The Instigator
rougeagent21
Con (against)
Losing
35 Points
The Contender
Vi_Veri
Pro (for)
Winning
65 Points

Free will is an illusion

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/7/2009 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 4,061 times Debate No: 8150
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (58)
Votes (20)

 

rougeagent21

Con

Nowadays, many people believe that a person has no choice in the decisions that they make. I find this intriguing, and want to hear a full argument for the idea. Go ahead and frame the debate any way you want, and lets have a good one.
Vi_Veri

Pro

I'd like to thank my opponent for this debate. It's a wonderful exercise after taking a course on Free Will and Determinism this semester. And now for the argument...

Proposition: Free will is an illusion.

Position: Hard Determinist

The very idea of free will is incoherent: either a choice must be the outcome of some prior influence, or it could only be random.

All actions are outcomes from prior events plus the laws of physics.

Con now has the ability to refute hard determinism. Good luck : )
Debate Round No. 1
rougeagent21

Con

Free Will-free and independent choice; voluntary decision; the ability to apply experiences to form a beneficial outcome

Illusion-something that deceives by producing a false or misleading impression of reality

So lets say that we take an embryo and clone it from the first stage of development. We will assume that both exist for the exact amount of time, and are born at exactly the same time from identical mothers.

Now lets say that these identical mothers birth the children in two separate rooms, identical in every way. These two rooms are also totally insulated from the outside world. These two rooms also have machinery in place that will be able to sence the needs (any needs) of the children and provide for them in the most optimal way possible. For both of course the exact same way.

What do you think would happen? One minute later? One day later? One month later? One year later?

They would cry at the same time, they would get hungry at the same time, and the machinery would end up responding at the same time to the same needs until they eventually died at the same time from the same disease. Their bodies would decay exactly the same way and turn into dust at the same time. If at any point an observer would look at the rooms I bet he/she would see the exactly same scenario twice.

Given the circumstances what reason could there possibly be for it to turn out any different? What reason could there ever be for one child to do one thing that the other doesn't. Let's even pretend for a second that something like 'free will' does exist and that these children can make their own independent decisions. Why would one ever choose to do one thing that the other did not also choose? What influence could there have been that would make one choose one thing over another, if circumstances for both are exactly the same?

Do you see what I'm saying? Here is a more practical example:

I am at a store buying a shirt for my band concert. The shirt has to be either black or white. I hate both. My favorite color is blue. Both the black and white shirts are the same price. They are identical in everything but color. My parents don't care which one I choose. The stimuli are neutral. Can I decide for myself?

Absolutely. The stimuli do not favor either shirt, and I am free to act on my own accord. The resolution is negated.
Vi_Veri

Pro

I'd like to thank my opponent for his definition of free will, which I will both reject and use against him in this argument. Let me re-state his definition here:

"Free Will-free and independent choice; voluntary decision; the ability to apply experiences to form a beneficial outcome"

I would like to come right out and reject this definition of free will. If the free will debate were based on such a definition, it would be resolved quite swiftly. Unfortunately, my opponent has the wrong idea of free will. Here is the definition I will give, and assume that my opponent truly meant (because his definition, as I will show you further on, completely destroys his argument):

*Free will: That a person has the ability to choose contrary to their nature (who they are).*

I'll agree to keep his definition of "illusion."

Now down to my argument. Let's break this up.

"The Identical Baby Argument"

My opponent brings up that two identical mothers birth two clone babies whom are in turn placed into identical rooms with identical machinery to take care of them in identical ways.

Let's call this the *Identical* Baby Argument, IBA.

I'll present the modified consequence argument here:

1. The universe is a deterministic system, composed of atoms and governed by the laws of nature.
2. So everything that happens in the universe, (including every human thought and action), is the physically necessary consequence of its previous states (including those that obtained before we existed) and the laws of nature.
3. Humans have no power over the laws of nature or the states that obtained before we existed. (We cannot change them.)
4. Since humans have no power over the things that necessitate their every thought and action, humans have no power to do anything other than what they actually do.
5. If humans have no power to do other than what they actually do, then humans are not free.
6. So humans are not free.

