The Instigator
phantom
Pro (for)
Winning
16 Points
The Contender
lannan13
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points

Free-will most likely does not exist (Spinkos philosophy tourney 1st round)

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 3 votes the winner is...
phantom
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/30/2012 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,492 times Debate No: 26717
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (0)
Votes (3)

 

phantom

Pro

Resolution: Free-will most likely does not exist

To clarify, I believe we are talking about human free-will but I suppose my opponent is free to argue animals have it as well if he wishes to take that option.

Burden of Proof

I'd say we both have a degree of the burden of proof. The issue of free-will is a little complicated. Firstly there's the question of definitions. It's both our burden to establish a sound criteria for free-will. But it also is usually the one affirming existence who has the BoP but I also have the BoP in affirming certain theories that alleviate free-will. All in all I'd say we should leave it at 50-50.

My opponent is free to negate my reasoning if he disagrees. The BoP is something to be rationally decided so I'm not going to leave it as condition of acceptance.

Definitions


Unfortunately often in free-will debates, debaters spend half or more the time arguing about what free-will even means let alone if it exists. Therefore I will only be brief and unspecific in my definition. It is also important that the definition remain something that is up for debate during the course of this interaction and not something that we both have to stick to. Usually free-will is equated with the idea of a both uncaused and non-random event in your brain that was brought about by rational and conscious reflection from the agent and done based upon the will of the agent. Those who take that stance would usually be libertarians (not to be confused with the political ideology). Compatiblists however say free-will is compatible with determinism and indeterminacy, often saying free-will equates to just rational and conscious reflection of an agent or, as Daniel Dennett would argue, evitability. I invariably disagree with the general compatibilist definition of free-will so if my opponent happens to be a compatiblist, what constitutes free-will will be an issue of debate. It is both our burdens to establish a sound criteria of what free-will should mean. Hopefully we happen to come to a mutual agreement however.

It would be nice if con could say in his acceptance whether he is a libertarian or compatibilst, or other.


Rules and guidelines

Standard conduct; no plagiarism, good conduct to participants and viewers, no cheating etc...

I think it goes without saying but I'll just say it anyway, voters must read the whole debate before voting and give a reasonable unbiased RFD (Reason For Decision). Otherwise consider that your vote may likely get countered.

1st round is acceptance

2nd round I will make my case. My opponent is free to either make his case only, or to make his case as well as refuting mine in the same round.

Fourth round there are to be no new arguments made.
lannan13

Con

I accept. Let the games begin.

Feed Lannan13 more... Feed Lannan13 more...
Debate Round No. 1
phantom

Pro


Thanks to Lannan for accepting.



C.1 All acts are causally determined or random leaving no room for free-will



First off, I shall explain why all my three assumptions are the case. The three claims in this contention are that all acts are random or determined, that random acts don’t leave room for free-will, and that determined acts don’t leave room for free-will. Determined acts are acts brought about by the laws of causality and nature. Each action has a reaction/affect leading to other actions and so on. So one such pseudo-choice would be simply brought about by previous reactions in your body, brain and externally that you had no control over. Even conscious events would be included in this causal process. For example, evaluating what burger to buy could have many conscious but still causal influences. One thought leads to another after all. Acts brought about by causality cannot be free choices. One argument can make that assertion quite obvious. Just consider causality entails inevitability. One accumulation of effects must result in one single possible reaction and so on. Therefore the effect that occurred all the way towards the beginning of the causal chain resulted in an inevitable chain of events. We can’t possibly have control over nor be conscious of the early cause and effects so we can’t possibly have free-will for determined actions.



Random acts are those that somehow escape the laws of causality and happen merely by chance and unpredictably, such as a quantum neurological events in your brain. Those even more obviously cannot leave room for free-will because randomness is entirely uncontrollable. So random acts and causal acts quite obviously cannot include free-will. Those are the only acts that happen, so free-will is eliminated. A persons mind and character and actions are all decided upon internal influences such as genetic and biological and external influences such as environmental. We are merely the sum of the molecular positions of our body and the vastly complex ordering of nerves and atoms. Most probably there are thousands of tiny direct miniature causes that affect one act a person commits. In the vast sum of things that number could be incredibly more large when we consider the chain of cause and effect could stem all the way back to even the big-bang. Any single act is fully caused by these influences, random or determined. They are the only acts that exist in our physical universe. Therefore no act includes any concept of free-will.



