The Instigator
MTGandP
Con (against)
Tied
25 Points
The Contender
feverish
Pro (for)
Tied
25 Points

Free will probably exists in humans.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/5/2009 Category: Science
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 2,986 times Debate No: 8889
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (37)
Votes (10)

 

MTGandP

Con

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.
feverish

Pro

Warm greetings to my opponent as well as hearty thanks for instigating what I hope will be a very interesting debate.

I do not claim to be any kind of philosopher or deep thinker and would not normally be brave enough to accept a debate on an issue such as this. The resolution, however has emboldened me as I do not have to prove that free will definitely exists, merely that there is a good chance (high probability) that it does.

I'll keep this first round fairly brief and respond to my opponent's well set-out first round before making points of my own.

-----------------
1. Determinism.

I agree that all actions must be provoked by some kind of stimulus, so yes every event has a cause.

My opponent has however (I believe incorrectly) deduced from this initial premise that the causal chain of events is strictly linear and that for every cause there is only one possible outcome. This is the point I would dispute strongly.

While some stimuli will produce an easily predictable response, (for example if Bill pokes Ben in the arm with a needle, it will hurt Ben and he will instinctively flinch and move away) others can produce a variety of reactions and are much more difficult to predict, ( how Ben subsequently responds to the stimulus of pain is a good example. Does he smack Bill in the chops, run off crying, try to appease Bill etc.) A probable reason for the multitude of responses (from Ben) is free will.

----
2: First Cause.

Nothing to argue with here as this provides no proof (or even suggestion) of the impossibility of free will.

-----

3. Randomness.

Ah, now we come to a crucial point. My opponent says "randomness is not free will, it is just randomness."

I contend that when rational beings choose to behave in a random manner the only possible cause can be free will.

Obviously a random natural disaster is not the result of free will but I would hold that a random murder is. It may have a multitude of causes ( believe me I am not someone who underestimates the impact that environment has on our actions) but at some point a rational being made a decision to kill.

My opponent states that randomness is not a synonym for free will and he is right, however to take the implication from this that the two are mutually exclusive is not remotely logical and he needs to explain this conclusion in a more satisfactory manner.

------

I believe I am a "rational agent" although I am prepared to accept the possibility that I am deluding myself.

I believe that while I have many involuntary and inevitable responses and reactions to different situations and stimuli (internal and external), I am still in many cases "capable of choosing a course of action from among various alternatives." Examples of this can be mundane (everyday) or profound (life affecting).

---

Mundane example:

If I am hungry I can respond to this stimulus in many ways because I have free will. I may have a limited amount of choices as to what I am able to eat but they are still multiple (unless the cupboards are especially bare that week).

I may choose to take time to prepare myself a nutritious and satisfying meal or I may decide to throw a frozen pizza in the oven. If I am feeling particularly rich or lazy I could even call for a tastier pizza to be delivered.

My decision may be influenced by a compound of external pressures and internal desires but thanks to free will I am able to weigh up the decision and make the choice that I like best at the time. This choice may be random or sensible and calculated but either way I am exercising my free will.

---
Profound (ish) example:

As a teenager I made a decision to start smoking. Peer pressure exists and it is natural for youths to act rebelliously but I made a free choice to take up an activity that I knew to be damaging to my health and also addictive.

I still smoke now.

I would like to stop smoking (especially tobacco) because it is pointless and could quite possibly lead to a premature and painful death. 'A-ha!' you may say, 'so if you would like to stop and can't because you are addicted you have no free will" but this is not true.

Many people who were heavily addicted have given up. Although I am ashamed to say it, I still smoke through choice and have only made one semi-serious effort to stop. The meagre satisfaction and stress relief it provides may be a cause but it is my own free will to weigh these things in the balance and make my decision.

---

Free will probably exists also because I have chosen to accept this debate, I could easily have chosen not to and done something more worthwhile but I didn't, I am however choosing to end my first round now.

Thankyou.
Debate Round No. 1
MTGandP

Con

"My opponent has however (I believe incorrectly) deduced from this initial premise that the causal chain of events is strictly linear and that for every cause there is only one possible outcome. This is the point I would dispute strongly."
I am unclear as to whether "for every cause there are multiple possible outcomes" means that there are several outcomes that arise simultaneously, or whether it means that there are several possible outcomes, any one of which could occur. I will assume the former, and later address the latter.

My proof does not require that every cause has only one possible outcome; many causes produce multiple outcomes, and many outcomes are the result of multiple causes. This in no way refutes my proof.

"While some stimuli will produce an easily predictable response, (for example if Bill pokes Ben in the arm with a needle, it will hurt Ben and he will instinctively flinch and move away) others can produce a variety of reactions and are much more difficult to predict, ( how Ben subsequently responds to the stimulus of pain is a good example. Does he smack Bill in the chops, run off crying, try to appease Bill etc.)"
They are more difficult to predict, and perhaps even impossible in practice, but are still theoretically predictable given all relevant information. But if an outcome is not predictable, it is random, and therefore not free will. (More on randomness later.)

