The Instigator
MTGandP
Con (against)
Winning
42 Points
The Contender
mongeese
Pro (for)
Losing
3 Points

Free will probably exists in humans.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/4/2009 Category: Science
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 1,430 times Debate No: 8103
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (7)
Votes (8)

 

MTGandP

Con

The following arguments are paraphrased from a debate of mine of the same resolution.

Free will: "...a particular sort of capacity of rational agents to choose a course of action from among various alternatives." (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

To define further, free will means that the ultimate decision comes down to the rational actor and is not wholly determined by external conditions.

I negate the resolution: Free will probably exists in humans.

***
Why Free Will Is Impossible

1: Determinism
Every event is caused by a preceding event. To our knowledge, events do not happen unless they are caused by a previous event. This works all the way down to the molecular level. If every event is caused by another event, free will is impossible since all events are simply the effect of some cause(s).

2: First Cause
The first cause (whatever it was, or if it even existed) cannot be a source of free will, since there can only be one first cause. That is, if we are accepting that everything is caused by something else. But what if we do not accept that everything was caused by something else?

3: Randomness
An event that is truly independent of every other event is fundamentally unpredictable: if it could be predicted, then it would not be independent. It is therefore random. And randomness is not free will, it is just randomness. Having a set of choices and choosing one randomly is not free will.

Having a set of choices and making a choice that is dependent on a previous event is not free will either. As these are the only two possible scenarios, free will is not possible.

I have no sources, but need none since all my arguments so far are logical arguments and do not require evidence.
mongeese

Pro

Thank you for starting this debate.

Now, I agree with your definition of free will.

"1: Determinism
Every event is caused by a preceding event. To our knowledge, events do not happen unless they are caused by a previous event. This works all the way down to the molecular level. If every event is caused by another event, free will is impossible since all events are simply the effect of some cause(s)."
This works down to a molecular level, but it stops where abiotic factors meet biotic factors; or perhaps it stops at animals. Or just mammals. Or humans. I don't know. But this is only really applied to things that can't think, and are thus forced to go with the flow.

"2: First Cause
The first cause (whatever it was, or if it even existed) cannot be a source of free will, since there can only be one first cause. That is, if we are accepting that everything is caused by something else. But what if we do not accept that everything was caused by something else?"
The first cause can be a source of free will, because it could not have been caused by anything else.

"3: Randomness
An event that is truly independent of every other event is fundamentally unpredictable: if it could be predicted, then it would not be independent. It is therefore random. And randomness is not free will, it is just randomness. Having a set of choices and choosing one randomly is not free will."
Just because something is unpredictable, doesn't mean that it is random. When I read this debate, I had the choice of either accepting the debate, or not. It was MY CHOICE. To negate my statement, and the resolution, you have to prove that I did not accept this debate with my own free will.

"Having a set of choices and making a choice that is dependent on a previous event is not free will either. As these are the only two possible scenarios, free will is not possible."
No. If I have a set of choices, I can use past experiences of previous events to consider the options, but it is I who eventually makes the decisions.

http://en.wikipedia.org...

Yes, this is a highly debated topic, but if neither side can reach a provable conclusion, the final victory goes to me, as it allows for the high probability of free will's existence.

Thank you for waiting.
Debate Round No. 1
MTGandP

Con

"This works down to a molecular level, but it stops where abiotic factors meet biotic factors; or perhaps it stops at animals. Or just mammals. Or humans. I don't know. But this is only really applied to things that can't think, and are thus forced to go with the flow."
I request that my opponent clarify. What are biotic factors? Are they not made up of molecules? It does not have to be molecules. It can be any sort of particle, even if that particle exists outside the universe (i.e. is supernatural).

"The first cause can be a source of free will, because it could not have been caused by anything else."
Ignoring my third point, it can be a source of free will, but only one time. After that, it is just determinism.

