The Instigator
Danielle
Pro (for)
Winning
3 Points
The Contender
Ockham
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points

People do not have free will.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 1 vote the winner is...
Danielle
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/3/2016 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 11 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 966 times Debate No: 92286
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (14)
Votes (1)

 

Danielle

Pro

In this debate, my burden is to demonstrate that the universe is determined.

Determinism: The philosophical doctrine that every state of affairs, including every human event, act, and decision is the inevitable consequence of antecedent states of affairs.

Free Will: The philosophical doctrine that the conduct of human beings expresses personal choice that is not determined by physical or divine forces.

I will let my opponent use Round 1 for acceptance, and I'll begin in R2. Thanks!
Ockham

Con

I accept, I will be arguing against determinism and in favor of free will.
Debate Round No. 1
Danielle

Pro

Thanks, Ockham. Let's begin.

Our brain tells us what to do, how to feel, what to think, etc. Indeed the only reason I can even type this argument is because my brain is communicating with the rest of the muscles in my body via the nervous system, allowing my body to follow its commands. Most of this is subconscious. But every time a person makes a decision, it is dependent upon their brain - specifically whatever information has been input. We cannot think of anything that is not influenced (determined) by outside factors that we have not already been exposed to.

Environment plus biology necessitate your actions. You're just reacting to stimuli; your brain learns reactions as time goes by, thus developing personality. We know that personality is part biology (traits determined by genetics) and part environment (experiences and outside stimuli) [1]. If your personality is dictated by nature and nurture, then so are your choices, meaning your choices are determined by antecedent states of affairs.

Now, if our choices are dictated by genetics and stimuli, clearly we have no control over them. We cannot control the genetics that make us who we are, nor the experiences that we have. "Heredity establishes the limits of one's personality traits that can be developed, while the environment - represented by the cultural, social and situational factors - influence the actual development within the limits...

Cultural factors are related to the cultural values earned by someone in the course of his/her life, especially during the period when his/her personality is formed. These cultural values have a great impact upon an individual's behavior... Situational factors emphasize or diminish some aspects of one's personality. For example, a person that has experienced recently one failure after another would not wish to be involved in another project - at least for a period of time - even if this particular one might be successful" [2].

Another example: if one is genetically predisposed to schizophrenia, they cannot will themselves to NOT have schizophrenia.

Thus, this is just one example proving how our brain has a "mind of its own." It controls us, not the other way around.

The human being is at the mercy of these forces - behavioral factors and genetics - and we are simply the instrument through which they are expressed. Consider this: If a person is on a strict diet, they have a desire or urge to eat to appease the hunger, but may choose not to eat. The choice could go either way.

However prior actions and states of affairs dictate the person's inevitable reaction in that case. For example, the person's choice to not eat would be based on the fact that they're trying to lose weight; their trying to lose weight would be based on the fact that they no longer fit in their clothes; they may no longer fit in their clothes because they got depressed and started eating more; they may have been depressed because they ended a serious relationship; the relationship may have ended because one's partner found someone else at Comic Con; the partner's choice to attend Comic Con led to that... etc.

And similarly, if the person chose to eat and ignore their diet, it might be based on the fact that they were craving sugar at that particular time; they may have been craving sugar because they hadn't eaten in 16 hours; they might not have eaten because they were busy with work; they were busy with work because they chose that particular job; etc.

Everything in the universe aligned to put the individual in the position to make a necessary and specific decision.

This concept is supported not only at the psychological level, but also at the physical, scientific level in measuring quantum mechanics. For example the De Broglie-Bohm Theory and the many-worlds interpretation theory posit that quantum mechanics proves determinism. The Bohm interpretation posits that every particle has a definite position and momentum at all times, but we do not usually know what they are, though we do have limited information about them. The particles are guided by the wave function, which follows the Schrodinger equation [3].

Contrary stances on quantum mechanics, such as the Copenhagen interpretation call for an indetermined universe. "Indeterminism is important for the question of free will because strict determinism implies just one possible future. Indeterminism means that the future is unpredictable. Indeterminism allows alternative futures and the question becomes how the one actual present is realized from these potential alternatives."

However just because the universe might have more than one possible outcome, indeterminism STILL does not allow for free will - thus the resolution would be affirmed even if you don't accept determinism, according to virtually every credible study on quantum physics. I will expand on this further if my opponent contests.

The only other possible alternatives (according to current standards of science) is chaos theory. "Chaos theory describes how a deterministic system can exhibit perplexing behavior that is difficult to predict: as in the butterfly effect, minor variations between the starting conditions of two systems can result in major differences. Yet chaos theory is a wholly deterministic thesis; it merely demonstrates the potential for vastly different consequences from very similar initial conditions. Properly understood, then, it enlightens and reinforces the deterministic claim" [4].

A person cannot clear their mind, disregard previous experiences, and make decisions that are not influenced by past experiences. This means free will choices cannot be made; all choices are determined by prior external agents or actions. If you disregard previous occurrences, memories and experiences, then it wouldn't be YOU making the decision. Those are the very things that make up who you are.

