideas about what affected psychological well-being. However, this work highlights a much more powerful influence from genetics."

http://www.sciencedaily.com...

-The power of genetics in determining outcomes and predisposing us towards certain proclivities and desires cannot be overstated. Why do we feel an attraction towards a certain way of life, or a certain decision? Our genome has been craftily developed through evolution, and the result is a comprehensive system that plays a role in determining every decision that one makes.

"Genes capture the evolutionary responses of prior populations to selection on behavior. Environmental flexibility gives animals the opportunity to adjust to changes during their own lifetime."

"Evolution has acted so that genes and environment act to complement each other in yielding behavioral solutions to the survival challenges faced by animals. Innate, or instinctive, responses allow animals to benefit from generations of natural selection on behavior. Learning gives animals tools to respond to local conditions and changing environments. Understanding the relative roles of genes and the environment in determining human behavior continues to create controversy. Behavior is best seen as the result of evolutionary processes that sometimes create, through genetic coding, behavioral instructions for animals and at other times create flexible mechanisms to allow animals to solve problems specific to their environment."

http://www.nature.com...

-The power of our environment is instrumental in the development of the self. We do not possess the ability to choose our environment, nor do we possess the ability to change the effect of our environment. As we develop and progress through our lives the environment that contains us is bound to change; however, the influences continue to mold our thinking. When our thoughts and intentions arise in the mind, they are the crafted and refined due to our genetic makeup and our environmental stipulations.

-Lastly, prior causes work in the unconscious, of which many never appear to the conscious agent. Background influences and previous experiences all mold and shape the nature of our mind, thus never allowing true freedom to exist. By definition, in order for free will to exist we would have to be consciously aware of all the factors that are considered in the making of a decision, as well as possess the ability to manipulate the aforementioned factors. Neither of the previously mentioned conditions are met, therefore free will cannot exist.

I thank my opponent for accepting this debate, and look forward to your arguments.

Best of luck,

AndrewB686
TrueScotsman

Con

Hi AndrewB686,

Really enjoyed reading your initial arguments, and I like where this discussion is headed!

In my opening statement I will providing argument's from Professor at Dartmouth University, Peter U. Tse.

The Neural Basis for Free Will?

Most arguments for "Free Will" often are metaphysical in nature, proposing some kind of dualism. I will not take this course and reject the concept of contra-casual free will. This will be like your argument, derived from testable and falsifiable information in the physical world.

Since I am not a neuroscientist, I will be largely drawing my argument from Professor Peter Tse. Here is an introduction to his argument.

"The idea is that large numbers of neurons (a complex of cells or "cell assembly") are likely to be involved in even the simplest thoughts and actions. Tse argues that the brain may be able to modify dynamically the probabilities that individual neurons are "firing." He calls this "dynamical synaptic reweighting."

Since the process by which a pre-synaptic neuron releases chemical neurotransmitters into the synaptic cleft is a statistical one (large numbers of neurotransmitter molecules must diffuse across the cleft to activate ion channel receptors on the post-synaptic neuron), Tse says that there is some ontological randomness in the process. He argues that this is real "ontological" indeterministic chance, quantum mechanical in origin.

How exactly such weights or probabilities of firing might work is not understood, but Tse argues that weights would constitute "informational" criteria as opposed to being simply physical. They could represent mental events that supervene on the physical brain events.

Tse accepts the Basic Argument of philosopher Galen Strawson, that we are not free to change the way we are at any moment, that we cannot be "causa sui." But since ontological randomness can dynamically reassign weights to the synapses, we can change mental events in the future."[1]

Since my opponent has taken up the strong stance of "hard determinism," these findings are particularly troubling for this perspective. Even if the conclusion of this argument resulted in a failure to prove the existence of free will, it still prevents a level of randomness at the neural level that would refute a hard deterministic view.

However, Peter Tse does have a working criteria for what his position on free will would be.