The problem with grasping the concept of having no free-will is because we have such a strong illusion of it, but let me try to make it a bit clearer. Suppose a single random event in your brain causes you to lurch your arm into the air. Would anyone say that was a free act of choice? Obviously not. You had no control over it. It just happened at random. Suppose in another scenario aliens had taken control of your mind and were influencing your body to cause you to make choices that you thought you were making freely. That also would obviously not be free-will either. So any libertarian or compatibilist can agree with us here but in reality things aren’t much different. Aliens may not control us but our acts are still determined by our physical makeup. It’s like a machine operating according to its mechanical build. Humans are just the same; simply mechanistic creatures. Our actions are bound by our chemistry and the world behind us. It just happens that we have the illusion of free-will. In the first two scenarios I posted, we had all the influences before us so that it was obvious it wasn’t free-will. One reason why free-will is such an illusion is because the vast majority of influences we are entirely unconscious of. If we had a map and explanation for every single influence that caused us to make a choice, I make the confident guess that free-will would be just as evidently false as with the first two analogies. But most of what causes us to act is entirely out of our realm of detection.



When pondering what to buy and not to buy at the grocery store, a basic cost/benefit analysis is taking place in your brain so that in the end, your choice is wholly decided by your natural preferences, character, genetics, whatever mood you happened to be in that day, what your surroundings were and more. If the cost is a little high, you'll only buy it if you have enough money or are someone who is a naturally uncautious buyer. Many other factors way in. We can easily accept the fact that we are born with a personality consisting of a blend of thousands of different tiny character traits. As our character determines what we do, we can extrapolate our actions are based upon what properties we are born with. Our personality then shapes according to social and environmental factors throughout our life. Everything we do is decided by our physical makeup and the world around us. This leaves free-will as an impossibility. If our acts aren’t triggered, they’re random. Those are the only two possibilities.



C.2 Free-will is an incoherent concept



It’s impossible to really conceive what free-will actually is. Take any action and ask what it was. Was it caused or random? Both those options are certainly possible and conceivable but it’s hard to imagine any other option. It’s one reason why free-will is so hard to define even for libertarians. All acts come down to the laws of causality (determinism) or random chance (indeterminacy). Thus all acts arise from the laws of nature and are bound by them, making nothing free. Random actions escape the laws of causality but what can escape the laws of causality and randomness? What possible physical action in this universe is neither random nor caused? And how exactly does a physical action occur without something to make it occur and not being random? Things don’t happen by themselves unless through randomness. If they do happen because of something then that’s causality and we’re back at the problem. Considering these thoughts, free-will merely seems as some magical concept. We can’t really define what it is and what it means to act freely. Part of cons burden is to set up a coherent concept of what free-will is. Otherwise he cannot win the debate.




C.3 ‘Choices’ are shown to be made before the agent is conscious of them


In tests, neuroscientists have detected actions a person makes moments before he is even conscious of them. It’s one thing when we’re conscious of decisions but when we act before consciousness of the decision takes place, free-will entirely leaves the picture.



“He wired people to an electroencephalogram and measured when they reported having a particular conscious thought about an action [...] and when the actual action started. Astoundingly, the latter came first: that is, subjects had actually made (unconsciously) the decision to act measurably earlier than when they became aware of it consciously. The conscious awareness, in a sense, was a "story" that the higher cognitive parts of the brain told to account for the action. It's as if the conscious brain was not the decider but simply the spokesperson.”


http://files.meetup.com...