"Just because something is unpredictable, doesn't mean that it is random."
If something cannot be predicted no matter how much knowledge the predictor possesses, it is random.

"When I read this debate, I had the choice of either accepting the debate, or not. It was MY CHOICE."
My opponent is just saying that he felt like he was making a choice. This is most likely an illusion. My opponent has not proven that it was his choice; he simply made the statement. Even if he feels like it was his choice, the logic of my point cannot be simply discarded. Personal feelings are subjective. Logic is not. Thus, my logic overrides my opponent's personal feeling.

"To negate my statement, and the resolution, you have to prove that I did not accept this debate with my own free will."
That's what I did, before my opponent proceeded to ignore my proof based on a personal feeling.

"If I have a set of choices, I can use past experiences of previous events to consider the options, but it is I who eventually makes the decisions."
Or my opponent just has the illusion of making decisions. Irrespective, my opponent's claim has no evidence behind it.

"http://en.wikipedia.org...;
I thank my opponent for this link. It's not entirely relevant to the debate, but I had not previously found that page, and it's a good resource for arguments on both sides.

"Yes, this is a highly debated topic, but if neither side can reach a provable conclusion, the final victory goes to me, as it allows for the high probability of free will's existence."
My opponent has not justified this statement. If both sides have equal arguments, why should the vote go to PRO? Should it not go to neither side?

***

I would like to point out that my opponent has made no real arguments.

I will now make another argument, from this video:

Free will occurs when we make decisions where the ultimate decision comes down to our desires and not external factors. But where do our desires come from? External factors? That's not free will. Previous desires? Where did those come from? Eventually, we get to either a cause that came out of nothing or to an external factor. A cause out of nothing is random, since it is not based on anything, and is therefore not free will; external factors are not free will either.

Another Argument
From the Wikipedia article:
". . . [D]ecisions made by a subject are first being made on a subconscious level and only afterward being translated into a 'conscious decision', and that the subject's belief that it occurred at the behest of her will was only due to her retrospective perspective on the event."
This was evidenced by a study conducted by Benjamin Libet. It is an argument against free will, and also helps to demonstrate why my opponent's "choice" about accepting this debate was quite possibly an illusion: the subjects in this study thought they were making a conscious decision even when they weren't, so the same is possible for my opponent.

I now offer an argument that my case does not rely on, but is interesting nonetheless. If we assume that free will does not exist, what should we do? What we think are our decisions are not really our decisions, so "our" decisions don't matter. There are only two logical courses of action that I see.

1. Stop trying to do anything. Just stop moving and breathing. Nothing is really our decision, so why bother?
2. Assume that free will exists and continue doing what you would do anyway.

If free will does not exist, then it doesn't matter whether we choose (1) or (2). If free will does exist, then (2) is the best choice. So even if the chance of free will existing is incredibly small, (2) is still the best choice.

I look forward to my opponent's response.
mongeese

Pro

I request that my opponent clarify. What are biotic factors? Are they not made up of molecules? It does not have to be molecules. It can be any sort of particle, even if that particle exists outside the universe (i.e. is supernatural)."
Biotic - of, relating to, or caused by living organisms (http://www.merriam-webster.com...)
Abiotic - not biotic (http://www.merriam-webster.com...)
Thus, I am saying that free will may exist in anything that has life.

"Ignoring my third point, it can be a source of free will, but only one time. After that, it is just determinism."
You need to back up your determinism claim.

"If something cannot be predicted no matter how much knowledge the predictor possesses, it is random."
It can be predicted if one knows what is going on inside the mind of the person in question; however, this prediction may not necessarily come true.

"My opponent is just saying that he felt like he was making a choice. This is most likely an illusion. My opponent has not proved that it was his choice; he simply made the statement. Even if he feels like it was his choice, the logic of my point cannot be simply discarded. Personal feelings are subjective. Logic is not. Thus, my logic overrides my opponent's personal feeling."
Choice - 1. The act of choosing (http://www.merriam-webster.com...)
Choose - 2b. DECIDE (webster.com/dictionary/choose)
Decide - 1b. to select as a course of action (http://www.merriam-webster.com...)
I selected the option of accepting MTGrandP's debate; thus, I made a choice; thus, it was my choice.