"I argue that it is possible to be a physicalist and ontological indeterminist and adhere to a strong conception of free will. A strong free will requires meeting some very high demands. We must have (a) multiple courses of physical or mental behavior open to us; (b) we must really be able to choose among them; (c) we must be or must have been able to have chosen otherwise once we have chosen a course of behavior; and (d) the choice must not be dictated by randomness alone, but by us. This seems like an impossible bill to fill, since it seems to require that acts of free will involve acts of self-causation. The goal of this chapter is to describe a way to meet these demands, assuming ontological indeterminism and criterial causation among neurons, that does not fall into the logical fallacy of self-causation."[2]

Note that this criteria is met by the observations he made earlier because the neurons then have the ability to in a way assess the input received from other neurons, and would possibly change the criteria for how a neuron would transmit in the future. This is illustrated in Peter Tse's example of Mozart contained in his book.

"Mozart's brain can generate numerous musical sequences that meet his preset criteria for a happy melody, and his executive circuitry can choose from among these on the basis of the degree to which these criteria are met, or on the basis of other criteria realized in his nervous system. Because of noise in the system, there is no guarantee that he would choose the same sequence as the best one if we could "rewind" him in time and play the sequence over. The same musical sequences might not even be generated for executive consideration by the lower-level systems because they in turn generate possible solutions by setting criteria on their own lower-level inputs, and so on. Such hierarchies of critical selection can, even at the lowest level, harness noise for the generation of novel solutions to problems posed by higher levels in the system. However, the choice is not dictated solely by randomness, but, in the present example, by criteria that Mozart's nervous system set up to solve the problem of finding a happy melody."[3]

If this information is accurately portrayed by the Professor, then unconscious neuronal activity is not as clear as my opponent would have us believe. It might be because of unconscious activity in the brain that lends us the ability to act otherwise in a given situation.

Concluding Statements:

I wanted to be a little more brief with my introductory statements, and primarily provide the argument for the Neuronal basis for Free Will as presented by Professor Peter Tse. While I do not believe these findings are 100% conclusive on the matter, I do believe they reveal an area where many neuroscientists and philosophers have jumped the gun on. That the physical origin of our decisions necessarily leads us to the conclusion that our decisions are absolutely determined.

I personally believe that a cautious agnosticism should be held on the matter, and we should eagerly investigate the evidence provided for both without reserve. Many neuroscientists such as Sam Harris are also dedicated anti-theists who search for findings to destroy the concept of free will in order to support his case against religion. To me, in order for his findings and others as well, to be of any value, they should contend with what I believe is the strongest case for free will that is out there and is not built upon any kind of religious presupposition.

Kind Regards,
TrueScotsman

[1] http://www.informationphilosopher.com...
[2] The Neural Basis for Free Will pg. 133
[3] The Neural Basis for Free Will pg. 139


Debate Round No. 2
AndrewB686

Pro

-Thank you to my opponent for providing that intriguing excerpt.

-This round will be solely for rebuttals. No new arguments will be introduced, so therefore I extend my previous arguments in accordance with that statement.

-Responding to my opponent's claims
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"The idea is that large numbers of neurons (a complex of cells or "cell assembly") are likely to be involved in even the simplest thoughts and actions. Tse argues that the brain may be able to modify dynamically the probabilities that individual neurons are "firing." He calls this "dynamical synaptic reweighting."

Since the process by which a pre-synaptic neuron releases chemical neurotransmitters into the synaptic cleft is a statistical one (large numbers of neurotransmitter molecules must diffuse across the cleft to activate ion channel receptors on the post-synaptic neuron), Tse says that there is some ontological randomness in the process. He argues that this is real "ontological" indeterministic chance, quantum mechanical in origin.

How exactly such weights or probabilities of firing might work is not understood, but Tse argues that weights would constitute "informational" criteria as opposed to being simply physical. They could represent mental events that supervene on the physical brain events.