"A probable reason for the multitude of responses (from Ben) is free will."
Former meaning: Refuted above.
Latter meaning: If there are multiple possible outcomes, then there is more information after the event than before it. This requires a creation of information; not only does this go against the first law of thermodynamics, but any truly new information is by necessity truly random. To put this more simply, imagine adding 2 and 3. 2 + 3 = 5. But what if 2 + 3 = 5 OR 6? This requires the creation of information; 2 + 3 alone cannot come up with 6.

========
2: First Cause.

This is effectively the same as a random event (since it came out of nowhere and therefore had no influences), so it can be combined with point 3.

========
3: Randomness.

"I contend that when rational beings choose to behave in a random manner the only possible cause can be free will."
While valid, this statement begs the question. A better way to phrase it would be, "when rational beings act in a random manner the only possible cause can be free will." I will rebut this revised sentence in the next paragraph.

If information arises out of nothing, it is random. Information arising out of nothing may *seem* impossible, but it probably indeed does happen (in quantum mechanics) and is still an alternative to free will. But more importantly, my opponent has not shown how entities possessing free will are even capable of acting randomly while still maintaining control over decisions.

The only reason I bring up randomness is that it is the only possible alternative to determinism. My opponent must show determinism to be probably false before the randomness argument even matters. Until my opponent shows that determinism is probably false, victory defaults to CON. Subsequently, if determinism is shown to be false, the only possible alternative is that events are random. At that point, these arguments become relevant.

"My opponent states that randomness is not a synonym for free will and he is right, however to take the implication from this that the two are mutually exclusive is not remotely logical and he needs to explain this conclusion in a more satisfactory manner."
If an outcome is selected randomly, the ultimate decision is not being made by the rational entity; the outcome would be random whether or not the entity was rational. It directly follows from the definition of free will that randomness is never equated with free will.

========

My opponent's examples are not true arguments. They are in fact already refuted: "I am prepared to accept the possibility that I am deluding myself." His observation that he is making choices is an illusion.

"As a teenager I made a decision to start smoking. Peer pressure exists and it is natural for youths to act rebelliously but I made a free choice to take up an activity that I knew to be damaging to my health and also addictive."
It was not a free choice. My opponent merely was under the illusion that it was a free choice. However, I have proven that free choice is impossible, making this example and all other examples irrelevant.

----

Benjamin Libet, a neuroscientist at the University of California, found compelling evidence to suggest that what we perceive as being a conscious choice is in fact not. His study found that people's decisions were predetermined by about a half-second; what they thought was a conscious choice was in fact a calculation by the subconscious mind [1], [2].

[1] http://www.nytimes.com...
[2] http://www.consciousentities.com...
feverish

Pro

Thanks to my opponent for his prompt response.

It is clear that Pro and Con both bear the burden of proof in this debate.

In supporting the resolution I have only to prove that free will is probable, not that it is certain to exist. I have already made several examples of the likelihood of free will, most of which my opponent has avoided responding to.

In contrast my opponent has categorically stated that free will is impossible but he has given no evidence to back up this assertion.

Proving that one thing can be determined from another does not prove the impossibility of free will.

Proving that a first cause was random does not prove the impossibility of free will.

------------

Con: " I am unclear as to whether "for every cause there are multiple possible outcomes" means that there are several outcomes that arise simultaneously, or whether it means that there are several possible outcomes, any one of which could occur."

It can mean both; like randomness and free will, the two things are not mutually exclusive.

----
Con: "This in no way refutes my proof."

I have seen no proof to refute, I was refuting what I felt was implied by your first argument.

----
Con: "They are more difficult to predict, and perhaps even impossible in practice, but are still theoretically predictable given all relevant information."

I'm glad you agree about the difficulty of prediction, the point is that whatever you predict, Ben can choose to act differently.

----
Con: "But if an outcome is not predictable, it is random, and therefore not free will."

There is no logic in saying if A is not B; it is C and therefore not D. Again, not mutually exclusive.

----
Con: "Former meaning: Refuted above."

I must have missed this.

----

Con: "If there are multiple possible outcomes, then there is more information after the event than before it."

I apologise that I cannot comprehend what you mean here. An event occurring surely creates new information?
Are you using these words in some technical way I do not understand?

----

Con: "To put this more simply, imagine adding 2 and 3. 2 3 = 5. But what if 2 3 = 5 OR 6? This requires the creation of information; 2 3 alone cannot come up with 6."

Humans behave somewhat differently to integers. Numbers are easy (ish) to predict because they have no free will or even sensory functions, humans are a little more complicated.

=====
2: First Cause.

Con: "This is effectively the same as a random event (since it came out of nowhere and therefore had no influences), so it can be combined with point 3."

So why does point 2 exist? First cause is an example of one random event, in no way am I disputing that random events occur. This is irrelevant to free will.

====
3: Randomness.

I accept that my initial statement: "when rational beings choose to behave in a random manner the only possible cause can be free will" was worded in a biased manner, but do not accept that "when rational beings act in a random manner the only possible cause can be free will." because I believe it may be possible for humans to act randomly involuntarily as well as by choice.
---

Con: "my opponent has not shown how entities possessing free will are even capable of acting randomly while still maintaining control over decisions."

