The Instigator
MTGandP
Con (against)
Losing
14 Points
The Contender
TheSkeptic
Pro (for)
Winning
63 Points

Free will exists.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/18/2009 Category: Science
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 10,910 times Debate No: 9475
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (72)
Votes (14)

 

MTGandP

Con

I thank my opponent for challenging me to this debate. He will be playing the Devil's Advocate, as we agree on the issue of free will.

Free will: The capability to make a free choice.
Free choice: A choice that is ultimately not influenced by any outside entity and completely unpredictable, but is also completely rational from the perspective of the entity making the choice.
Rational: Proceeding or derived from reason or based on logical reasoning. (dictionary.com)

Note that a being with free will does not have to make every choice a free choice, but must only be capable of making a free choice. That is, some or even most choices that a person makes may be predictable, but for a person to have free will the person must be capable of being truly unpredictable.

***

Why Free Will Is Impossible

1. Every event is either caused by something or caused by nothing. (This is not arguable.)
2. If an event is caused by something: it is not free because it is a reaction dependent on external cause.
3. If an event is caused by itself: events can't be their own cause so this is impossible.
4. If an event is caused by nothing: it is unpredictable and therefore random; a truly random decision is not rational, and is therefore not free will.
TheSkeptic

Pro

I thank my opponent for challenging me on this topic of free will. As we discussed before in private PM's, I got a little fed up with most of the free will defenses on this website -- I find them to be philosophically naive. Most, if not all, of the arguments consist usually of classical compatibilism, which most philosophers would say has been trumped. However, in the 1960's a wave of new development among the compatibilists brought forth contemporary compatibilism. It is from these influences in which I will argue for compatibilism, the view that determinism and free will are compatible.

Do note, however, that I am most definitely NOT a proponent of free will. I am simply playing devil's advocate.

====================
Contemporary physics + Interpretation of opponent's position
====================

First, to set a background for this debate it must be known that our current understanding of physics mandates an indeterministic world; this is known due to quantum mechanics. Of course, I'm adhering to the Copenhagen interpretation, so if my opponent want's to argue for some other interpretation (such as Bohm's), then feel free. However, I will say that while Bohm's interpretation (the most common alternative to Copenhagen) has not been completely refuted, it has been rejected.

Secondly, I want to distinctly flesh out my opponent's argument. He defines a free choice as something that is "ultimately not influenced by any outside entity". In other words, he states that person X must be the ultimate source of action A. This mode of control is known as the Source Model, in which he believes that for a person to have free will he must be the ultimate source for his actions. That said, I will argue that instead acting with free will requires alternative possibilities. This mode of control, namely the Garden of Forking Paths/Leeway Model, is something I will argue that we to have free will, instead of the Source model. Since we have two important models here, they will be referred to as regulative control (Garden of Forking Paths Model or Leeway Model) and guidance control (Source Model).

I know these terms may be foreign, but I certainly did not make them up. Blame the philosopher John Martin Fischer. Besides, this kind of terminology should be useful in helping make this discussion more clear and understandable.

Since this is so, this is how my argument for compatibilism will play out: I will demonstrate that the ability to choose among alternatives is sufficient for free will, thus whether or not origination of choice exists in humans or not doesn't matter. So in a way, I am challenging my opponent's definition -- which should be fine since a large part of the free will debate depends partially in focusing on a certain mode of control. Once this is so, I simply give a compatibilist view that coincides with regulative control.

====================
Regulative control is relevant to explaining an agent's moral responsibility for action
====================

As stated before, I will argue that regulative control is more fundamental to understanding moral responsibility, and thus free will. Of course, there are some of those who argue that moral responsibility can exist WITHOUT free will, but if my opponent wants to argue for this position then he can feel free to do so - however, I will tell him that I can't guarantee it's going to be easy ;). Until then, I will take it as an underlying assumption between both of us that free will and moral responsibility and inextricably linked.

