The Instigator
diety
Con (against)
Winning
7 Points
The Contender
Nail_Bat
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points

Free will probably exists in humans

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 1 vote the winner is...
diety
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/1/2009 Category: Society
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,190 times Debate No: 8066
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
Votes (1)

 

diety

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, this means that the choice of this rational agent (in this case a human) is not being influenced by any force, and is acting on its own.

I negate the resolution: Free will probably exists in humans. Since my opponent has the burden of proof, I will allow my opponent to make the first argument.

If my opponent uses a religious argument, my opponent must first prove that religion is a sound foundation to make arguments upon.
Nail_Bat

Pro

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

Free will is a very tricky debate, and that's what makes it so much fun! We can see the trouble we get into just by looking at the definition about: we define free will as the ability to choose. What does it mean to choose, though? Even "rational agent" may be circular if we probe it far enough.

Before we begin let me just lay out what free will is not. I do not believe that there is any sort of spirit or soul associated with our physical body. I believe that all decision making happens entirely through electrical and chemical interactions in the brain. I also do not believe that quantum physics allows room for free will. For starters, randomness is not free will, and we do not know enough about the brain to know how much effect quantum events would have. Not that the universe is wholly deterministic, but I believe free will is entirely compatible with a clockwork universe.

Saying what free will IS, on the other hand, is much harder. We all know what it means intuitively, but any definition we try to give it breaks down. In this regard, we are like Potter Stewart, who could not define pornography but swore "I know it when I see it". I have my own personal definition: in a nutshell free will is defined by the ability of an agent to assign qualities to actions, act upon the one with the best quality, and choose (recursively) what qualities to rate the actions by. The infinite regress stops at biological desires, and the more steps between that an the actual choice, the more "free" it is. That definition captures my own intuitive notion of what free will is, but I suspect my opponent may have a different notion for which my definition does not apply.

My stance is that "free will" is a label that we assign to the behavior of rational agents. It "exists" in the same sense that humor, intelligence or compassion "exists". They are not things you can hold in your hand, but labels we assign.

Since I don't believe in the supernatural, I accept that our bodies are comprised of particles that obey the same natural laws as any other mass. How can we say that we can choose our actions, if our actions are just the result of particles interacting with each other?

You could explain a person's behavior in terms of particles interacting. You could also explain a dance by charting the electric impulses sent to the muscles of each dancer, or a symphony by the vibrations produced by the sound waves. However, so much information is available at this level that our brains can not process it all. It would be noise to us!

We understand the world by categorizing it and finding patterns within all that information. Our minds can not comprehend the vast amount of physical and chemical interactions that go into a simple decision. However, by using the "free will" model of human behavior, things make much more sense. In this model, people have their own desires, and they choose whether or not to act upon them. We understand all decisions in terms of the motivations behind them. Many human qualities, such as courage, compassion, and discipline, only make sense in terms of free will.

I suspect my opponent will point out that being useful doesn't mean its "real", and in fact I have even admitted that free will is not "real" in the sense that its nothing more than a label. However, we still disagree in that I believe free will qualifies as something real, even if it is not an actual THING.

I will turn the discussion over to him to see what his arguments against the existence of free will are.
Debate Round No. 1
diety

Con

Thank you for accepting this debate.

Very, very, clever post by my opponent.

;)

To rebut your case (atleast the most important part):

"My stance is that "free will" is a label that we assign to the behavior of rational agents. It "exists" in the same sense that humor, intelligence or compassion "exists". They are not things you can hold in your hand, but labels we assign."

Not so fast my friend.

As humor is the ability to make one laugh, as intelligence is the ability to react to stimuli, free will is the ability to make decisions without any outside force. These things themselves are not labels, instead we label these things (if that makes sense.)

They exist as capabilities. Although you can't hold 'em in your hand, they're "real"

:)

As far as free will you admitted yourself that quantum physics doesn't allow room for free will. For free will to exist, there must not be ANY outside forces influencing a decision. As intelligent beings have thought processes, they simply process information based on what they take in from their environment. I think that free will is often confused with intelligence. Though intelligence exists as a capability, it is impossible for a being to be capable of free will and therefore free will doesn't exist.

:)

I'm out of time (in real life of course.) I rest my case for now
Nail_Bat

Pro

Just to clear up any confusion, I do consider humor, intelligence, and compassion to be "real". However, they are labels in that the concepts describe particular patterns we observe in humans. A pattern only exists in the sense that it is recognized by an intelligent agent.

Whether free will exists depends on your precise definition of it. My has given his: A decision is free if and only if there are no outside forces influencing the decision. I will argue, however, that this is a poor definition of free will on the grounds that it is self-contradictory. The common conception of free will does not forbid outside forces, in fact a big part of free will is the ability to overcome them.