"That's what I did, before my opponent proceeded to ignore my proof based on a personal feeling."
I have now made an attempt to overthrow your proof.

"Or my opponent just has the illusion of making decisions. Irrespective, my opponent's claim has no evidence behind it."
See above.

"I thank my opponent for this link. It's not entirely relevant to the debate, but I had not previously found that page, and it's a good resource for arguments on both sides."
A page discussing both sides of the free will debate is very relevant.

"My opponent has not justified this statement. If both sides have equal arguments, why should the vote go to PRO? Should it not go to neither side?"
Fair point. I guess that if we come to no conclusion, the vote goes to the better arguer, else a tie.

"I would like to point out that my opponent has made no real arguments."
Only by your opinion of what real means.

"Free will occurs when we make decisions where the ultimate decision comes down to our desires and not external factors. But where do our desires come from? External factors? That's not free will. Previous desires? Where did those come from? Eventually, we get to either a cause that came out of nothing or to an external factor. A cause out of nothing is random, since it is not based on anything, and is therefore not free will; external factors are not free will either."
Actually, just because our desires are impacted by external factors, doesn't mean that we can't choose whether to act on them or not. The video did not state that free will was impossible; it only said that by his logic, any free will we have is trivial. Trivial free will is still free will.

Another Argument:
"According to Dennett, because individuals have the ability to act differently from what anyone expects, free will can exist.
People can do what nobody would have expected, by their own free will, based on their ethics and morals. Not all of these things are introduced by others, because they had to have started somewhere.

"This was evidenced by a study conducted by Benjamin Libet. It is an argument against free will, and also helps to demonstrate why my opponent's 'choice' about accepting this debate was quite possibly an illusion: the subjects in this study thought they were making a conscious decision even when they weren't, so the same is possible for my opponent."
From Wikipedia:
"The interpretation of these findings has been criticized by Daniel Dennett, who argues that people will have to shift their attention from their intention to the clock, and that this introduces temporal mismatches between the felt experience of will and the perceived position of the clock hand. Consistent with this argument, subsequent studies have shown that the exact numerical value varies depending on attention."

"I now offer an argument that my case does not rely on, but is interesting nonetheless. If we assume that free will does not exist, what should we do? What we think are our decisions are not really our decisions, so "our" decisions don't matter. There are only two logical courses of action that I see.

1. Stop trying to do anything. Just stop moving and breathing. Nothing is really our decision, so why bother?
2. Assume that free will exists and continue doing what you would do anyway.

If free will does not exist, then it doesn't matter whether we choose (1) or (2). If free will does exist, then (2) is the best choice. So even if the chance of free will existing is incredibly small, (2) is still the best choice."
Interesting. I guess that we should live life to the fullest, then.

Also, by your definition of free will, one must only be capable of rational thought when making choices to have free will. I used rational thought when I considered the consequences of accepting this debate, and finally made my decision. Thus, free will!
Debate Round No. 2
MTGandP

Con

". . . I am saying that free will may exist in anything that has life."
Why is something living any different than something nonliving? The difference between life and no life is not discrete: something can be partially alive. For example, viruses are partially alive, but not completely since they do not have enough genetic material to reproduce on their own. So at what point does free will become possible? Unlike life, free will is discrete. So there is some level of life (or consciousness, or mental capacity) when free will is impossible, and a slightly higher level of life where it is possible. That is, if free will is possible at all.

Why should free will be possible in living beings? Last I checked, living beings are still made of elementary particles.

"You need to back up your determinism claim."
The first cause is a single event, and there can only be one effect. If there's more than one effect, they become predictable. If there are effects caused by the first effect, they also become predictable since they are not derived from a first cause, and are instead derived from the effect of a first cause.