“Libet asked his experimental subjects to move one hand at an arbitrary moment decided by them, and to report when they made the decision (they timed the decision by noticing the position of a dot circling a clock face). At the same time the electrical activity of their brain was monitored. Now it had already been established by much earlier research that consciously-chosen actions are preceded by a pattern of activity known as a Readiness Potential (or RP). The surprising result was that the reported time of each decision was consistently a short period (some tenths of a second)after the RP appeared. This seems to prove that the supposedly conscious decisions had actually been determined unconsciously beforehand.”


http://www.consciousentities.com...




lannan13

Con

Sorry, I'll be gone for the weekend, I'll continue the debate next round. Please don't continue till this weekend.
Debate Round No. 2
phantom

Pro

It's unfortunate that con had to miss a round but two rounds should be fine.
lannan13

Con

*I thank my opponent for letting me continue due to my circumstance. Now on to the debate. *


C.1 all acts are causally determined or random leaving no room for free-will



1st off all acts are not always random, for example if I sign up for the Marine Corps and go to Paris Island that act isn’t random. When it comes to the brain and externally doing things on their own: if I stand at attention for the Veterans Day Ceremony and I lock my knees, then I will start to see flashes of colors and my ears will pop and seconds later I will faint falling to the ground. This I will have no control over unless I didn’t lock my knees in the first place. Also in free-will lets you determine things in like if you go to a doctor and you’re in pain you would tell the doctor, “I’m in pain,” he would say, “Where’s your pain.” “In my knee.” As you see here there is free will by the fact of knowledge and control in one’s life in painful situations. You also know when you didn’t do something, “*Bleep* I forgot to take the trash to the curb and its trash day.” So we know that we as humans have free-will and are free. As the once great philosopher Immanuel Kant once said, “Ought implies can.” Also for more proof that we have free-will is that human’s get new idea’s every day we think, “I think therefore I am.” –Rene Descartes. http://mol.redbarn.org.... To continue responding to my opponent’s random acts argument is that humans have certain instincts: hunt, sex, and survive. These things are what drive human beings, as the example I explained earlier is an act of survival. Sex feels good, because it’s the human’s incentive to reproduce. Hunting links to survival, we eat to live. For his preference argument, we do this every day, for example I’m a Conservative and I’m a Conservative because I’m Roman Catholic and I let that rule my life, because I’m religious. At the grocery store many people have likes and dislikes, personally I don’t like the Kroger brand, I prefer Taco Bell vs. Taco Ticco, and I like Chocolate vs. White Milk.



C.2 Free-will is an incoherent concept


My opponent contradicts himself here, he defines free-will in round 1, but the next round he states that it has no definition. I ask myself why did I vote Santorum, I answered it was out of my interest or human interest. Things could be random except as I defended in C.1 all acts human do are of human interest or human nature.


C.3 ‘Choices’ are shown to be made before the agent is conscious of them


Science has discovered nothing that contradicts free will. To deny free will’s existence is to deny that our conscious, psychological deliberations—Should I ask my girlfriend to marry me? Should I major in engineering or art?—influence our actions. Such a conclusion flies in the face of common sense. Of course, sometimes we deliberate insincerely, toward a foregone conclusion, or we fail to act upon our resolution. But not always. Sometimes we consciously choose to do something and we do it. Correlation does not necessarily equal causation, but it often does.”


And


We also need the concept of free will, much more than we need the concept of God. Our faith in free will has social value. It provides us with the metaphysical justification for ethics and morality. It forces us to take responsibility for ourselves rather than consign our fate to our genes or God. Free will works better than any other single criterion for gauging the vitality of a life, or a society. Choices, freely made, are what make life meaningful.”


http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com...


As John Horgan shows that free-will must exsist to show that we have certain instincs as humans that we must and do fallow (quotes are both from link). ;(Video is just for fun.)

Debate Round No. 3
phantom

Pro

C.1 all acts are causally determined or random leaving no room for free-will

-Con doesn't dispute that all acts are either random or determined.

-Con ignores most of my arguments for this contention, reverting instead just to his own reasoning.

I never stated all acts are random. As con should note, the contention said all acts are determined or random. It is beyond me how con could mix this up. Actually the vast majority of events are causal. No one is arguing that all acts are random so con is essentially strawmanning me. So yes, my opponent is correct that if he becomes a Marine and goes to Paris Island, that is not at all random. But the point, which con entirely seems to miss, is that the choice is entirely determined. Every single act made is always completely restrained and decided by the laws of physics (unless randomness comes into play). The scenarios con presents all have a massive web of cause and affects. Each cause determines one single outcome. This entails inevitability. So I have to ask, if it was inevitable from long before con was even aware of his joining the marines, was it really a free choice? Con was going to join because of events that took place long before the thought of joining even occured. My opponent goes on to say that we have instincts that drive us to act. Well that's exactly part of what proves we do not have free-will. Taste, instincts, genetics are all decided irrelevant to our will. The way we act is not because of any choice because the way we act is based entirely upon our physical set-up and external influences which are all irrelevant to choice.

