The Instigator
Pro (for)
The Contender
Con (against)

Free will probably does not exist

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/14/2016 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 weeks ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 203 times Debate No: 97013
Debate Rounds (4)
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This argument will be on whether or not human beings possess free will. Here I am going to define free will as the following:

Free will- "Free Will is a philosophical term of art for a particular sort of capacity of rational agents to choose a course of action from among various alternatives."-Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

In other words we will be arguing whether or not humans have the power to choose a course of action from various alternatives.

First round acceptance only please.

Good luck to whoever accepts. I'm looking forward to a very good debate.


Before we begin, hello! I am very excited to initiate my first debate with a question like this. Let us begin.
Debate Round No. 1


I'd like to make it clear that burden of proof is shared, something I forgot to write in my opening paragraph.


1) Take some arbitrary event, E.

2) If E had no cause sufficient to bring it about, then it wouldn’t have happened.

3) But E did happen.

4) Therefore, E had a cause sufficient to bring it about.

5) Since E is arbitrary, we may safely conclude that all events have causes sufficient to bring them about.

6) It follows that all of our actions are caused by prior events.

7) It also follows that the prior events leading to our actions were caused by other prior events, and so on…

8) Therefore, everything we do is the result of causal chains extending backward in time long before we were born.

9) Therefore, everything we do is caused by forces over which we have no control

10) If our actions are caused by forces over which we have no control, we do not act freely.

11) Therefore, we never act freely.

This is a logical chain which is true unless you can disprove one of its statements something which I do not think can be done. This is a sort of Determinist argument, that everything in this universe is the cause of an event which is the cause of a previous event and etc. I am not going to try and give an explanation of each link in the reasoning (though I will if my opponent disagrees with any of them) though I will give an explanation for number 9. The obvious exception would be that our minds are one thing which we have control over and therefore could break this chain. This however I think is false as we lack even basic control over our mind. Our minds are essentially 100 billion neurons. We have control over none of these neurons and therefore have no control over our minds. These neurons behave scientifically according to obvious Determinist properties (by this I mean that neurons obviously don't have free will, they are only able to react to what they encounter according to the laws of physics, they are similar in this to a rock or a tennis ball, something which obviously lacks free will). The idea that by stringing together 100 billion things which do not have free will to create something which does have free will is not a great argument. I will talk about neurology more in my following points.

ARGUMENT 2: The Neurological argument

In an experiment done by Benjamin Libet in the 1980s during which he asked participants in the study to choose a random moment to flick their wrist, Libet found that the brain makes the decision subconsciously around 0.2 seconds before the person in question is conscious of that decision ( In other words, our brain makes unconscious decisions following the Laws of Physics before we become conscious of the decisions we have made (note that the Libet study has been much criticized for some not-super scientific flaws in its underpinnings however the results of the experiment have been validated and even expanded upon as Masao Matsuhasi and Mark Hallett in 2008 measured that the brain makes intention to move 1.42 seconds before movement actually takes place Both of these studies validate one thing: that both intention and causation of movement were the results of unconscious behavior and not conscious behavior. The mind itself makes decisions long before we are conscious of them. When you make decisions you do not do anything, your neurons react and then inform your consciousness of the decision sometime along the way.

This method of unconscious decision making applies not only to simple, minute tasks but also to higher uses of the brain such as mathematical and logical problem solving. Other studies have shown that when gaining an insight such as those which occur when solving abstract problems that the brain becomes unconsciously aware of these insights up to 8 seconds before we become consciously aware of the insight (;).

ARGUMENT 3: B.F. Skinner and the Psychology of Free Will

The answer to the Free Will question may have it's answer in the psychology of B.F. Skinner, whose theory of Behaviorism has been the most significant post-Freudian developement in the field of psychology. Skinner argues that if you strip away all of the illusions of the human psyche; free will, motivation, identity, etc. that you will be left with a simple mechanism which wants to do what causes pleasure and what does not want to do what causes pain. This mechanism learns from it's environment. In other words the human mind is a product of constant reinforcement of either pleasure or pain which leads to the opinions and reactions which constitute a normal working human. This seems to make sense with Darwinism, we want what feels good we don't want what feels bad.

This idea of reinforcement has been well-documented in experimentation. I don't really have the energy to talk about them all here but I'll leave some links to where you can read about them. There is B.F. Skinner's rat experiment (, experiments in Classical conditioning like those done by Pavlov (, Thorndike's Law of Effect (, and some interesting results in Avoidance theory (

The point I'm getting at and the point I hope I've made is that our minds can be trained into doing or believeing whatever our environment forces us to do or believe. This should not be infinitely surprising. One could force someone to hurt themself or others to avoid an even greater pain. The processes of reinforcement in psychology work to reinforce the idea that free will simply does not exist. It is obvious we do not choose what to believe, our environment chooses it for us.

I'd like to finish with a quote from the great B.F. Skinner from his book Beyond Freedom and Dignity:

By questioning the control exercised by autonomous man and demonstrating the control exercised by the environment, a science of behavior also seems to question dignity or worth. A person is responsible for his behavior, not only in the sense that he may be justly blamed or punished when he behaves badly, but also in the sense that he is to be given credit and admired for his achievements. A scientific analysis shifts the credit as well as the blame to the environment, and traditional practices can then no longer be justified. These are sweeping changes, and those who are committed to traditional theories and practices naturally resist them.-(Beyond Freedom and Dignity, page 21)

Thanks and good luck to my opponent.
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Debate Round No. 2
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Debate Round No. 3
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Debate Round No. 4
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by batman01 1 week ago
Does anybody have any idea when this will update or how we can speed up the process?
Posted by batman01 2 weeks ago

I've always found it would be much harder to prove free will than to disprove free will. It seems to me the best that Pro can do in trying to prove free will is poking holes in all of Con's arguments, which still proves nothing.
Posted by SpelunkingSamurai 2 weeks ago
Pro basically shares my opinions on the matter of free will. The first part about every person being caught in the middle of a chain of causality is one of the main reasons I started leaning on the side of free will being an illusion in the first place. I'm curious about how Con is going to address these points.
Posted by canis 3 weeks ago
So is free will a "ghost".. 1 A. Yes without I ..1. B. Yes with my wife.
Posted by canis 3 weeks ago
"to choose a course of action from among various alternatives."-Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy"... Ask my wife..
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