"It can be predicted if one knows what is going on inside the mind of the person in question; however, this prediction may not necessarily come true."
I think we need to define random.

Random: Randomness is a lack of order, purpose, cause, or predictability. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Random

If the prediction doesn't come true, then it's random. Free will cannot be simply random. Randomness is not freedom.

"I selected the option of accepting MTGrandP's debate; thus, I made a choice; thus, it was my choice."
But was it a choice from free will? Free will is not necessary for a choice, only for a free choice. (My previous definition of "choice" was inadequate; I meant "free choice" or "choice from free will".) For example, computer programs make choices all the time. If I write an if/then statement into a computer program and then give it input, it makes a choice: it selects a course of action. It does not freely select a course of action, though.

"I have now made an attempt to overthrow your proof."
No matter how much evidence my opponent provides, my opponent must counter my logical proof. Evidence, while frequently being enough, is not absolute. Logic is absolute. A logical proof overrides all other forms of proof. My opponent must counter my proof.

"Only by your opinion of what real means."
By my opinion, arguments based personal feelings or perceptions are not real arguments. My opponent simply stated that he was making a choice. I agree that my opponent made a choice by his definition, but was it a free choice?

"Actually, just because our desires are impacted by external factors, doesn't mean that we can't choose whether to act on them or not. The video did not state that free will was impossible; it only said that by his logic, any free will we have is trivial. Trivial free will is still free will."
I was not saying that the video was an argument. I was saying where I got my argument from. And yes, my logic is not exactly the same as the logic in the video. My logic for this point currently stands unrefuted.

"According to Dennett, because individuals have the ability to act differently from what anyone expects, free will can exist.
People can do what nobody would have expected, by their own free will, based on their ethics and morals. Not all of these things are introduced by others, because they had to have started somewhere."
They were not expected, but that doesn't mean they were not expectable. With enough information, it is possible that the seemingly unusual choices could have been predicted. For example, if the sun suddenly exploded, it would be unexpected. We -- besides being dead -- would have no idea what caused it. But we would still assume that there was a cause, since we generally don't see things happen without a cause.

"The interpretation of these findings has been criticized by Daniel Dennett, who argues that people will have to shift their attention from their intention to the clock, and that this introduces temporal mismatches between the felt experience of will and the perceived position of the clock hand. Consistent with this argument, subsequent studies have shown that the exact numerical value varies depending on attention."
I was aware of this quote, but did not think it important, because of the sentence that directly follows: "Despite the differences in the exact numerical value, however, the main finding has held."

***

Baggins in the comment section has pointed out to me that the judges are possibly biased. The idea of not having free will is scary. Even I agree with that. But we cannot avoid the truth simply because we don't like it. I ask the judges to ensure that they vote in an unbiased manner. Remember my argument in round two, about why even if free will doesn't exist, we might as well act as though it does.

***

Everything is either caused by something else, or is unpredictable and therefore random. I have a quote from http://www.juliansanchez.com... that sums it up pretty well: "The argument is that the idea of a process that is simultaneously "free"� in the sense of being undetermined by the brain's previous physical states and a "choice"� in the sense of being an action of the agent, as opposed to a simply random occurrence, is incoherent."

To refute my main argument, my opponent must either prove that there is some third option or that cause and effect do not work in the way we think, and instead work in a way that allows for free will. Until one of these criteria is filled, free will is proven impossible and the vote goes to CON. If my opponent refutes this point, these two arguments still stand:
1. Desires must come from somewhere. So either there is an infinite regress, or the ultimate source of desire is external.

2. What we think is free will is frequently our subconscious mind making the decision before our conscious mind does.

Another argument:
This is Nietzsche's argument against free will, from http://plato.stanford.edu... For a human's free will to truly be free, it must be caused by nothing; if it had a cause, it would be predictable. Therefore, it must be its own cause or have no cause. But humans are not their own cause, so where does their free will come from? Nowhere? That not only doesn't make sense, but is randomness and therefore not free will.