Tse accepts the Basic Argument of philosopher Galen Strawson, that we are not free to change the way we are at any moment, that we cannot be "causa sui." But since ontological randomness can dynamically reassign weights to the synapses, we can change mental events in the future."
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-The science behind everything that was stated in this passage is fascinating and worth examining to the greatest extent possible; however, I fail to see how this establishes a foundation for free will. The pre-synaptic neurons releasing an array of neurotransmitters across the synaptic cleft in order to active the ion channel receptors on the post-synaptic side is the result of indeterministic chance, which is exactly the point my opponent is trying to make. The mind-boggling unreality that is quantum mechanics remains a mystery that theoretical physicists are still attempting to tame. I agree that these probabilities are not entirely understood, but that does not mean they are free from the constraints of causality. The recesses of the mind are dark and insidious, not readily understood to the utmost degree. Because of this, the observed randomness does not refute my stance, I still hold true to the belief that free will is an illusion. In part, and I will extrapolate on this when I dissect the next portion of your excerpt, because the existence of randomness is not under the control of the conscious agent; therefore, randomness provide any room for free will.
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"I argue that it is possible to be a physicalist and ontological indeterminist and adhere to a strong conception of free will. A strong free will requires meeting some very high demands. We must have (a) multiple courses of physical or mental behavior open to us; (b) we must really be able to choose among them; (c) we must be or must have been able to have chosen otherwise once we have chosen a course of behavior; and (d) the choice must not be dictated by randomness alone, but by us. This seems like an impossible bill to fill, since it seems to require that acts of free will involve acts of self-causation. The goal of this chapter is to describe a way to meet these demands, assuming ontological indeterminism and criterial causation among neurons, that does not fall into the logical fallacy of self-causation."[2]

-In layman's terms, that conception of free will amounts to nothing more than 'I do this and not that, and my thoughts are mine, so therefore I am free'. The glaring flaw in this logic is that the multiple paths or options are not contrived by "you". Where is the freedom in having to choose? Your mind unconsciously decides upon an action based off of prior experiences and genetic makeup, and it only appears in your consciousness after the decision has already been made.
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"Sigmund Freud, said that the "most complicated achievements of thought are possible without the assistance of consciousness". One aspect of Freud"s work in unlocking the secrets of the human mind dealt with the cognitive unconscious"cognitive mental processes that influence behavior without the need for active awareness. Examples of the cognitive unconscious at work include automatic behaviors such as biting one"s nails or shaking one"s leg during long periods of sitting still. In addition to habits, recent research suggests that the unconscious mind also has bearing over decision-making and in some cases, is better than conscious thinking."

"studies at the University College London (UCL) and at the University of Rochester investigate whether the subconscious has the ability to make the right decision. According to the UCL study, snap decisions attributed to subconscious decision-making (low level function) were far superior in accuracy than conscious decision-making (high level function). Participants in the study were asked to identify the only back-to-front image of a repeated symbol (2). In eliciting only subconscious thought, participants were given between zero and 1.5 seconds to look at an image to make a decision (2). To engage conscious thought, participants were then given a longer to time to look at the images (2). The results showed that the subconscious only condition had an accuracy rate of 95% while the conscious condition had 70% accuracy (2). The researchers rationalized that the conscious portion of the mind tends to over analyze information while the subconscious is more attuned to subtle visual differences. Therefore, the subconscious is more likely to spot which image was rotated while the conscious brain rationalizes itself into thinking that a rotated image is the same as the original.

As our subconscious has the ability to spot subtle visual differences, according to the Alex Pouget of the University of Rochester, it also has the ability to perform complex mathematical calculations without the knowledge of the conscious. In this experiment participants viewed a series of dots on a computer screen. Some of these dots moved in random directions, while a "controlled" number were manipulated to move in one direction. The objective of the participant was to state, upon impression, in which direction the dots were moving (3). To know for sure (consciously) means performing complex mathematical calculations with probability. However, participants looking at the dots to subconsciously gather information were able to identity which direction the dots moved in as though the subconscious was able to perform these mathematical calculations without the awareness of the conscious (3). "

http://serendip.brynmawr.edu...
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"there is no guarantee that he would choose the same sequence as the best one if we could "rewind" him in time and play the sequence over."