Also, to make something "other" happen than what would have happened following the laws would violate the laws.

I think using the IBA my opponent assumed he is helping the reader conclude that it is an impossibility that these two children would engage in the exact same behavior. What my opponent doesn't realize is the factors that could play into the children behaving in different ways despite all of his safety nets to put them in "identical environments." A list:

Outside stimuli for the mothers, still separate wombs made of separate atoms, babies are made of separate atoms, different womb experiences, just watching the babies may interfere with their development because of different vibrations in atoms outside of the space, different bolts that the two machines are made of consisting of different atoms, different spots of gravity the babies are resting on, celestial movements, environment outside the rooms and the atoms they are made up of (we of course know that the walls of the room can't possibly keep out things at the atomic level, we could even add something like quantum tunneling to this if my opponent disagrees), etc, etc, etc.

You could only perform this experiment with atoms at the very beginning of time. If, say, the universe split into two directions at its creation, and from the very initial state, they were exactly alike - so something like this:

A = B

(Segment A) ------------- | start | ------------- (Segment B)

Then yes, everything that happened in segment A would also happen in the exact same fashion in segment B, if the laws were exactly the same, the initial states were exactly the same, and the starting factor was *exactly* the same. Obviously, this is not the case in the reality of the two babies placed in *our* reality for his argument, and thus the reason my opponent made a mistake in his assumption.

"The Shirt Argument"

My opponent's shirt argument is a water downed argument of the original made by Ronald Nash for Libertarian free will (except he used a very hungry dog and two bowls of food). I'm going to assume that my opponent "hates" both black and white with the exact same passion, that he *must* choose a band shirt -- there is no other physically possible decision he could make, like not choosing one at all because his favorite color is not there -- and that, as my opponent said, every single stimuli in the entire universe and reality since the beginning of time begs no favor to either choice.

This is the mistake the instigator makes:

For the sake of his argument, let's agree that the Libertarian choice could be made, and that a choice *is made*.

If my opponent makes a choice outside of his nature, then the choice is not made by him. In a truly libertarian sense, this decision cannot have influences of any kind. Any decision without influences is arbitrary. It would be like flipping a coin. I chose A rather than B, not because of who I am, but for no reason at all. It just turned out that way.

If the choice is not made by you, then it is not *your* free will, but a popping off, your environment's choice. It would not be my opponent making the choice, and therefore negating it being "his" free will.

My opponent said that free will is "the ability to apply experiences to form a beneficial outcome." None of his experiences are able to give him the ability to apply them toward an outcome. I'm sorry. His example of him having free will negates his definition of free will.

Free will is not only impossible, but a complete illusion.

I look forward to my opponent's defense.

Regards,

Vi Veri
Debate Round No. 2
rougeagent21

Con

OK, thank you for the debate. My arguments this round will be brief, and to the point. For the sake of the readers, I will only address the main points made by both sides.

The first point is the definition of "free will."
As mine is from the American Heritage Dictionary, I see it as completely valid. I would ask that the voters stick by my definition. However, I will also show you how the negative wins under my opponent's definition as well. This will be talked about later in the round.

"1. The universe is a deterministic system, composed of atoms and governed by the laws of nature."
eterminism- an inevitable consequence of antecedent sufficient causes

Is that so? Well in that case, can you tell me what I will do next? Are you sure?
My point here is that the universe is not already spelld out. I can change my path at any time. Say I am riding my bike. I usually ride the Air Force Academy trails. Now I want some variety, and ride in Monument. "Well you were caused to do that by your want for variety." Hmm, and could you tell me when I will reach that point? At what point will I turn around and go somewhere else? The fact of the matter is that you don' know. I can diverge from "the path" at any time I feel like it.