Given this evidence and the proofs that I have provided, free will cannot exist. I have offered three logical proofs and some empirical evidence. If one of my proofs stands unrefuted by the end of this debate, then I have proven that free will does not exist. Vote CON!
mongeese

Pro

Why is something living any different than something nonliving?..."
Yes, free will doesn't really exist in viruses. I already said that I don't know where in living beings the line is drawn for free will and not free will. I'm guessing that everything that is an animal has some free will.

"Why should free will be possible in living beings? Last I checked, living beings are still made of elementary particles."
Yes, but they can think, which is something that non-living things can't do. A rock doesn't have the ability to think. Animals have the ability to think. Humans have the ability to postulate.

"The first cause is a single event, and there can only be one effect. If there's more than one effect, they become predictable. If there are effects caused by the first effect, they also become predictable since they are not derived from a first cause, and are instead derived from the effect of a first cause."
Ah, but your mind is capable of creating secondary causes, which are things you decide that are somewhat influenced by your surroundings, which is free will. I can read Great Expectations, OR I can read America Alone, and it is my decisions, and both of those choices will have different effects on the rest of my life.

"I think we need to define random.

Random: Randomness is a lack of order, purpose, cause, or predictability. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Random

If the prediction doesn't come true, then it's random. Free will cannot be simply random. Randomness is not freedom."
Just because something can't be predicted by others doesn't mean that it wasn't the person's choice, though. Let's say that free will does in fact exist. That means that I can't predict what my friend will do, because he makes his own choices, and I don't know them. That is how free will can coincide with "randomness."

"But was it a choice from free will? Free will is not necessary for a choice, only for a free choice. (My previous definition of 'choice' was inadequate; I meant 'free choice' or 'choice from free will'.) For example, computer programs make choices all the time. If I write an if/then statement into a computer program and then give it input, it makes a choice: it selects a course of action. It does not freely select a course of action, though."
Ah, but my mind is not a computer program, and if it is, I am the one who programmed it, after it was created, and thus, it does what I want it to, so I still have free will.

"No matter how much evidence my opponent provides, my opponent must counter my logical proof. Evidence, while frequently being enough, is not absolute. Logic is absolute. A logical proof overrides all other forms of proof. My opponent must counter my proof."
I thought that that was what I was overthrowing.

"I was not saying that the video was an argument. I was saying where I got my argument from. And yes, my logic is not exactly the same as the logic in the video. My logic for this point currently stands unrefuted."
Well, you made the video part of your argument, and so I countered it. And by now, it is unclear exactly what piece of logic to mean to be yours, as there are several that I have refuted, and I don't know which one wasn't good enough. Please be clearer as to your wants.

"They were not expected, but that doesn't mean they were not expectable. With enough information, it is possible that the seemingly unusual choices could have been predicted. For example, if the sun suddenly exploded, it would be unexpected. We -- besides being dead -- would have no idea what caused it. But we would still assume that there was a cause, since we generally don't see things happen without a cause."
Well, of course there is a cause, but maybe the cause was something that somebody thought. There is obviously a limited number of possible outcomes, and you could identify what could happen, but the event that DOES happen is up to free will.

"I was aware of this quote, but did not think it important, because of the sentence that directly follows: 'Despite the differences in the exact numerical value, however, the main finding has held.'"
Oh.
So, in a random test, where a person needs to pick a random time, he lets the subconscious take over. However, this doesn't really apply to real, important decisions, such as which car to buy, or which college to go to, or whether to play golf or do chores.

"Baggins in the comment section has pointed out to me that the judges are possibly biased. The idea of not having free will is scary. Even I agree with that. But we cannot avoid the truth simply because we don't like it. I ask the judges to ensure that they vote in an unbiased manner. Remember my argument in round two, about why even if free will doesn't exist, we might as well act as though it does."
Agreed. I hate bias.