-To say this is to say that, hypothetically speaking, if time was to rewind and an individual found himself in the exact time and position of a previous decision, synonymous mental state and identical state of the universe, he would have chosen differently. This is simply not the case, the decisions that your brain contrives are the result of external stimuli and internal composition, both of the aforementioned factors would cause the same result to occur if the exact conditions were met.

"because of unconscious activity in the brain that lends us the ability to act otherwise in a given situation."

-Let me ask you this, are you responsible for the intestinal bacteria that thrive in your digestive system? Can you be held accountable for the failure of involuntary systems of the body such as the cardiovascular system? No. The consciousness only comprises a section of the brain, with the unconscious encompassing a vast portion of the brain in which no input can be invested by the "self".

"The conscious brain makes up about 17 percent of total brain mass and controls just 2 to 4 percent of actual perceptions and behavior. The nonconscious brain makes up about 83 percent of total brain mass and controls 96 to 98 percent of perceptions and behavior."

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com...
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-I would briefly like to comment on your statement regarding Sam Harris. The existence of free will is not contingent upon ones religious presuppositions, in fact, Harris acknowledges the fact that a human soul and hard determinism are not mutually exclusive. We possess no more freedom with a soul, than if we don't; philosophical materialism is not a prerequisite for determinism.

-I greatly respect Sam Harris and his views on every topic I hold dear, that is why I addressed that statement in the latter portion of your concluding paragraph. It also served as an avenue for explaining my disregard for religion being synonymous with free will and atheism being synonymous with determinism.

-I thank my opponent for providing a coherent and well thought out argument, and I greatly desire to here your rebuttal.

-Best of luck

-AndrewB68
TrueScotsman

Con

Hi AndrewB686,

Thank you for taking the time to make detailed and coherent arguments, I am really enjoying this debate thus far.

Now let us continue the round of rebuttals by first addressing your initial arguments.

Rebuttal #1 l Free Will and Causality

My argument is not for Contra-Causal Free will, rather it concerns Neurons and a degree of randomness involved that originates from Quantum Mechanics. Here is an illustration of the difference between what you have presented and the argument I have presented.

"Classical mechanics is deterministic -- that is, if you know exactly the situation as it is now, then you can predict exactly what it will be at any moment in the future. Chance plays no role in classical mechanics. Of course, it might happen that the prediction is very difficult to perform, or it might happen that it is very difficult to find exactly the current situation, so such a prediction might not be a practical possibility. (This is the case when you flip a coin.) But in principle any such barriers can be surmounted by sufficient work and care. Relativistic mechanics is also deterministic. In contrast, quantum mechanics is probabilistic -- that is, even in the presence of exact knowledge of the current situation, it is impossible to predict its future exactly, regardless of how much work and care one invests in such a prediction."[1]

This argument does not take into account as is mentioned above, the probabilistic nature that could very much so be integral to human behavior and decisions.

Rebuttal #2 l Unconscious Neural Activity Disproves Free Will?

The degree of randomness involved with the dynamic synaptic reweighting accounts for unconscious neural activity that entails a different conclusion than what you brought up in your initial argument. This Criterial Causation that Peter Tse argues for concludes with this brief summation:

"At the moment those criteria are satisfied at some unknown point in the future, leading to some action or choice, those criteria cannot be changed, but because criteria can be changed in advance, we are free to determine how we will behave within certain limits in the near future. Criterial causation therefore offers a path toward free will where a brain can determine how it will behave given particular types of future input. This can be milliseconds in the future or, in some cases, even years away."[2]

Notice that there are certain limits to this conception of free will and does not supersede one's biology, and does not go beyond all the natural orders of causality. However, because these criteria can be changed in the future, it can effect decisions as Peter Tse mentioned, which are merely milliseconds in advance. This isn't just an illusion, it is the ability for an agent to act otherwise in a certain circumstance, though with limitations based upon prior criterial shifts in synaptic reweighting that takes place on the level of the neurons, with of course the degree of randomness and unpredictability afforded by the quantum mechanical nature of it's origin.