Here is the notion of alternative possibilities I will be using[1]: "For an alternative possibility to be relevant per se to explaining an agent's moral responsibility for an action it must satisfy the following characterization: she could have willed something other than what she actually willed such that she understood that by willing it she would thereby have been precluded from the moral responsibility she actually has for the action."

I will leave further details in later rounds.

====================
A compatibilist theory coinciding with regulative control - Frankfurt's hierarchical theory
====================

The viewpoint I will be advocating is Frankfurt's ideas concerning first-order and second-order desires. It is described as follows[2]:

"Frankfurt distinguishes between first-order and second-order desires. This serves as the basis for his hierarchical account. The former desires have as their objects actions, such as eating a slice of cheesecake, taking in a movie, or gyrating one's hips to the sweet sounds of B. B. King. The latter are desires about desires. They have as their objects, desires of the first-order, such as the desire to have the motivation to exercise daily (something that, regrettably, too many of us lack): "If only I wanted to go to the gym today, then it would be easy for me to get my tail off this couch!"

I'll leave further detail for later rounds.

====================
Conclusion
====================

The forward point of my argument is that we do not need the source model -- which my opponent supports -- to define moral responsibility. Instead, I believe the availability of alternative options is a necessary and sufficient account of free will. Therefore, I will be justified in bypassing my opponent's definition.

You will notice that for both of the important part of my round -- concerning regulative control and Frankfurt's hierarchical theory -- I have, with perhaps good suspect, left further detail for later rounds. This is because character limits mandate that I can't explicate as much as I would like to. Therefore, seeing as how my opponent responds, I will reinforce parts of my position that I see fit.

---References---
1. http://www.calvin.edu...
2. http://plato.stanford.edu...
Debate Round No. 1
MTGandP

Con

I thank my opponent for this debate and look forward to a challenge.

========

Source Model vs. Leeway Model

It is widely agreed upon that computers do not have free will. They simply choose among various alternatives using some algorithm. Given the exact same input, they will come up with the same result. If I understand my opponent's model correctly, he is saying that computers in fact do have free will, which is clearly false. His model is therefore flawed, and should not be accepted.

========

Moral Responsibility

My opponent argues that moral responsibility is linked to free will. But this goes against his entire argument. The typical argument is that if the world is deterministic -- or indeterministic, that is, decisions are either deterministic or random -- which my opponent agrees with -- then we have no moral responsibility. My opponent asserts that moral responsibility is compatible with indeterminism, and I would agree (without looking into it much further). But his assertion that moral responsibility must be linked to free will is completely unwarranted. He states that it is difficult to argue otherwise, and yet he has not provided any evidence to support his burden of proof.

========

Ordered Desires

I do not see how these ordered desires are relevant to free will. I will allow my opponent to do his own elaboration. However, as a starting point, I ask this simple but important question: What if someone else is in direct control of your second-order desires?

========

It appears that my opponent's entire argument boils down to this syllogism:

1. Moral responsibility can only exist if free will exists.
2. We have moral responsibility.
3. Therefore, free will exists.

Both premises of this syllogism are unsupported.

========

My arguments remain entirely unchallenged except for my definition of "free choice", and my opponent has barely even explained why my definition is inadequate.

I thank my opponent and await his response. It is a relief to be debating someone who actually understands determinism.

[1] Four Views on Free Will by John Martin Fischer
TheSkeptic

Pro

I thank my opponent for his response.

====================
Source Model vs. Leeway Model
====================

At first glance, it seems my opponent's criticism of regulative control is justified - after all, who in their right mind can attribute free will to computers? However, what he would realize is if he read my definition of regulative control carefully is that I have circumvented this problem. If I simply defined it as the ability to choose among alternatives, then this criticism would be the death of my position...but I didn't. I will copy-paste my definition again for convenience, then list the important criteria embedded in said definition:

"For an alternative possibility to be relevant per se to explaining an agent's moral responsibility for an action it must satisfy the following characterization: she could have willed something other than what she actually willed such that she understood that by willing it she would thereby have been precluded from the moral responsibility she actually has for the action."