"2. So everything that happens in the universe, (including every human thought and action), is the physically necessary consequence of its previous states (including those that obtained before we existed) and the laws of nature."
Nope. I can make bad decisions. Here is where my opponent's definition fails her. I may decide to gamble away all of my money for no reason whatsoever. That is not in my nature, but that doesn't stop me from doing it. People do this all the time. They "chose" to act poorly. But they acted on their own will.

Question time!
Did I act against my nature?
Yes.
Was I forced to do it?
No.
Did I have free will to choose it or not?
Yes.

"3. Humans have no power over the laws of nature or the states that obtained before we existed. (We cannot change them.)"
Agreed.

"4. Since humans have no power over the things that necessitate their every thought and action, humans have no power to do anything other than what they actually do."
Correct, but I can choose what I will do. I can't help doing what I do, but I can choose what my actions, that I will do, are. (I apologize, that statement comes across better when spoken in person)

"5. If humans have no power to do other than what they actually do, then humans are not free."
As I have said, I can choose what I will do. Therefore by your logic, I am free.

"6. So humans are not free."
Ah, no. I'm free.

--The Shirt Agrument--
Here is my "mistake"

"If my opponent makes a choice outside of his nature, then the choice is not made by him. In a truly libertarian sense, this decision cannot have influences of any kind. Any decision without influences is arbitrary. It would be like flipping a coin. I chose A rather than B, not because of who I am, but for no reason at all. It just turned out that way."

Are you equating me to a coin? There is a MAJOR difference here. The coin has NO choice in what side it lands on. Do I have a choice of which shirt I choose? You better believe it.

Free will is an illusion
Negated.
Vi_Veri

Pro

"As mine is from the American Heritage Dictionary, I see it as completely valid."

Ok, since my opponent initiated this debate, I'll concede to this and keep his definition (which he still decides to keep even though it bludgeons his arguments in the previous round). This, though, doesn't change anything and or defer determinism even from his definition. Let me re-state it here:

"Free Will-free and independent choice; voluntary decision; the ability to apply experiences to form a beneficial outcome"

Now down to fixing my opponent's mistakes....

He first states:

"Is that so? Well in that case, can you tell me what I will do next? Are you sure?"

The French mathematician and astronomer, Pierre-Simon, marquis de Laplace, a believer in causal determinism, can be quoted saying in "Essai":

--We may regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its past and the cause of its future. An intellect which at a certain moment would know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed, if this intellect were also vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in a single formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the tiniest atom; for such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes.--

This intellect is referred to as "Laplace's demon" by his later biographers. I'll give it a little bit of modification and say that Laplace's demon knows these things intuitively and does not find them out by physical means. So, to my opponent, if I were to know the placement of every atom in all of reality at this present moment, plus the perfect laws of physics that bind them, then yes, I would know exactly what you were going to do next. Unfortunately, I do not know the position of every atom or all of the laws of physics, so I'm sorry I personally can not tell you what your future actions hold.

My opponent says that I don't know where he might go with his bike. He's right, with the limited knowledge I have, I probably couldn't tell him *exactly* what would happen with *exact* certainty, but if I had the modified Laplacian Demon's abilities, I could, well, point him in the right direction ; )

My opponent can also look back up to my previous IBA argument for more information as I had already spelled this out earlier.

Next, Con states:

"Nope. I can make bad decisions. Here is where my opponent's definition fails her. I may decide to gamble away all of my money for no reason whatsoever. That is not in my nature, but that doesn't stop me from doing it. People do this all the time. They "chose" to act poorly. But they acted on their own will."

Answer time!

Did he act against his nature?

No. There has to be a *reason* he gambled away all of his money, or he would be violating the principle of sufficient reason. His reason might not be 100% known by him (an accumulation of many previous psychological, biological, chemical, physical states etc) that lead him to making this decision, but there still are reasons he did it for. I can't possibly think of anyone doing anything for no reason at all (even if the reason is not consciously known by them, or seemingly "random")

Was he forced to do it?

By his previous states and the laws of physics, he was necessitated to do what he did.

Did he have free will to choose it or not?

No, as follows from the first two answers.

