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Humans possess free-will

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/20/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,135 times Debate No: 36843
Debate Rounds (4)
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I'll argue that humans are incapable, by logical deduction, of possessing the meta-physical quality known as 'free-will'. Definitions to be used for this argument and to be agreed upon are as follows:

Free-will - a characteristic of a sentient being marked by the ability to influence and decide their own actions, in accordance to their will. In other words, an agent's will has the ability to exercise control in determining the outcome of multiple possible futures.

External Coercion - Any force that isn't directly a function or consequence of the agent's own consciousness. This includes sub-conscious, involuntary reactions in addition to forces outside of the human brain, such as weather events or other agents.

To win, I would have to explain by rational deduction that it is impossible for such a thing to manifest in an agent.

For the opponent to win, they would need to demonstrate or deduce that it is merely possible for free-will to exist, though if they are up to the extra challenge they might go as far as demonstrating that it *does* exist.

First round for acceptance? Thank you in advance for whomever takes me on for my first debate here.


Thank you for being a part of this debate. I will argue on the possibility of free-will existing.

I accept the challenge this debate presents.
Debate Round No. 1


Free-will is fundamentally a contradiction; and in demonstrating how, I will show that it can be rationally deduced to non-existence as a meta-physical phenomenon.

The only thing that needs hereafter be assumed is the fundamental rule of observed physical laws. But a physical law, in many ways is limited to human understanding and process. The truth is, there are two factions of science that differ in how they describe the movement of time and relationship between matter and time. One theory, under classic physics, suggest there is a single world in the universe, exiting in one perfectly determinable chain of cause and effect. A single, contained, space-time continuum. Each particle in space has only a single possible way it can move through time. A consequence of this model would be that there is no randomness in the movement of matter/energy across time, and all motion is perfectly determined (that is to say, where a particle be in the future is decided from the very beginning of time, a sort of physics equivalent of 'fate'). Then, there is the theory of quantum physics, coupled with its "indeterminacy" conclusion. This view of physics differs in that it suggests that on a sub-atomic level, it is demonstrably impossible to predict precisely how a particular particle or wave will behave, but a range of possibilities can be observed. It is commonly deduced that there multiple universes, each splitting off from one another as events occur at the quantum level, where each individual possibility manifests into its own, unique world, mirroring and branching as time passes. To use a common metaphor, each quantum particle is like a dice, in that it has multiple possible faces to land on when tossed. The moment a particle passes to the next unit of time, it's as though it's been thrown, and instead of one face being landed on, all six are, but each in its own separated world. There is one world split off from the previous moment where the dice lands on 1, another branching from the same instant of time where it lands instead on 2, etc. In this way, you can see that it is impossible to know which world we will be 'tossed' into until it happens, there is no way to precisely predict it ahead of time. In this way, the world would not technically operate 'randomly', since each possibility is guaranteed to occur, but in independent worlds. The world you happen to land into isn't 'chance', because you had to be in this world, since you were part of the set of possibilities for each and every one. Better than 'randomly', is the word 'indeterminately', which means it is not possible to know how a particle will behave ahead of time (and thus, which world you will occupy)[1]. One could however imagine a randomness as a possibility. If the quantum indeterminacy remains to be true, but the multiworld theory false, it would follow that particles occupy a single, isolated continuum, or one-world, where in each moment of passing time, each particle expresses itself randomly from a set of possibilities.

I. Hard determinism.
Determinism is the philosophical meta-physical position that mirrors the classical physics position described above. Determinism states that there is only a single possible future, past and present for all things in the universe. In other words, given enough information, any and all events beyond the present moment could be calculated with absolute precision. A hard determinist believes that while holding to determinism, free-will is not possible. The obvious reasoning is that with only a single, fixed possibility for the future, man may have a will but utterly no freedom.

II. Compatibilism.
Compatibism is the belief that both determinism and free-will can co-exist. The following is the compatibilist theory as to how this might be [2]: "the agent had freedom to act according to their own motivation. That is, the agent was not coerced or restrained. Arthur Schopenhauer famously said "Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills." As much as I professedly admire Schopenhauer, this is one of those instances where he committed a grave and egregious error. The obvious flaw in this logic is directly admitted, "man cannot will what he wills", meaning he is not 'free' to choose the thing that binds his decisions. Stating that we are unable to choose our will is the most blatant, express admission that will is not free I've ever heard from an argument that supposedly supports the same very thing.

III. Indeterminism. Its been established quite plainly and obvious how man lacks free-will in the classic-physics model of determinacy, but what of the radical new revolution quantum physics has to offer on the subject? Surely, being that we widely believe the world to be, on some scale, 'indeterminable', that means we have free-will? Unfortunately I have to report that it doesn't. Not knowing the future doesn't alter that it can't be elected by the will of the agent. Sub-atomic particles are responsible for the 'randomness' or indeterminable flow of quantum. At no point does this translate to man's will being 'free', it is only a slave to a dice roll dealt by physics.

This will conclude my opening case against free-will, as I will include a discussion on theological terms if my opponent wishes to take the debate in that direction. Until then, I will assume the materialist axiom is suitable for us and the audience.