I believe I provided a good example by showing that I can make a choice over what meal to eat, this is random in the sense that my decision is not pre-determined. Con chose to ignore this example completely.

In terms of people committing completely random acts they do not need to have control in order to exercise free will.

For example if a gunman randomly fires into a crowd he may have little control over who gets hit but he has still chosen to shoot.
If I randomly mash my hand over the keyboard to produce the following:" ujazwora\wydchk " then I have little control over what random letters appear but I have still chosen to produce a random selection of symbols rather than conventional words and grammar.

---
Con: "If information arises out of nothing, it is random. Information arising out of nothing may *seem* impossible, but it probably indeed does happen (in quantum mechanics) and is still an alternative to free will"

I agree. It is an alternative, just like determinism. Neither proves the impossibility of free will.

---

Con: "The only reason I bring up randomness is that it is the only possible alternative to determinism."

This is not true and Con has not explained a rational basis for this opinion.

----

Con: "My opponent must show determinism to be probably false before the randomness argument even matters. "

I disagree, I believe much (though not everything) to be pre-determined and don't see at all how this negates (or somehow defines) randomness or free will.

---

Con: "Until my opponent shows that determinism is probably false, victory defaults to CON. Subsequently, if determinism is shown to be false, the only possible alternative is that events are random. At that point, these arguments become relevant."

My opponent seems to be arguing from an almost faith based position, his assertions are not automatically correct. He has not proved that they are true, much less how they rule out the possibility of free will. It is up to the voters to decide whether my points are relevant to the likelihood of free will existing as I believe they are.

---

Con: "If an outcome is selected randomly, the ultimate decision is not being made by the rational entity; the outcome would be random whether or not the entity was rational. It directly follows from the definition of free will that randomness is never equated with free will."

The result of the action may not be controllable but the choice to act in a manner that produces the random result is. The definition of free will posted says nothing about controlling outcomes, merely about the capacity "to choose a course of action". It does not follow at all.

====

Con: "My opponent's examples are not true arguments. They are in fact already refuted: "I am prepared to accept the possibility that I am deluding myself." His observation that he is making choices is an illusion."

It is a severe misrepresentation to hold this up as any kind of concession. The burden my opponent has given me is to prove the probability not the certain fact. Me stating the remote possibility that I may be wrong does not affect the probable alternative that I am right. As an agnostic I choose to remain open to all possibilities, however far fetched, which is one reason that this debate appealed to me.

If my opponent wishes to seriously argue that my experience of free will is an illusion and base his theory that free will is impossible around it, then he will have to prove how every decision I make is actually not really my own.

----

Con: "It was not a free choice. My opponent merely was under the illusion that it was a free choice. However, I have proven that free choice is impossible, making this example and all other examples irrelevant."

My opponent chooses to ignore my whole case on the grounds that I have accepted the possibility that I am wrong (despite his resolution stating I do not have to prove otherwise) and that his other (invalid) arguments prove otherwise.

I do not think this is a strong argument or good debate conduct.

Please extend my earlier examples of murder, choosing a meal, remaining a smoker and participating in this debate as well as the many further examples that can be inferred from these by applying common sense.

My opponent has not "proven that free choice is impossible" he has merely stated it.

---

When my opponent deigns to address the points I made in the previous round I will be pleased to refute the points raised by his source as they apply to this debate.

Thanks.
Pro.
Debate Round No. 2
MTGandP

Con

I am going to attempt to rephrase my core argument to make it easier to understand. I will also address the points in round 2 that my opponent claims I did not address.

Determinism
If an event is caused by a preceding event, then it is predictable. An entity with free will must be capable of acting unpredictably; but if every even is caused by a preceding event or set of events, then it is predictable.

Randomness
If an event is predictable, then it is not random. If an event is not predictable, then it is unpredictable. A random event is one which is fundamentally unpredictable, even given all relevant information. Randomness can be seen as the ultimate unpredictability. So for free will to exist, an entity must be capable of acting randomly. However, if an entity is merely selecting a choice in a completely random manner, this is not a free, rational choice. Since randomness (unpredictability) is the only alternative to determinism (predictability), this leaves no other option. Free will cannot exist.

A rational actor cannot choose randomly and still be in control. If an outcome is random, then it cannot be ultimately based on any preceding event, or else it would be predictable. So for an outcome to be truly random, it must be ultimately based on nothing. But if it is based on nothing, then the entity has no way of controlling what the outcome is: if the entity tries to control it, then it will be based on something, and will become predictable. In essence, there is no possible way for an entity to be both random and in control. And if an entity is in control, then the entity is predictable, and still not free.

"I must have missed this."
It was in my second paragraph in round 2.

"I apologise that I cannot comprehend what you mean here. An event occurring surely creates new information?
Are you using these words in some technical way I do not understand?"
I was referring to randomness in terms of information theory. I address the original point just after my randomness paragraph.