1. Regulative control is privy to agents. In philosophy of action, an agent is something that can act[1]. An important aspect of an action is that it has an INTENTION. A computer does not have intentionality[2].
2. The agent, when willing an action, must take into her understanding moral dimensions.

Thus, we can see that my definition of regulative control must require moral agency[3], which is "a being who is capable of acting with reference to right and wrong.". Since computers obviously do not have moral agency (as of our current technological status), my opponent's criticism crumbles.

====================
A response concerning the importance of moral responsibility
====================

"My opponent argues that moral responsibility is linked to free will. But this goes against his entire argument."

----> How so? Where in my argument have I said something in which you can infer such a contradiction?

"But his assertion that moral responsibility must be linked to free will is completely unwarranted. He states that it is difficult to argue otherwise, and yet he has not provided any evidence to support his burden of proof."

----> Very well, I will demonstrate that that moral responsibility is linked to free will. However, I take issue with my your claim that this is somehow my burden - where is YOUR reasoning for the claim that agent's can have moral responsibility without free will in a deterministic world? Because in fact, most philosophers believe otherwise; the least you can do is to defend this somewhat controversial position. I see you cite Fischer, a noted philosopher who's works deal primarily with free will, and yet I can't find where it's a reference to. All I can assume is that you believe in his idea of semi-compatibilism, which I have explained already. While I will go on to show that moral responsibility is necessary for free will, even in a deterministic world.

Anyway, here's my defense:

====================
Defense of the link between moral responsibility and free will
====================

1. If moral responsibility (MR) exists, then free will (FW) exists.
2. MR exists.
.: Therefore, FW exists.

This is the syllogism my opponent has provided (though I made a tiny modification).Since my opponent states both premises' of this argument is unsupported, I will do so:

The existence of moral responsibility entails the existence of free will because the very concept of MR implies FW. I will argue for the merit-based view[4], "according to which praise or blame would be an appropriate reaction toward the candidate if and only if she merits — in the sense of ‘deserves' — such a reaction." For this to hold, an agent must be able to choose among alternatives, otherwise there is no rational justification for upholding them for praise or blame. In other words, they need regulative control (which is the definition of free will I am advocating).

To show that MR exists, my argument will be inspired by Strawson's idea of reactive attitudes[4]. People have a reaction towards a certain action that will elicit feelings of love, depression, anger, etc., this is almost universal. Based on this idea, Strawson claims that "the reactive attitudes are a natural expression of an essential feature of our form of life, in particular, the interpersonal nature of our way of life...their justification refers back to an account of the reactive attitudes and their role in personal relationships, not to some independent theoretical account of the conditions on being responsible.[4]"

So in other words, not only does MR exist because "the desire for good will and those attitudes generated by it possess no truth value themselves, thereby eliminating any need for an external justification." He argues that other discussions about moral responsibility are over-intellectualized, and that whether or not determinism is true has nothing to do with moral responsibility.

Refer to the link for more detail.

====================
Frankfurt's hierarchical theory - An accident and a revision
====================

Ah, my sincere apologies. I did not intend to advocate Frankfurt's hierarchical theory (it's specifically a compatibilist theory developed from the Source model of control), since as you can see it obviously contradicts the entirety of my round. When I was typing my initial round, I was deciding on which mode of control I should use (since I am not a compatibilist in truth). After some musing, I decided to do with regulative control but I failed to fully erase all of my arguments that had to do with guidance control. So I apologize to my opponent for such a confusion - however I do want to point out that my opponent really hasn't responded to it (waiting for my elaboration), so not much is lost.

I will present new dispositionalism as the compatibilist thesis I will be defending.

====================
New Dispositionalism
====================

Due to character limits, I'm unable to defend this thesis so I will simply detail it first. My opponent is obviously welcomed to criticize it - however do remember it must be in the context of regulative control UNLESS he can prove guidance control to be superior.