I would like to thank my opponent for his evidence. In classical mechanics, it was held that there is one world with only one line of events in a chain of cause and effect. This was a possibility for how the universe could be structured and at the time it was a phenomenal idea. Now we have a better understanding of the nature of physics due to changes in our thinking, and new evidence. As our knowledge grew, we become more and more adept at building on our theories of how our environment works. Now we are at the point where we can photograph particles, and see into some of the darkest corners of the universe. Our knowledge only expanded with the advent of quantum mechanics. This piece of mathematical machinery helped to better our understanding of the sub-atomic level, and gain a better glimpse into the workings of our world.

In quantum mechanics there are several theories concerning multiple universes. There are some that deal with infinite universes. In one of those universes, could there be a universe that contains intelligent beings with the ability to conduct themselves in a manner of their own choosing, and have the will to do as they please excluding external coercion. With an infinite amount of universes, the possibilities are infinite.

This is just one theory of many. My opponent describes two types of possible world systems, a one-world system that is based upon clockwork mechanization's and another that covers multiple worlds. The interesting case of infinite universes was not covered. In quantum mechanics, there is not precise way to predict which world will be next. Once you are in one world, then you are in another one. This all happens in an instant of time. If the possible universes are infinite, then free will has the possibility of existing in a multiverse of many universes. If in the last situation, quantum indeterminacy remains to be true, but multiworld theory false the particles can choose from a random set of possibilities. The mention of whether or not the possibilities are infinite. How are the possibilities constrained? In what set do they exist if everything is random. (1)

A position argued from is that there is a lack of human knowledge to find the determinable facts. These were called hidden variables by Einstein. The conclusion reached from these hidden variables is that of a probabilistically determinative way. There was a finding on the quantum mechanics of statistical predictions which would be violated if local hidden variables existed. There has been rational skepticism about the traditional determinism due to the quantum mechanics, as reality is not seemingly absolutely determined (2).

Accordingly with the Copenhagen interpretation, the most basic properties of matter at times behave indeterminable. Due to the collapse of the wave function, there is a state at which the system can no longer be predicted. Quantum mechanics only predicts the probabilities of these outcomes. The interpretations of quantum physics must reject locality or reject counterfactual definiteness. One of the problems with the many-worlds theory is its lack of experimentation. We cannot be sure of experimental results.

Astronomer Sir Arthur Eddignton commented that, "a physical object has an ontologically undetermined component that is not due to the epistemological limitations of physical understanding." This would leave the Uncertainty as an interesting result of quantum indeterminism. It would not be due to hidden variables but indeterminism in nature itself (3).

With theory by my side, I pass the debate onto the contender.

Debate Round No. 2


It seems that the majority of your post was dedicated to going into various details in how quantum theory works, but virtually none of it refutes what I've already touched upon in describing quantum, or otherwise demonstrates that my key point in respect to indeterminism not qualifying for free-will.

One part that I see that actually seems to be for me to address, is where you ask about infinite possible universes. There is a very big difference between "all possible universes", and "infinite possible universes". All 'possible universes' would constitute an important part of the mainstream super-string theory, wherein the 10th dimension represents the totality of existence; all possible worlds through all of time considered as a single dimensional point. This does not inherently imply anything is 'infinite', but a finite number in consistency with what the range of possibilities are. This is where I see a problem in trying to describe 'infinite' possible worlds: can impossible things happen in one of these possible worlds? If so, it's literally impossible, if not, it seems as though it cannot be infinite. The idea that something can be possible, implies that something else can be 'impossible', and the possibility of impossibility inherently defies infinity. That anything can be 'possible' implies limitations.

So is it even possible for free-will to exist? Not rationally, no. All things that exist, just by virtue of having the characteristic of 'existing', are constrained by some other force. To exist or not, cannot by logical necessity be controlled by the thing that does or doesn't exist. It might be that all things that exist fundamentally exist through all of time as some uniform body, maybe the superstring of the 10th dimension, or existence can be made by some force out of non-existence, but at neither rate can something determine itself, no particle or other unfathomable form of existence, spiritual or not, can logically choose its own nature before it exists. As a consequence, nothing can logically be thought of as having a 'free-will', especially not humans in *this* world or any other possible one.


junior_dominator forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


Well I suppose I'll just summarize in a very broad way everything I've asserted above:

1. If determinism is true, free-will cannot exist.
2. If indeterminism is true, free-will cannot exist.
3. The world can only be either deterministic or indeterministic.
4. Therefor free-will cannot exist.

In another way:

1. Freedom implies without (at least to some extent) constraint.
2. Free-will is 'freedom' in respect to a being's will.
3. Fundamental existence is incompatible with 'not-constrained'
4. Freedom of will is incompatible with existence.


junior_dominator forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by TheAccountant 5 years ago
I'm watching too :D.

My opinion btw is both the statements "humans possess free-will" and "humans do not possess free-will" can be both correct.

In the singular human being, we do not have any free will. But in the aggregate everything, we have precisely one free will. Each of us is part of the free will, it's like both we are affected by the environment and we are ourselves affecting the environment at the same time. we cannot be a separate identity from the environment, just like how the environment cannot be separated from us. If free will exist, then by logic it can only be sum up to one.

Then there is still a possibility that free will don't exist at all. My view is that if it does not exist, then why can we feel in control of our own body when we are living? Even with thoughts and emotion generated from our body, without free-will we can simply be in a third person view where thoughts simply come automatically and you see everything just happening to you, instead of the authority feeling.

Well that is just my point of view with quite weak evidence and that's possibly why I'm in the comments side :P. would like some feedbacks
Posted by Magic8000 5 years ago
Good to see a free will debate. I'll be watching this one.
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