"Humans behave somewhat differently to integers. Numbers are easy (ish) to predict because they have no free will or even sensory functions, humans are a little more complicated."
It begs the question to assume that humans have free will.

"So why does point 2 exist?"
Just forget about it.

"I believe I provided a good example by showing that I can make a choice over what meal to eat, this is random in the sense that my decision is not pre-determined."
I apologize for ignoring my opponent's examples before; at the time, I did not feel them worth rebutting. I will offer a more complex rebuttal of my opponent's examples.

My opponent chose what meal to eat; maybe the choice was random (more likely it just appeared random due to the butterfly effect [1]); but was it free will? My opponent's example only serves to prove that a decision was made that appeared to be random. Even if it was truly random, it could merely have been a selection made by some sort of random mechanism, and in fact I would say that it would have to have been: as I explain in my "randomness" section above, free will cannot be random since no rational choice is being made.

It is worth noting, also, that my opponent's choice of meat probably in fact was pre-determined and only appeared random because so many factors were involved in the decision. Dr. Libet's research has found that supposedly conscious decisions are frequently not conscious; they are made by the subconscious shortly before the conscious mind makes them. This is not meant to serve as a proof; it is merely used to illustrate how it is possible that people seem to be making free, rational choices when they truly aren't.

"In terms of people committing completely random acts they do not need to have control in order to exercise free will."
Definitionally, the entity must be in control to be exhibiting free will: "the ultimate decision comes down to the rational actor". If the choice is being made randomly, the entity is not in control.

"The result of the action may not be controllable but the choice to act in a manner that produces the random result is."
Unless the choice to act randomly is itself random, it is predictable. Predictability is not compatible with free will: if an outside entity with absolute knowledge is capable of predicting every move you make, then you're not really choosing freely, are you?

"If my opponent wishes to seriously argue that my experience of free will is an illusion and base his theory that free will is impossible around it, then he will have to prove how every decision I make is actually not really my own."
This is not at all what I have done, though. I have logically proven that free will is impossible.

********

[1] Butterfly effect (http://en.wikipedia.org...): "Small variations of the initial condition of a dynamical system may produce large variations in the long term behavior of the system. This is sometimes presented as esoteric behavior, but can be exhibited by very simple systems: for example, a ball placed at the crest of a hill might roll into any of several valleys depending on slight differences in initial position."
feverish

Pro

Thanks MTGandP for your thoughtful arguments. This is indeed turning out to be an enjoyable debate.

=====
Determinism.

I now understand Con's argument to be that because every event is predictable, free will is impossible.

However he has already stated in a previous round that some human actions are "more difficult to predict, and
perhaps even impossible [to predict] in practice."

He seems therefore to be conceding that, while free will may be theoretically impossible (because all events are "still
theoretically predictable given all relevant information") for practical, human purposes, events are unpredictable so
free will may indeed be a possibility.

Additionally I do not think there is any foundation to my opponent's assertion that an "entity with free will must be capable of acting unpredictably".
He needs to explain why a predictable action can not be selected freely by it's agent.

====

Randomness.

My opponent seems to be confusing action with outcome.

A calculated action can have a random outcome.

---
Con: "if an entity is merely selecting a choice in a completely random manner, this is not a free, rational choice."

Agreed. This entity may however make a free choice to perform an action that creates a random event as per my keyboard splurge in the previous round.

---
Con: "randomness (unpredictability) is the only alternative to determinism (predictability), this leaves no other option."

Saying it does not make it so, there is another option: choice.

---
Con: "A rational actor cannot choose randomly and still be in control."

He does not need to be in control, he (or she) may choose to relinquish control.

---
Con: "It was in my second paragraph in round 2."

The fact that my opponent's supposed proof "does not require that every cause has only one possible outcome" in no way refutes that the most probable cause for the wide array of responses available to Ben is free will.

---
"I was referring to randomness in terms of information theory."..."It begs the question to assume that humans have free will."

It seems a more reasonable assumption to me than to assume that human beings will behave in the same way as numbers.

---
"My opponent's example only serves to prove that a decision was made that appeared to be random."

The point is not that the decision appeared to be random but that it appeared to be chosen. Of course it's not truly random if my decision is based on balancing my financial restraints against my desires but it is a decision I have freely chosen to make.

---
"Predictability is not compatible with free will: if an outside entity with absolute knowledge is capable of predicting every move you make, then you're not really choosing freely, are you?"

Personally, I don't think entities with absolute knowledge are likely to be possible so I'm not sure why we should create such an unnecessary entity in this debate.

My opponent accepts that human actions can be impossible to predict in practical terms, therefore "in humans" not everything is predictable or truly random therefore free will probably exists.

---
"I have logically proven that free will is impossible."

I disagree and I think anyone reading this debate thoroughly will conclude that my opponent has proved nothing.

===
Con's sources.

I read the articles on Libet's experiments with great interest and was forced to wonder whether my opponent had read them from top to bottom himself.