Obviously our decisions are based, wholly or in part, on our experience. This leads one to the conclusion that we are very complicated computers that take in data, process it, and spit it back out. Perhaps there is a little non-determinism in there, but again, randomness is not free will. A computer doesn't have free will because it will only do what an outside force (i.e. a programmer) tells it to do. If the programmer is lucky, that is.

According to my opponent's definition, for a decision of a human being to be free it can't have been influenced by outside forces. If I put a gun to your head and tell you to vote for Comrade Josef, nobody will say that you voted for him out of your own free will. If Billy Mays says "BUY SOME OF THIS MOTHER F***ING GOD D*** OXI CLEAN" and you do just that, we can't say that decision was free because it was based on someone else's opinion. If you drop acid and then decide to test your theory that humans can fly if they just jump from a high enough place, that is not free either as it was based on external chemicals altering your brain.

But "no outside forces" means "no outside forces", and this includes information gained from the senses. However, to even make a decision in the first place, never mind if its "free" or not, the agent must already have a conceptualization of the world. This means the agent has in its mind a system of mental objects, the qualities they possess, and their relationships between each other and between the senses. How is this framework built? By sensing, of course. It is not possible for an agent to form a worldview without a mechanism for viewing the world. Otherwise, all of these concepts would have to be put into the agent at its creation, which would require that forbidden "outside force". Without this mental framework, the agent's mind would be blank, and thus we wouldn't really be able to call it a rational agent in the first place. In summary, to be a rational agent, it must have been influenced by external forces.

You can't define free will as the ability of a rational agent to make decisions that are not based on outside forces. This is similar to defining omnipotence as "The ability of a being to create a stone so heavy that it can not lift it". The phrase itself is contradictory, and if expanded it would include the requirement that something both be X and not X at the same time.

I happen to believe that you can not say "X can not be Y" if you can not even conceive of a being who could. In this example, we can not conceive of a rational agent who can make decisions that are not based on outside forces. This is why I believe "free will" to be a pattern of human behavior, which is necessary because it is functionally impossible to model the behavior of humans without it.
Debate Round No. 2
diety

Con

^o^

There are many contradictions in your case. So many that your arguments.... are practically my arguments.

"Whether free will exists depends on your precise definition of it. My has given his: A decision is free if and only if there are no outside forces influencing the decision. I will argue, however, that this is a poor definition of free will on the grounds that it is self-contradictory"

Or could it be that the concept of free will ITSELF is contradictory, and therefore it doesn't exist.

:)

"But "no outside forces" means "no outside forces", and this includes information gained from the senses. However, to even make a decision in the first place, never mind if its "free" or not, the agent must already have a conceptualization of the world. This means the agent has in its mind a system of mental objects, the qualities they possess, and their relationships between each other and between the senses."

"In summary, to be a rational agent, it must have been influenced by external forces."

I couldn't have said it any better myself

"You can't define free will as the ability of a rational agent to make decisions that are not based on outside forces. This is similar to defining omnipotence as "The ability of a being to create a stone so heavy that it can not lift it". The phrase itself is contradictory, and if expanded it would include the requirement that something both be X and not X at the same time."

Well, it's just paradox. That's like me saying everyone on debate.org ALWAYS tells lies. It's contradictory as I am from debate.org and therefore this statement cannot be true.

This is why I have won this debate. My opponent and I have agreed that quantum mechanics doesn't allow room for free will as free will is by definition naturally paradoxical, and yet he continues to insist that free will is something different from the standard conception.....

Oh well, I urge a CON ballot. Thank you

:)
Nail_Bat

Pro

CON is right, free will doesn't exist. And yet it does exist. How can that be? I'll summarize.

I have demonstrated that the very idea of a "free" agent is self-contradictory. You have to wonder though, why would so much of our everyday reasoning be based on the assumption that people have free will if free will were logically impossible?

When we talk about how a person chooses to act, we recognize that their unique experience has shaped their decisions. For this reason, I do not believe that CON's definition of free will (in which the decision must be made with no outside influence), is the same definition that others use when they talk about free will.

The most elegant solution I can think of is that our notion of "free will" is a model of human behavior. If you break it down, a decision is just electrical and chemical signals traveling through the brain, but we are incapable of reasoning about ourselves at this level. This is why we need models in the first place, and that includes the assumption that other people act because they have motives, desires, fears, and drives.

Ultimately, we live in a world of labels and models. Science hasn't even figured out what the "real" stuff of existence is yet, and even atoms themselves are models of quantum processes that we only partially understand. For this reason, sometimes models are as real as it gets. Free will is one such model, and I consider it to be real. Real like a boat.
Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by wjmelements 7 years ago
wjmelements
Shame only one vote occurred.
Posted by ToastOfDestiny 8 years ago
ToastOfDestiny
Are you saying that because there are external forces influencing our actions that 'free will' never exists?
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by vorxxox 8 years ago
vorxxox
dietyNail_BatTied
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