New dispositionalism is an "updated" version of classical compatibilism, which traditionally argues that free will is realized by simply fulfilling one's desire and acting out one's accord. However, the vast majority of philosophers view this position to be crude and simplistic - I agree. To summarize, "we assess claims about the disposition constitutive of the ability to do otherwise, or the dispositions in the bundle, or the possibilities in the raft, by attending to the intrinsic properties of an agent in virtue of which she acts when she tries, or the causal bases of the pertinent dispositions, or the underlying structure of a rational capacity.[5]" This is how new dispositionalism is able to circumvent the problem that classical compatibilism had with simple counterfactual conditionals.

====================
Conclusion
====================

"My arguments remain entirely unchallenged except for my definition of "free choice", and my opponent has barely even explained why my definition is inadequate."

----> I can throw this question back at you. Why should we take guidance control as more fundamental and important than regulative control? The reason why my definition is adequate is because it clearly defines the important link between moral responsibility and free will (as I have already defended), but you have yet to give any rationale for your definition.

---References---
1. http://plato.stanford.edu...
2. http://plato.stanford.edu...
3. http://www.thefreedictionary.com... agent
4. http://plato.stanford.edu...
5. http://plato.stanford.edu...
Debate Round No. 2
MTGandP

Con

================
Source Model vs. Leeway Model
================

My opponent asserts that computers do not have moral agency. Although they typically do not, they very well could. They could be programmed to recognize moral rightness, in which case, by my opponent's definition, they would then have free will.

Furthermore, my opponent's definition of free will is flawed. He has offered an interesting definition, but has failed to explain why his definition is an adequate challenge to mine. Unless he can do so, I win this debate. Unfortunately, we are now in the final round, so for my opponent to provide new arguments at this point is discourteous.

===================
The Importance of Moral Responsibility
===================

My opponent asserts that moral responsibility is linked to free will; and yet he challenges my definition. He is attempting to link moral responsibility to an indeterminately-defined entity. In essence, he is only associating one pair of words with another. This is meaningless, and contradicts his attempt to challenge my definition.

Let it be known that I do not necessarily support all of Fischer's views. I was citing his work for a specific purpose.

====================
Defense of the link between moral responsibility and free will
====================

Under the merit-based view, my opponent's definition of free will is supported. Why we should accept his definition is still unclear. However, the merit-based view is inferior to the consequentialist view (http://plato.stanford.edu...), "according to which praise or blame would be appropriate if and only if a reaction of this sort would likely lead to a desired change in the agent and/or her behavior." This is the most beneficial perspective, as it is the most productive and therefore should be accepted over the merit-based view. My opponent's first premise is a non sequitur.

My opponent has failed to prove that moral responsibility is not arbitrary, or that it even exists. He has merely relied upon a non sequitur in an attempt to prove it.

=================
New Dispositionalism
=================

Both regulative control and guidance control are inferior systems. See my definition in round one.

New dispositionalism, as well as classical compatibilism, both rely upon inadequate definitions. As I provided definitions in round one, my opponent must explain why his definitions are superior. So far, it seems that the only reason for the superiority of his definitions is that it supposedly allows him to win.

My definition of free will is concise and intuitive. No link to moral responsibility is necessary. It is possible that moral responsibility exists or does not exist under my definition, but it is really not relevant. What is relevant is that my opponent has not refuted my proof. What is relevant is that my opponent's definition of free will is unconventional, unintuitive and unsupported. What is relevant is that it is time for you to vote CON.

I thank my opponent for this most enjoyable of debates.

================

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

Pro

====================
Source Model vs. Leeway Model
====================

"My opponent asserts that computers do not have moral agency. Although they typically do not, they very well could. They could be programmed to recognize moral rightness, in which case, by my opponent's definition, they would then have free will."

---->...and once they do, then they have free will. I don't see the point of this claim - after all, human beings are simply very complicated biological "machines" (at the least, you have failed to show otherwise). What is to say artificial entities can't have free will?