[2] http://www.consciousentities.com... despite unashamedly supporting Libet's theories raises many prudent questions about the research and in particular how the findings are interpreted. The most notable being:

"Is the RP really a signal that a decision has been made?"
"Might not the RP merely signal a quickening of attention, rather than a moment of decision? "
"isn't it possible that we need a certain amount of time just in order to report the awareness to ourselves?"

Libet himself is reported as believing in free will in this article if only at a limited level.

"He rightly points out that free will is important partly because it underpins the idea of moral responsibility: but morality, he suggests, is mainly a matter of vetoing things we have a built-in tendency to do."

The fact that a decision is formed unconsciously, milliseconds before it is perceived by the conscious mind does not disprove free will. The decision is still arising within the brain of the individual and humans have the power of veto over their own decisions.

[1] http://www.nytimes.com... ] confirms this further, again quoting Libet: "Dr. Libet said his results left room for a limited version of free will in the form of a veto power over what we sense ourselves doing. In effect, the unconscious brain proposes and the mind disposes."

This seems to be similar to what I have been maintaining within this debate, I do not dispute that determinism and randomness exist and I do not believe in the "Libertarian Free Will" described in these articles but I have proven the extreme probability of "a particular sort of capacity of rational agents to choose a course of action from among various alternatives."

There is more from my opponent's two sources to back up my own position:

"Mark Hallett, a researcher with the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, said, "Free will does exist, but it's a perception, not a power or a driving force. People experience free will. They have the sense they are free."

"The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said, as Einstein paraphrased it, that "a human can very well do what he wants, but cannot will what he wants."

If you can do what you want that means you can choose a course action. Obviously you can't will your way to success but you can choose to do the best you are able.

"A vote in favor of free will comes from some physicists, who say it is a prerequisite for inventing theories and planning experiments."

---

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

The butterfly effect proves some level of determinism which I do not dispute, it does not disprove free will as I have already argued.

====
Some sources of my own:

Daniel Dennett, ( http://en.wikipedia.org... ) a US philosophy professor who was also quoted in my opponent's source, has researched the subject thoroughly coming from a determinist background and has made some excellent arguments about free will.

In Elbow Room ( http://en.wikipedia.org... ) he argues that because humans do have the ability to act contrary to how we might expect or predict them to, they do in fact have some degree of free will, some room to manoeuvre, (hence the elbow room of the title.)

Does this argument sound familiar?

---

http://books.google.co.uk...

"the question of whether determinism is true is not the only question in free will debates. One must also consider whether determinism really does conflict with free will" etc. It won't let me copy paste and I'm running out of characters but the point is extended on page 6 of this book.

=====
My previous examples.

To successfully counter my examples my opponent needs to show why it would be impossible for an individual not to decide against performing an action just before it is performed.

At the point of pulling the trigger a gunman can decide not to.
At the point of putting a pizza in the oven, I can decide to phone out for one instead.
At the point of putting on one record, I can decide to put on a different one.
I can choose to submit this argument now or wait for the last possible moment to do so.
There were more but that will do for now.

Thanks again to MTG and I look forward to the final round.
Debate Round No. 3
MTGandP

Con

"He seems therefore to be conceding that, while free will may be theoretically impossible (because all events are "still
theoretically predictable given all relevant information") for practical, human purposes, events are unpredictable so
free will may indeed be a possibility."
This is a very interesting point. However, it is still invalid. Free cannot exist if events are fundamentally predictable, whether predictable in practice or not.

"Additionally I do not think there is any foundation to my opponent's assertion that an 'entity with free will must be capable of acting unpredictably'."
As my opponent asserts, a being with free will will act predictably sometimes. I agree. However, my own assertion is that for an entity to have free will, it must be at least CAPABLE of acting truly unpredictably. If it is not, then its actions are entirely determinable; definitionally, if its actions are entirely determinable, then it does not possess free will. But, of course, if a being acts truly unpredictably, then it is not exercising free will (as explained/debated in the randomness section).

====

Randomness.

"A calculated action can have a random outcome."
And if it's calculated, then it's predictable and therefore not free will. In the end, this point is irrelevant to my case.

"Con: 'if an entity is merely selecting a choice in a completely random manner, this is not a free, rational choice.'

Agreed."
This concession negates the resolution once and for all. Everything is either unpredictable (random) or predictable. In either case, it is not free will, and my opponent has conceded in both cases. His argument that a predictable event can lead to a random outcome is irrelevant.

"Con: 'randomness (unpredictability) is the only alternative to determinism (predictability), this leaves no other option.'

Saying it does not make it so, there is another option: choice."
Choice is a completely separate issue. That is similar to saying "there is another option: bacon." A choice is either predictable or unpredictable; there is nothing else that it can be.

"[A rational actor] does not need to be in control, he (or she) may choose to relinquish control."
At some point, the rational actor must be in control. I have proven that at no point is the rational actor in control.

"It seems a more reasonable assumption to me than to assume that human beings will behave in the same way as numbers."
This statement is nonsensical; numbers do not behave. And it still begs the question.