Rebuttal #3 l Genes, Environment and Background and Choice

You state:

"The power of genetics in determining outcomes and predisposing us towards certain proclivities and desires cannot be overstated. Why do we feel an attraction towards a certain way of life, or a certain decision? Our genome has been craftily developed through evolution, and the result is a comprehensive system that plays a role in determining every decision that one makes."

I have no problem with accepting the idea that genetics may indeed predispose us to a certain way of life, though it can be overstated when that is the presented as the sole and primary factor. Genetics may predispose a person to a certain kind of behavior, but it does not preordain decisions and fits perfectly within my presentation of how free will works, in that moral agents have the capacity to choose otherwise within a limited framework.

Remember in order for Hard Determinism to be true, you must be able to sufficiently document how each and every decision and event in our lives is predictable, without any degree of chance or randomness.

Counter Rebuttal #1 l Causality and Quantum Mechanics

You said:

"The mind-boggling unreality that is quantum mechanics remains a mystery that theoretical physicists are still attempting to tame. I agree that these probabilities are not entirely understood, but that does not mean they are free from the constraints of causality."

Your attempt to cut and paste your understanding of Causality onto Quantum Mechanics. While I do not believe it should be replaced, I do come to the same conclusion as this article does:

"Quantum mechanics forces us to reconsider certain aspects of classical causality."[3]

The fact is that there is so much involved with Quantum Mechanics that is very mysterious to us currently, and for you to disregard it and affirm hard determinism is prematurely coming to a strong decision before all of the evidence has been gathered. Please remember, you are the one with the burden of proof as you affirmed the negative statement for Free Will not existing, all I have to do is demonstrate that it just might exist and it's too soon to close the case on this one.

Also, I would say that you have mischaracterized my argument by summing it up to simply randomness. Remember what I previously cited in this response, "because criteria can be changed in advance, we are free to determine how we will behave within certain limits in the near future." These random changes in criteria open the door the door to not just allow different behavior in the future, but to even allow the conscious mind to have multiple pathways for behavior in the future, thus granting us the ability to act otherwise within certain parameters.

Counter Rebuttal #2 l Free Will is Just About it Coming From Me?

You said:

"In layman's terms, that conception of free will amounts to nothing more than 'I do this and not that, and my thoughts are mine, so therefore I am free'."

This is not what he wrote, though I believe Peter Tse spends too much time dealing with the issue of self-causation, he lays out other criteria including the ability to act otherwise, which this argument has been listed earlier.

You also said:

"Your mind unconsciously decides upon an action based off of prior experiences and genetic makeup, and it only appears in your consciousness after the decision has already been made."

It's a little amazing to me how confidently you speak about how this works, while the Unconscious Thought Theory (UTT) has been very popular amongst Neuroscientists and Psychologists as of late, you will often find remarks like this that advise for the type of caution you disregard.

"But they also warn that the study does not finally rule out free will: "Our study shows that decisions are unconsciously prepared much longer ahead than previously thought. But we do not know yet where the final decision is made. We need to investigate whether a decision prepared by these brain areas can still be reversed."[4]

This further establishes my contention that due to the strength of scientific arguments for free will, and because there is so much more to understand about the conscious and unconscious mind, that it is too soon to claim definitively that you know that free will does not exist and hard determinism is true.

You also cite sources that support UTT, but of course fail to take into account that there are contrary studies that did not reproduce this outcome.

"Ninety-eight Australian students participated in a functional replication of a study published by Dijksterhuis et al.
(2006). The results indicated that unconscious thought does not necessarily lead to better normative decision making performance than conscious thought, which is contrary to the results found in Dijksterhuis et al. Since other studies showed a positive, though statistically not signi@257;cant, effect for unconscious thought, a meta-analysis comprising a total of 17 experiments was conducted. It suggests that there is little evidence for an advantage to normative decision making using unconscious thought."[5]

You linked this:

"The conscious brain makes up about 17 percent of total brain mass and controls just 2 to 4 percent of actual perceptions and behavior. The nonconscious brain makes up about 83 percent of total brain mass and controls 96 to 98 percent of perceptions and behavior."