"Furthermore, my opponent's definition of free will is flawed. He has offered an interesting definition, but has failed to explain why his definition is an adequate challenge to mine."

----> UNTRUE. If you clearly read my argument, then you will see that the process I have gone through for advocating my definition is to show that 1. moral responsibility is necessary and sufficient for free will, 2. that moral responsibility exists, and finally that regulative control is more fundamental than guidance control. I have done all of these requirements - whether or not they were successful doesn't matter because you DON'T EVEN REFUTE THEM.

"...Unless he can do so, I win this debate..."

----> Read one of my later points on why the burden of proof is equal for both debaters.

"Unfortunately, we are now in the final round, so for my opponent to provide new arguments at this point is discourteous."

----> I won't be bringing up any new points about my definition of free will, since they are already here. However, I will give an argument for my reasoning on BoP. Why am I justified? Because you brought up the point as an accusation against me - the fact that you failed to defend such reasoning is irrelevant to my responsibility.

===================
The Importance of Moral Responsibility
===================

"My opponent asserts that moral responsibility is linked to free will; and yet he challenges my definition. He is attempting to link moral responsibility to an indeterminately-defined entity."

----> No, I linked it to my definition. This is how I am challenging your definition - by showing yours is lacking while mine is valid. I have SUPPORTED my defense of regulative control while you haven't supported guidance control.

====================
Defense of the link between moral responsibility and free will
====================

"Under the merit-based view, my opponent's definition of free will is supported."

----> Only the link between free will and moral responsibility

"This is the most beneficial perspective, as it is the most productive and therefore should be accepted over the merit-based view."

----> Is this really an argument? It's most "beneficial" and "productive"? These vague and broad terms have yet to be explained (for example, what does it mean for a perspective on moral responsibility to be "beneficial"?). It seems like my opponent is simply trying to find a random reason to justify his position.

"My opponent's first premise is a non sequitur."

----> In no way did I commit a logical fallacy. You are attacking the validity of my premise's (though not convincingly), not the logical structure of my argument.

=================
New Dispositionalism
=================

"Both regulative control and guidance control are inferior systems. See my definition in round one."

----> YOUR DEFINITION IN ROUND ONE IS GUIDANCE CONTROL. I'VE CLEARLY POINTED THIS OUT.

"New dispositionalism, as well as classical compatibilism, both rely upon inadequate definitions. As I provided definitions in round one, my opponent must explain why his definitions are superior."

----> I gave many clear reasons. I showed the existence of moral responsibility, demonstrated the connection between moral responsibility and free will, and then finalized by explaining how regulative control is more fundamental and thus important than guidance control.

"My definition of free will is concise and intuitive. No link to moral responsibility is necessary. It is possible that moral responsibility exists or does not exist under my definition, but it is really not relevant. What is relevant is that my opponent has not refuted my proof."

----> First, why does it matter if your definition is concise and intuitive? Many explanations can seem concise and intuitive (e.g. God made the universe), but that doesn't make them correct. Why is moral responsibility not necessary for free will? Does this mean when a computer makes an error, it should be morally responsible? Should animals be morally responsible? On the other hand, if someone committed a crime with his free will would he not be morally responsible?

====================
Burden of Proof
====================

My opponent has at least one implicitly implied that the BoP is on me (for example, saying that because I failed to show my definition if better, his automatically is). This is an incredibly erred view of the BoP, and I'm going to dispel it here by listing out the possible reasons:

1. If my opponent believes that where the BoP falls on is dependent on being PRO or CON, then this is false because the positions PRO and CON are simply words of little significance. By that, I mean being PRO on supporting gay marriage and CON on banning gay marriage is identical - there should be no advantage or loss for being on or the other. In other words, the position of being "PRO" or "CON" is arbitrary - as you can see, my opponent simply rewords the resolution and makes himself CON. Why should this simple label give his position any more due credit than mine?