My original point was that new information cannot be created. The point is actually irrelevant to my primary case, since it supports determinism and determinism alone is not necessary for the sustenance of my case. However, I will indulge in it anyway. I was showing how information cannot be created in a numerical sense; though humans are not numbers, all information can be represented with numbers. So if you can't add 2 and 3 and get 5 OR 6, you can't have a person make a choice and have two possible outcomes. The comparison is simplified, obviously, but the main point is understood.

"The point is not that the decision appeared to be random but that it appeared to be chosen."
Choice and free will are distinct. A computer can make a choice. Only a free choice requires free will. But as I have proven, free choice is impossible.

"Personally, I don't think entities with absolute knowledge are likely to be possible so I'm not sure why we should create such an unnecessary entity in this debate."
Even if such an entity cannot exist, the entity is theoretically possible. But the entity is not really necessary for my case.

"My opponent accepts that human actions can be impossible to predict in practical terms, therefore "in humans" not everything is predictable or truly random therefore free will probably exists."
If an action is theoretically predictable but not practically predictable, then my logic still applies. If something is theoretically predictable, this just means that it is caused by a previous event or set of events, or predetermined. Even if the choice is not practically predictable, it is still predetermined.

========

I remind the reader that Libet's experiments are not particularly important, as I have proven that free will is impossible under any circumstance.

"Is the RP really a signal that a decision has been made?"
Yes.

"Might not the RP merely signal a quickening of attention, rather than a moment of decision?"
Possibly. There is not much of a reason to believe this, though. And it raises further questions, such as, Why does attention quicken 500 milliseconds before a decision is made?

"isn't it possible that we need a certain amount of time just in order to report the awareness to ourselves?"
Possibly. But evolutionarily, this makes less sense. If the subconscious reacts quickly but the conscious takes a moment to catch up, there are no real consequences. But if it takes an entire half second just to register and become aware, that is far too slow to adequately react to fast-paced stimuli (such as being chased by a bear) and most people with such a lag would be long dead.

"Libet himself is reported as believing in free will in this article if only at a limited level."
I'm sure my opponent only meant this as a side point, but nonetheless it is a baseless appeal to authority.

"He rightly points out that free will is important partly because it underpins the idea of moral responsibility: but morality, he suggests, is mainly a matter of vetoing things we have a built-in tendency to do."
This is not a legitimate argument: it is only an appeal to consequences. He only believes in free will because he thinks that something unfortunate will happen if he doesn't. But the truth is often unfortunate.

"The fact that a decision is formed unconsciously, milliseconds before it is perceived by the conscious mind does not disprove free will."
Right, that's what my proof does. Libet's study only reduces the probability of free will existing.

"Free will does exist, but it's a perception, not a power or a driving force. People experience free will. They have the sense they are free."
This is using a different definition of free will than the one that is being used for this debate.

"a human can very well do what he wants, but cannot will what he wants."
This means that he is capable of making choices based on his desires, but the choices are not free (willful). This supports the negation.

"A vote in favor of free will comes from some physicists, who say it is a prerequisite for inventing theories and planning experiments."
Theories and experiments (or the ideas for them) can be seen as results of the great problem-solver known as evolution. Besides that, I can easily refute this claim: computer programs can plan, solve problems, and even invent theorems [1].

Daniel Dennett's arguments, while interesting, do nothing to counter my proof. Let's go over it one more time:
-A choice is either predictable or unpredictable. If a choice is predictable, it is predetermined, since non-predetermined information comes out of nowhere and is therefore unpredictable.
-If it's predictable or determined, then it is not free.
-If it's unpredictable, then the choice is not a rational or free one. (My opponent conceded this point in round 3.)
This leaves no room for free will.

I request that the reader not vote based on which side they like best (which is very tempting considering the subject), but vote on who presented their case most effectively.

Resolution negated. Vote Con. Thanks for this great debate!

[1] http://www.math.rutgers.edu...
feverish

Pro

And so we come to the final debate round. I have learnt a lot throughout the course of this debate and as a result of the research it has compelled me to undertake. I hope my opponent and any readers have learnt from it too.

In this round I will not be presenting any new arguments, which would be somewhat discourteous to my opponent but will instead attempt to rebut his final points and provide a summary of the case for Pro.

===
Predictability.

My opponent concedes that in practical terms, humans are capable of acting unpredictably.

As one of his main criteria for free will seems to be that an "entity with free will must be capable of acting unpredictably" he seems to be saying that free will does exist in humans on a practical level but not on a theoretical level.

As the resolution does not clarify whether we are discussing humans on a practical or theoretical level, I believe this could be seen as conceding the entire debate.

====

Randomness.

My opponent suggests that by agreeing that a choice selected completely randomly is not free, I have negated the resolution but this is not true. I have maintained throughout that the decision to behave randomly can be freely made, Con ignores this here.

He also suggests that I have conceded that "everything is either unpredictable (random) or predictable" when I have done no such thing and have pointed out many times that choices are not always predictable.