Since my opponent agrees with my premise 3, he concedes to it. Win for Pro.

Since my opponent agrees with my premise 4, he concedes to it. I spoke my opponents sentence out loud and it still didn't make sense ; ) He can't choose doing what he does but he can choose what actions he does? That sounds like a big fat contradiction to me. Doing and actions are the same thing. It's not my job to make sense of my opponent's jabber, so if he can't give me a clear and convincing defense, then this point can be thrown away.

Since my opponent's argument to my premise 4 was refuted, his use of "logic" to my 5th premise can be overthrown.

"Ah, no. I'm free."

Oh, no, you're not.

---Shirt Argument---

My opponent's rebuttal to me:

"Are you equating me to a coin? There is a MAJOR difference here. The coin has NO choice in what side it lands on. Do I have a choice of which shirt I choose? You better believe it."

All my opponent does here is show how insulted he is at being compared to a coin, say that there is a major difference, then give me the major difference - which was that the coin didn't have a choice and that he did. He didn't:

A: He doesn't prove that he had more choice than the coin. Great, my opponent agrees that a coin doesn't have a choice in what side it lands on! What my opponent doesn't realize is that his mind is made of atoms, which in turn don't have free will, just like the coin, that in turn act in set ways, to make set chemical reactions, to make set biological reactions, to make set psychological reactions and so forth. Also, my opponent fails to understand the complexity and vastness of the universe and how this branches out to make his brain chemistry complex. I'd like to ask my opponent a question that he can debate with himself; can you tell me with absolute certainty what side the coin will land for the next 2, maybe 20, maybe 100 throws? You can't. There are too many factors that contribute to it. You could take a really good guess and be right, but you can't tell me with 100% confidence what the landings will be.

B: Give anything more than a statement with a "You better believe it" afterwords instead of an actual explanation or argument to back himself up.

My opponent still didn't explain to me how his decision was made to choose the shirt without any of his prior experiences and desires playing into the choice. He never explained how it was "his" decision. (Because he is his desires and experiences, all of his previous states, controlled by the laws of nature that he is a part of).

Free will is not only impossible, but a complete illusion.

Regards,

Vi Veri
Debate Round No. 3
58 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by J.Kenyon 6 years ago
J.Kenyon
Lol @ using a dictionary definition of a philosophical concept :P
Posted by Vi_Veri 7 years ago
Vi_Veri
I have no idea how I'm losing this debate.
Posted by MTGandP 7 years ago
MTGandP
Con's case can be summed up as this:
"Is [determinism] so? Well in that case, can you tell me what I will do next? Are you sure?"

Which is why I voted Pro.
Posted by Mr_smith 7 years ago
Mr_smith
Anyone here read Slaughterhouse-five by Kurt Vonnegut?

The Tralfamadorians have an interesting take on free will.
Posted by rougeagent21 7 years ago
rougeagent21
Thus far, I have made no demeaning comments about you nor your debating.
Posted by rougeagent21 7 years ago
rougeagent21
Sketchy? How do you mean?
Posted by Vi_Veri 7 years ago
Vi_Veri
You sound rather sketchy : ) watch how you say things.
Posted by rougeagent21 7 years ago
rougeagent21
I'm glad you think so ;)
Posted by Vi_Veri 7 years ago
Vi_Veri
Nor did Con do a good job of refuting ANY of my points....
Posted by Vi_Veri 7 years ago
Vi_Veri
How did he get so many points over night like that.... this is corrupt... :/
20 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Vote Placed by nonentity 5 years ago
nonentity
rougeagent21Vi_VeriTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Arguments to Pro because Con's only argument was that you can't predict what he is about to do. Well if we had *more information* then yes, we would be able to. Pro made several arguments that were unrefuted by Con. Sources to Pro because Con used a dictionary definition to define the very concept the debate was about.
Vote Placed by alto2osu 5 years ago
alto2osu
rougeagent21Vi_VeriTied
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Vi_Veri
rougeagent21Vi_VeriTied
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