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Free will is an incoherent concept.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/12/2017 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 483 times Debate No: 98927
Debate Rounds (3)
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Free will is incompatible with determinism.
Free will is incompatible with indeterminism.
No clever mix of determinism and indeterminism solve either incompatibility.

Therefore, free will is an incoherent concept.


Although normally I would agree on the grounds of Determinism and Indeterminism, I would also like to broaden the horizons of this debate a little bit and give you a debate that I hope you enjoy. So, here goes nothing. While yes determinism states that all actions are predetermined and a person cannot be held morally responsible for these actions, I have somewhat an idea to go along with the essence before existence and existence before essence theory, as well as existentialism. Essence before existence states that your fate and you as a person are determined before you are even born. However the opposite is just as plausible, you determine your own fate after birth. Due to the ideologies of existentialism, a person makes choices through their own will that determine their "essence", making free will completely possible. While you are looking at this with narrow view I'm only trying to get you to widen that view and look at free will a little differently. I will leave you with a question. According to you, are you formed as a being before or after birth?
Debate Round No. 1


I like how you have decided to approach this subject by implicitly breaking it into two key areas. First, the nature vs. nurture conversation is a classic example of how people try to define and account for so called "outside influences". Secondly, this leads us to the fundamental question of identity.

We seek to define "internal influences" vs. "outside influences" and we like to believe that "internal influences" are the "I" and everything else is "outside influence" this is where we get our sense of self. Our individual sense of self is the most personal and sensitive (often fragile) concept we hold dear. If someone's sense of self is called into question, it is not uncommon for a whole host of automatic cognitive defense systems kick into high gear. I will try to avoid triggering a hypothalmic-pituitary-adrenal response to this discussion.

Here's the crux, the fundamental structures of your brain are not subject to your will. Your will is an emergent property of your brain's ability to process information. Neither the brain, nor the information is subject to your will. In fact, your will is subject to the brain and the information it is exposed to. Your genetic structure is beyond your own choice and therefore lies in the territory previously identified as "outside influences". There are only "outside influences". Your "identity" is little more than an echo in a very complicated cave. The cave does not contain an uncaused cause. It may have some random influences, and it may be very complex, but that hardly constitutes a "will".

Yes, your ability to process information develops over time and is apparently self-influencing. However, your ability to self-influence or self-modify your own thought process is built from the ground up from genetics and information. Your early childhood experiences have an outsized influence on how your information processing framework develops. These foundational experiences are not subject to your will. Instead, what is commonly identified as your "will" is merely a product of the very complicated process of your genetics interacting with information.

So, I guess what I'm saying is that everything is either random or not random, or some clever combination, therefore you do not exist.

Or rather your idea of a "self" possessing an "independent will" or "first cause" is incoherent.


Psychologically you're right but what I suggested was not nature versus nurture psychologically, it was essence and existence philosophically, but right now I'm thinking free will might not be a "round the clock" idea, maybe it's purely situational and we're thinking too narrowly.
Debate Round No. 2


Splitting hairs about existence and essence is not relevant to this discussion because the underpinning of essence lies in the idea of identity. In order to have free will you must have an identity and a will and it must be free (separate from "outside influences").

I have presented arguments that the concept of "identity" is incoherent because there is nothing fundamental that separates us from "outside influences". Certainly our bodies (genetics) can't define the separation of self from "outside influences". We also cannot use the existence of an apparent "mind" as evidence of separation from "outside influences" because it is built from the ground up, inside and out, completely from "outside influences". It also follows that the concept of "will" is incoherent because there is nothing fundamental that separates our "will" from "outside influences".

The claim that perhaps free will only exists in special circumstances and may be some fleeting mental state does nothing at all to address the original problem that both determinism and indeterminism are incompatible with the concept of "choice" regardless of the time span involved.

It is impossible for someone to "determine their own fate" because everything you call "you" is one hundred percent influenced by events that are either determined or indetermined (either probabilistic or random).

Just a note here, probabilistic influences are partly determined and partly indetermined. A lot of people think that the existence of probabilistic influences allow some wiggle room in an otherwise deterministic universe for human free will. It does no such thing. If this were true, then we would be forced to acknowledge that quarks and lasers have free will.

A so called probabilistic decision is no more of a "choice" than a purely random outcome.


What I'm saying is that there are too many factors of choice and identity to take into consideration, that's why your argument for incoherence is impossible to prove and can't be accepted without a proper debate, it can't be measured and you're trying to measure it.
Debate Round No. 3
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