---

Con: "randomness (unpredictability) is the only alternative to determinism (predictability), this leaves no other option."
Pro: Saying it does not make it so, there is another option: choice.
Con: "Choice is a completely separate issue. That is similar to saying "there is another option: bacon." A choice is either predictable or unpredictable; there is nothing else that it can be."

Randomness =/= unpredictability.

While everything that is truly random may be unpredictable. Not everything unpredictable is random eg. some human choices.

My opponent has illustrated my point very effectively in the above quotations. There is no way I could have predicted that he would choose to compare choice with bacon.

This probably wasn't truly random (my opponent would say it could certainly not have been) he was probably thinking about eating bacon at some point prior to his comment. The point is he chose to write it and there is no way I or any other human could have predicted it.

---

Con: "I have proven that at no point is the rational actor in control."

My opponent has proved no such thing. He has offered no contention to the question of the act of veto which is the most obvious example of this.

---

Con: "This statement is nonsensical; numbers do not behave."

I am sorry that I have to point out that a standard secondary meaning for the word is:

"2. To act, react, function, or perform in a particular way: This fabric behaves well even in hot weather."

http://www.thefreedictionary.com...

Many scientists, computer technicians and ordinary people in everyday life frequently use the word 'behave' to describe the functioning of non-rational objects, data, systems or equipment.

I would suggest that the difference between the two definitions of 'behaviour' exists because rational beings have control (free choice) over their behaviour whereas irrational objects do not. This is the point I was of course attempting to make after my opponent compared human behaviour with numbers, which he continued to do in his final post.

---

"A computer can make a choice."

I'm not going to bother pasting any more definitions but a computer certainly can't make a choice. A computer can only respond to data in the way it is programmed to, that's not choice.

My opponent seems to be arguing that humans are no different to computers in this respect, I think we probably are and would expect most people to agree.

---

Pro: Personally, I don't think entities with absolute knowledge are likely to be possible so I'm not sure why we should create such an unnecessary entity in this debate.
Con: "Even if such an entity cannot exist, the entity is theoretically possible. But the entity is not really necessary for my case."

I believe that my opponent's main argument that everything is fundamentally predictable requires us to contemplate an entity that could predict anything.

My opponent concedes that it cannot exist and I'm glad to hear it's not really necessary. I would remind my opponent of his own interpretation of Occam's razor ( a basic tool of assessing probability ) : "don't create unnecessary entities".
http://www.debate.org...

If no entity can predict every human action then I don't see how all our actions are predictable.

======
Sources.

Con: "I remind the reader that Libet's experiments are not particularly important".

I remind readers that it was my opponent who first cited Libet to back up his own arguments, not realising that he actually supported mine.

Con has conceded that none of the sources he posted (apart from definitions) supported his position.

His final source http://www.math.rutgers.edu... I can only assume is posted in error as it is bizarre and totally irrelevant.

Con accuses me of baseless appeals to authority but I would like to point out in one case I am appealing to the authority he himself cited. His attempts to rebut Libet's own opinions make little sense to me.

Con:"He only believes in free will because he thinks that something unfortunate will happen if he doesn't."

?

====
Summary.

Throughout this debate Con has basically made the same argument again and again: (para-phrased) 'Determinism or randomness there is naught else or in between.'

I have shown that his dualistic logic is flawed and it is not such a cut and dried issue.

Yes, much human behaviour can be predicted and yes a truly random action is not itself a choice, but free will does exist in the area in between.

----
I could easily in this debate have proved the resolution on semantic grounds. My opponent has conceded that the perception of free will exists in humans and also that by his own arguments free will exists on a practical level.

I do not expect these semantic points to swing votes in any way but I hope they may help my opponent defend against such arguments in future.

----

Much of my examples and evidence have been completely ignored and my opponent has carefully sidestepped the issue of vetoing one's actions.

In all his rebuttals of mine, Daniel Dennett's and Benjamin Libet's opinions he has avoided this central point.

An individual has the ability to freely choose or decide not to perform an action he is about to do.

As my opponent has not taken any opportunity to rebut this clearly observable fact I can only assume that he concedes it.

----

My opponent contends that computers can make choices and plans but this is only the case in AI fantasy. In reality computers cannot learn for themselves, (it took decades to develop a robot that could walk up a flight of steps) and can only react the way a person has programmed them to. Their choices are the choices of their programmer.

Con would have us believe that our own functioning is identical to that of a computer, that we are automata responding mindlessly to external stimuli. Of course as self-aware beings with a certain amount of control over our actions, human beings are very different from computers.

----

Affirmed: Free will probably exists in humans.

I think I have gone beyond my burden and proved that it almost certainly exists, albeit on a limited level from what many people might believe.

Thanks to you the reader and to MTGandP, hopefully we'll get the chance to debate again sometime. (Unless either of us chooses not to.)