This information is extremely bold, and offers no scientific backup besides naked assertions coming from a non-scientist who wrote it. No article I have written on this topic has stated anything like 96 to 98 percent of our behavior and perceptions is governed by unconscious brain activity. In order to do this, one would have to understand ALL of the functions of the conscious and unconscious mind, and then distribute one by one how each one is affected by either the conscious or unconscious mind. As this is not possible, all of these percentages are simply conjecture.

Concluding Statements:

My opponent has provided a strong argument, however with regard to how huge it's implications are, that we (our consciousness) has little to do with behavior and decisions, and that we are in a sense biological robots, carrying out our genetic predispositions. These contentions have far reaching implications on every part of society, and therefore require much more evidence than what has been provided in order to firmly know that free will does not exist.

Due to this I believe the resolution should be dismissed.

Kind Regards,
TrueScotsman

[1] http://www.oberlin.edu...;
[2] A criterial neuronal code underlies downward mental causation and free will, Lecture at Boston University, May 14, 2011
[3] http://arxiv.org...;
[4] http://www.sciencedaily.com...;
[5] http://dtserv3.compsy.uni-jena.de...;
Debate Round No. 3
AndrewB686

Pro

Last round is for conclusions and final statements.

I will address each specific rebuttal and counter rebuttal made, providing my final statements on a sectional basis.

"Rebuttal #1 l Free Will and Causality"

-I understand the argument for a probabilistic quantum mechanical existence; however, I fail to see how this proves the existence of free will, which is the purpose of this debate. If one does not possess any capability to control such a probabilistic and relative mind, then how are we free?

"Rebuttal #2 l Unconscious Neural Activity Disproves Free Will?"

"Criterial causation therefore offers a path toward free will where a brain can determine how it will behave given particular types of future input."

-You have failed to show how the unconscious provides any freedom. The changing of criteria within the unconscious portions of the brain is the result of, as you said, future inputs that cannot be predicted with certainty. The amount of criteria remains finite and limited, thus nullifying any possibility of free will because these neurons do not allow any conscious delineation among such criteria.

"Rebuttal #3 l Genes, Environment and Background and Choice"

-I have never stated that genetics preordain decisions, they serve as a limited framework for your unconscious to determine subsequent actions. The unconscious is the primary mode of decision making and presents all possible paths of decision. The actual decision made is not the result of free will, instead it is the result of factors beyond our will.

"Counter Rebuttal #1 l Causality and Quantum Mechanics"

-I am not disregarding quantum mechanical probability. I affirm hard determinism as the most probable conclusion to the free will argument, but that is not my main purpose in this debate. My goal is not to prove hard determinism, instead my goal is to disprove free will. The uncertainty surrounding everything you have presented cannot conclusively prove the existence of free will, therefore I feel as if I have achieved my goal for this debate.

-Also, random changes in criteria do not allow for freedom. The circumstances that determine an outcome has merely been altered, but the unconscious aspects of the brain still determine the course of action. These multiple pathways are not contrived consciously, and only create an illusion of free will. Parameters constrict every decision or act of volition that is made, therefore in order to be truly free, all parameters and frameworks that limit possibilities would have to be eliminated.

"Counter Rebuttal #2 l Free Will is Just About it Coming From Me?"

-I have already discussed the ability to act otherwise and how it does not allow for true freedom of the will, therefore I will not discuss it again.

-You seem to be relying on a lack of conclusiveness. By saying "But we do not know yet where the final decision is made. We need to investigate whether a decision prepared by these brain areas can still be reversed."[4]", you are dismissing my confidence on the material I have presented by attempting to find a morsel of uncertainty. With all due respect, I fail to see how depending on a small area of doubt will prove the existence of free will. The amount of research and experimentation that I have presented in my previous arguments appears to be compelling and utterly convincing.