"Everything is either caused by something else, or is unpredictable and therefore random."
About your quote, just because past experience has a large impact on what you do, doesn't mean that you don't still have a final say. You make the final decision, no matter what the facts are.

"To refute my main argument, my opponent must either prove that there is some third option or that cause and effect do not work in the way we think, and instead work in a way that allows for free will. Until one of these criteria is filled, free will is proven impossible and the vote goes to CON."
Okay, then. There was a first cause, caused by a divine being triggering the universe, and the divine being had free will. Then, when he created life, each of those beings had their own ability to make choices in their lives, although their situation has an impact on their decisions. Ultimately, though, they have a limited free will, which is free will.

"1. Desires must come from somewhere. So either there is an infinite regress, or the ultimate source of desire is external."
You still have the free will of whether to go with your desires or not.

"2. What we think is free will is frequently our subconscious mind making the decision before our conscious mind does."
This can be applied to random decisions, but has yet to be applied to something like a math test or personality test, in which the answers are not random.

"This is Nietzsche's argument against free will, from http://plato.stanford.edu... For a human's free will to truly be free, it must be caused by nothing; if it had a cause, it would be predictable. Therefore, it must be its own cause or have no cause. But humans are not their own cause, so where does their free will come from? Nowhere? That not only doesn't make sense, but is randomness and therefore not free will."
Your definition of free will said that all that is required is the ability to think to make a choice, and your further definition said that it must not be "wholly determined by external conditions." This allows for free will to be influenced by one's life and still be free will.

"Given this evidence and the proofs that I have provided, free will cannot exist. I have offered three logical proofs and some empirical evidence. If one of my proofs stands unrefuted by the end of this debate, then I have proven that free will does not exist. Vote CON!"
I have countered my opponent's logical proofs to the best of my ability. I may have succeeded; I may have not. It depends on who reads the debate. I encourage all votes to exercise their free will by reading this debate, then considering this debate, and coming up with their own votes largely influenced by the debate. Although, I would prefer a PRO vote. :)

Thank you for this wonderful debate.
Debate Round No. 3
7 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Posted by lemonlimetoast 7 years ago
lemonlimetoast
what an interesting debate! i've never considered it before. it seems we don't have free will even if god dosen't exist.
Posted by mongeese 7 years ago
mongeese
Yeah, but it is evident that some voters disagree.
Posted by MTGandP 7 years ago
MTGandP
"The point is, grammar or conduct? Which one was it?"
When I personally voted, I gave myself arguments and sources, and put conduct and grammar at a tie. I think your conduct was fine, and so was your grammar.
Posted by mongeese 7 years ago
mongeese
Wow, I must have done a whole lot worse that I thought.

So, five votes gave my opponent 32 points. That makes 3 sixes and 2 sevens, or 1 five, 2 sixes, and 2 sevens, or 2 fives, 1 six, and 2 sevens, or whatever.

The point is, grammar or conduct? Which one was it?
Posted by fisher 7 years ago
fisher
Your brain actually knows what it is going to before you make the decision in your mind. Before you think of moving your brain already knows you are about to move. I watched a documentary on it a little while ago. Maybe that is why you don't have any points lol.
Posted by mongeese 7 years ago
mongeese
I just want to say, I'm a bit surprised that my opponent got six points in each of two votes. Which one did I fail in, grammar or conduct? And where?
Posted by baggins 7 years ago
baggins
@ MTGandP

At the end of this post - I might insult you or praise you. I think it is up to me to choose - what to do. You want to tell me it is not!

A very interesting topic ...

And my decision - No comments!
8 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Vote Placed by lemonlimetoast 7 years ago
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Vote Placed by MTGandP 7 years ago
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Vote Placed by mongeese 7 years ago
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