Pro.
Debate Round No. 4
37 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by sadolite 7 years ago
sadolite
Just one point that is absolute. There is no such thing as a non interactive reality or universe.
Posted by Common_Sense_Please 7 years ago
Common_Sense_Please
That's because your points can be answered by my previous ones. But OK, if you want to leave it there.
Posted by sadolite 7 years ago
sadolite
You win by samantics. This is now becoming repetative and pointless.
Posted by Common_Sense_Please 7 years ago
Common_Sense_Please
You are basing your argument on no "interaction and no influence" this does not exist, it never has and never will." My argument is simple. If it is impossible for outside factors not to influence a decision, then free will is not possible. Yes, biology applies to all living things, and INFLUENCES them. Just because biology applies to all living things, it does not change the fact that it plays a part in determining actions. Therefore, no living thing has free will. I am not saying that a world where nothing influences/interacts exists, I am in fact saying that it cannot exist, and therefore neither can free will.
"your argument is based on something that is not possible, "out side influence" " Outside influence is possible... I don't understand how it couldn't be possible.

"animal would go outside it,s cave if it weren't raining, The fact that it is raining does not change the free will of the animal if it decides not to because of the rain." So, tell me, what makes the animal not go out then? The animal stays out of the rain because it is dangerous to it's health if it is exposed for too long. The animal does not go out because it is raining, and the reason for that is biology and experience. If you say a living thing does something 'because it wanted to', you stop it there. 'It just wanted to'. But why did it want to? Did it just magically think, hmm I will do this for no other reason than a random thought'? No, of course not. Every decision is caused by other factors, and animals do not escape this. They may not have complex social structures like us, but their decisions are influenced just as much. Let's say an animal has a fight with a member of it's pack, but decides not to kill them. The reasons for this are plentiful. If it were to do that, it risks it's own life from the other angry members of the pack, and it risks peer rejection leading to a lower chance of survival or reproduction.
Posted by sadolite 7 years ago
sadolite
Could you clarify? There has never been nor shall there ever be a reality where nothing interacts. I am speaking of this reality the reality that we live in. You are basing your argument on no "interaction and no influence" this does not exist, it never has and never will. Yet you apply it to the argument as though it is possible, it is not. If it were possible your argument is correct. I eliminate acts of god and biological influence because it is absolute to everything in the universe. Like I said, you win the argument of semantics. But your argument is based on something that is not possible, "out side influence" An animal does what it wants when it wants baring the two aforementioned. The animal would go outside it,s cave if it weren't raining, The fact that it is raining does not change the free will of the animal if it decides not to because of the rain.
Posted by Common_Sense_Please 7 years ago
Common_Sense_Please
But a reality that has no interaction does not exist." Yes, everything has a cause, which is why we probably don't have free will.
"But a reality that has no interaction does not exist. You want to debate something that has never existed and apply it to a reality based scenario. This is why I say that Biological and acts of nature don't figure into the argument." Hmm, I'm a little confused. Could you clarify?
"An animal can do what it wants when it wants. I as a human can't." I'm still sticking by my argument. An animal can't do what it wants when it wants because it's actions are dictated by other factors. Therefore it is not a choice, so it does not do 'what it wants.'
This may change if you clarify your earlier point.
Posted by sadolite 7 years ago
sadolite
"Free Will is a free choice with no influence from internal or external factors." You win the battle of samantics. But a reality that has no interaction does not exist. You want to debate something that has never existed and apply it to a reality based scenario. This is why I say that Biological and acts of nature don't figure into the argument, An animal can do what it wants when it wants. I as a human can't.
Posted by Common_Sense_Please 7 years ago
Common_Sense_Please
The predator has free will but the animal it is hunting doesn't?" You misunderstand me. I didn't say that. The determinist view is that no one has free will.
"Biological and acts of nature don't figure into the argument." Yes, they do. If they influence a decision then it is not a free choice. Simple.
"They apply to everything even inanimate objects with no thought process at all." What? Yes, laws of nature apply to everything, but the issue of free will does not apply to inanimate objects.
"It's the same thing as saying the rock choose to sit there but the animal accidentally kicked it so it has no free will." No it's not. A rock has no choice (because it is a rock) and neither does a person. I'm not sure if we understand each other. Let's be clear. Free Will is a free choice with no influence from internal or external factors. If these factors determine an action, then it is not free. My point is, that everything you do is caused by certain factors beyond your control, therefore the action is not pure choice. For example, If you 'choose' to eat something, it is because your biology is telling you you are hungry and you need to respond to that. It is not because you simply 'chose to'. If you 'choose' to buy a certain famous brand of trainers instead of cheap ones, it is because of what your culture sees as good looking or stylish, and the label culture of the western world, including peer pressure and peer judgement. If you believe in pure free will, then what causes you to 'choose' things? Magic? At least with the determinist view, you can explain why we 'choose' things.
Posted by sadolite 7 years ago
sadolite
"If a predatory animal sees another of it's own species and decides to hunt and kill it, you would say that is free will" As I said before this is a bogus argument. The predator has free will but the animal it is hunting doesn't? Biological and acts of nature don't figure into the argument. They apply to everything even inanimate objects with no thought process at all. It's the same thing as saying the rock choose to sit there but the animal accidentally kicked it so it has no free will.
Posted by MTGandP 7 years ago
MTGandP
"They do what they want when they want."
But they don't decide what they want.
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