-From rereading your arguments you cite one main source with others used sparingly, none of which cite any experiments or data. They make bold claims yet provide no numbers to back up his words.

-That is all I will address concerning opponent's arguments and rebuttals.

-Lastly, I would like to personally thank TrueScotsman for taking part in this debate. I always enjoy debating this topic and was quite impressed with the information that you presented.

Best of luck in the future

AndrewB686
TrueScotsman

Con

Hi again,

I apologize but my closing statements must be brief and I cannot address his remarks to the degree I had been in the past. What I would like to close with is the fact that my opponent's initial contention is "Free will does not exist," and my expressed objective was to cast doubt on that contention and show that the arguments for Free will have some strength, and that taking a strong stance on the issue such as "hard determinism" is unwarranted.

My final contention is that if my opponent has not sufficiently demonstrated that Free will does not exist, then his resolution should not be held and the motion should be suspended as I have shown there is more to learn about the brain and the possibility of criterial changes that allow for different options open to the agent in any given situation.

I would like to close in thanking Andrew for an enjoyable debate, and look forward to more in the future!

Kind regards,
TrueScotsman
Debate Round No. 4
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by AndrewB686 3 years ago
AndrewB686
Thank you for the suggestion Yraelz, your vote and reasoning behind it are much appreciated. A debate focusing on the mathematical and genetic arguments would be very interesting and much enjoyed. However I am in the middle of a comprehensive debate at the moment and would accept any such debate after it has ended. Thank you for the offer.
Posted by Yraelz 3 years ago
Yraelz
Andrew,

The context of what I'm about to say is this: I have majors in Chemistry and CS; I'm heading to graduate school in Chemistry. Thus my knowledge of the issues I'm about to talk about is only secondary in nature. What I understand is all derived from independent readings.

That said, I believe the strongest arguments for Free Will come from genetics and mathematics. I find most philosophical arguments on the issue to be very circular. If you're interested in arguing this topic again, I would love to engage you from the standpoints of genetic malleability and chaos theory.

Best,
Yraelz
Posted by AndrewB686 3 years ago
AndrewB686
Thank you for the detailed feedback Mikal, much appreciated.
Posted by TrueScotsman 3 years ago
TrueScotsman
Thanks for the solid Feedback Mikal!
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Yraelz 3 years ago
Yraelz
AndrewB686TrueScotsmanTied
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Reasons for voting decision: I very much enjoyed reading this debate, I think you both were extremely well mannered. My decision for this round comes down to an issue of proposition vs. contention burdens. In this case, I think the proposition's burden is to prove the unlikelihood of free-will. I'm not convinced for two reasons. First, I think too much gets conceded on the quantum mechanics argumentation. In a world where statistical probabilities are significant considerations, I think that causality arguments lose much of their clout. I understand the counter argument coming from Pro, "how are we free of statistical probabilities?" which leads me to the second issue. I tend to buy Con's argument, "criteria can be chanced in advance" thus "we are free to determine how we will behave within certain limits in the near future". in a world where probabilistic determinations rule I think that retrospective analysis on actions has a chance of altering the criteria required for future actions. Thus I vote Con.
Vote Placed by Mikal 3 years ago
Mikal
AndrewB686TrueScotsmanTied
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Reasons for voting decision: This entire debate hinged off the first intital rounds. Pro tookt he side of hard determinism, which as he explained in detail is the belief that free will can not exist due to natural law. Everything is already set in place and we have no control over our actions due to various factors such as chemicals and activity within the cerebral cortex. Con refuted this with a Study from Peter Tse. The argument goes broad and in depth but in the end it correlates to , we have no free will at the present moment but have the ability to determine future actions. The next rounds are trading blows back and forth, both contenders offering valid rebuttals and knocking down their adversaries arguments. Pro never properly addressed Cons point on being able to alter events in the future due to quantum meca attributes and Con never addressed the issue with hard determinism and how it effects causality in the future. Therefore I award arguments, sources and conduct a tie. Even S&G is tied. Great debate