Con quotes Immanuel Kant but the quote has nothing to do with free-will at all. It's ethical. The "ought implies can" principle means that you only have a moral obligation for something if you are able to do it. In other words, you can't say I ought to have done x when x was not in my power to do. Kant did happen to believe in free-will and presented his argument in his "transcendental philosophy" but as this is the last round, my opponent cannot make that argument since there are no new arguments this round.

Cogito ergo sum has nothing to do with free-will. I don't even think Descartes even addressed the topic and I find it unlikely that he did since he seemed to mostly stick to his Cartesian epistemology and metaphysics relating to it.


C.2 Free-will is an incoherent concept

My opponent basically concedes this contention. If he were to pay attention to the opening round he would realize that I explicitly stated I would only give a vague and unspecific explanation of free-will, even saying that a criteria needs to be established latter in the debate. I did nothing to present a criteria and cons reliance on me to do so is just plain poor conduct. And notice what arguments con makes have nothing really to do with defining a coherent idea of free-will. Con says he voted for Santorum because it was in his self interest. Well I have to ask why it was in his self interest and then all asked what caused the answer to that and so on. Eventually you get to an infinite regress of causes dispelling any idea of free-will.


C.3 ‘Choices’ are shown to be made before the agent is conscious of them

My opponent does nothing to refute my two examples. His quote is merely a set of mere assertions while I posted two studies. This just makes it an appeal to authority but even if appeals to authority were fine, I'd just ask why cons source is better than mine. The quote says "science has found nothing to contradict free-will" but I've already, in the last round, proven that entirely wrong. If choices are made before the agent is conscious of them, free-will is an impossibility. Furthermore the reasoning doesn't really make sense. No one is denying that deliberations influence our actions. The whole point is that deliberations are entirely determined and that humans make choices before being aware of them.

Con's second quote is an appeal to practicality. If we want to retain any sense of intellectual honesty and follow the Socratic principle to follow the evidence where it leads, we must ignore it entirely. The implications of the quote is that what is practical and meaningful equates to being true, an incredibly flawed assumption. Truth isn't what we want it to be. Truth is what it is, regardless of whether it has positive or negative implications on us. Furthermore, what's so bad about the idea that humans don't have free-will? Doesn't it make us a more forgiving society when we gain this realization? Won't people be more fair and compassionate when they realize that free-will is an illusion? Con's point fails since it's merely a pragmatic appeal and a false pragmatic appeal at that.

lannan13

Con

I'm sorry I'd love to finish this but my backs against the wall, this is the only time I'll be online for 3 days, I have Marine Corps Ball tomorrow and practice today, not to mention I'm working on Sunday and don't have a computer so in this case, though I hate to say it vote for Pro...
Debate Round No. 4
No comments have been posted on this debate.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by RationalMadman 4 years ago
RationalMadman
phantomlannan13Tied
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Total points awarded:70 
Reasons for voting decision: Unbelievably rude of lannan13.
Vote Placed by tulle 4 years ago
tulle
phantomlannan13Tied
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Rather than forfeiting, Con gave explanations for not completing the debate so I didn't penalize a conduct point. Pro's arguments went largely unrefuted.
Vote Placed by philochristos 4 years ago
philochristos
phantomlannan13Tied
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Total points awarded:60 
Reasons for voting decision: Conduct to Pro because Con bailed. Arguments to Pro because Con didn't adequately deal with Pro's arguments. Sources to Pro because Pro cited the sources for his two studies whereas Con gave two quotes without revealing who said them or putting any notation by them to indicate what source he is citing. One can only guess that the quotes come from Jerry Coyne since the link at the bottom of his page goes to Coyne's web page.