2. If my opponent believes that where the BoP falls on is dependent on being the instigator or not, then this is faulty reason because 1. he is the instigator after all (he started the debate), but more importantly 2. this is a debate. The BoP would only matter when dealing with situations such as the court. When the prosecutor is making the positive claim that person X committed murder, it is the prosecutors burden to fulfill this claim - in this case, it is the instigator's burden. However, this is only because person X can't simply decide to not have the trial go on, UNLIKE A DEBATE. If you are called to court, no matter if you're guilty or not, you can't withdraw without clearing your name - in other words, it's many times non-consensual. On the other hand, a debate is fully consensual; you can choose whether or not you want to debate someone.

====================
Conclusion
====================

My opponent hasn't done much to further his case in his last round. He is almost devoid of any positive arguments (except one really weak one concerning moral responsibility), and accuses my definition of being unsupported. This is bogus, I supported it with ideas from Strawson's reactive attitudes, merit-based views, etc. Whether or not they have succeeded is irrelevant, since my opponent has failed to give an adequate response to them.

Thanks for the debate - it was enlightening.
Debate Round No. 3
72 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by twerj 6 years ago
twerj
TheSkeptic-In round 2 you say that
If MR exists then there is FW
MR exists
.:
FW exists
You then say that this is a syllogism. It seems to be a proposition following Modus Ponens, not really a syllogism at all.
Posted by TheSkeptic 6 years ago
TheSkeptic
And some would propose that we can find a link to free will VIA the question of moral responsibility - after all, there are others who believe that moral responsibility and free will can be distinct (i.e. one exists while the other doesn't). So what I mean is to say that moral responsibility isn't automatically subsumed under the question of free will.
Posted by J.Kenyon 6 years ago
J.Kenyon
Right, like I said. They're linked, but the question of free will comes first. How you answer the question of moral responsibility stems from it (although your Frankfurt counterexamples have convinced me, personally, that one can be morally responsible even under a hard determinist model).
Posted by TheSkeptic 6 years ago
TheSkeptic
Many would argue that the two are connected in some ways. To be morally responsible of an action would you not need to have free will?
Posted by J.Kenyon 6 years ago
J.Kenyon
Skeptic - I've been reading your prior free will debates (most of which can't legitimately be called debates) to get some idea of what's coming in ours. I'm curious as to why you always bring moral responsibility into to equation: it has nothing to do with the existence/nonexistence of free will. Whether free will exists or not, moral responsibility is merely a consequence of it, correct?
Posted by tBoonePickens 7 years ago
tBoonePickens
MTGandP,
Thanks. Very interesting stuff. I see that I have much to learn about compatibilism, determinism, etc. I think it's mostly getting used to the terminology and other stuff. Will get back to you soon.
Posted by MTGandP 7 years ago
MTGandP
You could use a different definition, yes. That is what Compatibilists do. But when I think of "free will", this definition is what I think of. If we used some other definition, then free will might exist, but it would be a different sort of free will.
Posted by tBoonePickens 7 years ago
tBoonePickens
MTGandP,
Your definition of will also seems to be an abstract (i.e. not physically real) concept.

The reason I suggested to use a different definition for free will is to avoid the paradox. Could there not be a definition of free will that is not paradoxical? I think that those that believe in free will do not believe that there is a paradox.
Posted by MTGandP 7 years ago
MTGandP
Division by zero is undefined. http://en.wikipedia.org...

Will: inner desire; force of self. Not a great definition, but it's decent.

I could use a different definition of free will. I could also use a different definition of the word "banana" or the word "party". I just don't see the point.
Posted by tBoonePickens 7 years ago
tBoonePickens
MTGandP,
Very interesting. So what do you define will to be?

I understand that your definition of free will is a paradox but why not use a definition that does not? What is your definition of free will?

I understand that i is useful in EE but so isn't division by 0 = infinity? Anyways, infinity is an abstract concept as well.
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