Additionally, the decision to clear your mind would also be pre-determined (the inevitable consequence of an antecedent state of affairs). For example you might say, "I need to clear my mind and think about this job offer." But that decision would be predicated on the antecedent event of you being offered the job; which is predicated on you applying for the job; which might be predicated by dissatisfaction stemming from a fight with your current employer, etc.

There is far too much information for human beings to be able to predict every future outcome. The individual factors that make up the entire universe are so minute, that the human brain could never fathom such intricacy to the point where we would be able to determine everything. However just because no human could fathom this intricacy, doesn't mean the quantitative data behind it does not exist.

In the next round, I look forward to my opponent's case in favor of free will.

I would also invite my opponent to list an example/s of a situation where he believes free will has been exercised.

Thanks, and I look forward to a great discussion!

[1] http://www.simplypsychology.org...
[2] http://news.softpedia.com...
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org...
[4] http://plato.stanford.edu...
Ockham

Con

Thanks for giving an articulate opening, Danielle.

My opponent's case has two main components: an argument from psychology, and an argument from physics. The first requires examining the process of choice in detail, and the second requires offering a solution to the mind-body problem. I'll deal with these two issues, then argue that my opponent's case is self refuting.

Psychology

My opponent's argument from psychology boils down to the claim that all of our decisions are really just the product of genetics and environment. Our experiences provide us with "stimuli" which we react to deterministically. Allegedly, this hypothesis is supported by observation. All of our choices are based on motives and reasons, so they are determined by those motives and reasons.

When we introspect, it is evident that this account of how we make decisions is false. We do observe that all of our decisions, and indeed all the decisions anyone makes, are based on reasons. However, our decisions are not determined by those reasons, because we have the ability to choose what the reasons for our action will be.

For example, a person who is running and trying to decide whether or not to stop can choose to let their actions be caused by their exhaustion (stop running), or they could choose to let their actions be caused by their desire to get in shape (keep running). Which they choose depends on them alone.

This could even be illustrated by using the very examples my opponent offers to support her case:

"For example, the person's choice to not eat would be based on the fact that they're trying to lose weight; their trying to lose weight would be based on the fact that they no longer fit in their clothes; they may no longer fit in their clothes because they got depressed and started eating more; they may have been depressed because they ended a serious relationship; the relationship may have ended because one's partner found someone else at Comic Con; the partner's choice to attend Comic Con led to that... etc."

Yes, but it is evident that even if all of that was true, and even if you were trying to lose weight, you could choose to eat. Lots of people who are on diets choose to eat anyway, as we can observe all around us. It just depends which reasons a given person chooses to allow to cause their actions. Will their decisions be caused by their desire to lose weight (don't eat) or by their craving for sugar (eat)? It's up to them.

Along similar lines, my opponent says, "A person cannot clear their mind, disregard previous experiences, and make decisions that are not influenced by past experiences." This misses an important distinction. We cannot disregard previous experiences in deliberating, but we can choose which experiences to consider, how carefully to consider them, and what logical steps to follow in our deliberations.

In particular, it is awe inspiring to think of all of the countless acts of free will that went into the construction of the sciences, all the late nights of excruciating deliberation and mental focus that went into constructing the theory of evolution, or the scientific theories my opponent ironically cites in support of the resolution.

Physics

My opponent's second argument for determinism is based on physics. Allegedly, the problem is that none of the popular interpretations of quantum mechanics are consistent with free will. Some are deterministic, and some are indeterministic, but none of them acknowledge the existence of choice.

First of all, this argument is inconsistent with my opponent's opening, which defines determinism as "The philosophical doctrine that every state of affairs, including every human event, act, and decision is the inevitable consequence of antecedent states of affairs." If one of the indeterministic interpretations of quantum mechanics is true, then that's false, which means that my opponent's own position as expressed in Round 1 would be refuted. So, this argument is counterproductive for my opponent.

Secondly, I don't see why quantum mechanics should be relevant here. There are a bunch of different interpretations of quantum mechanics, and none of them have been conclusively established. It seems evident that no one really knows what is going on in quantum mechanics, in which case there is no point in appealing to it to settle the free will debate.

All that aside, the more fundamental problem with my opponent's argument is that it is an argument from physics, and consciousness is not made of matter, not as matter is currently understood by science.

When you introspect, you don't see chemical reactions, you see beliefs, desires, perceptions, etc. These are evidently immaterial states of consciousness. When you run through a chain of reasoning, there isn't a chemical reaction in sight, just a non-physical, logical process of thought connecting one premise to the next.

So, consciousness isn't composed of matter as currently understood by science, which means that bringing in physics is irrelevant to the capacities of consciousness.

The Self Refutation of Determinism

My opponent's case asserts variously that our beliefs and actions are determined by our previous experiences or by the laws of physics. Both of these claims are self refuting.

If all of our beliefs are merely determined by our previous experiences, as opposed to based on rational deliberation from the evidence of experience, then we have no reason to think that any of them are true. Our beliefs could seem perfectly reasonable to us, but for all we know we just believe them because we had some experience when we were growing up that makes us find them appealing. If all of our beliefs are deterministically caused by "stimuli," then we have no basis for sorting truth from fiction.

But in that case, the belief that we are determined comes into question itself. Determinism could seem perfectly reasonable to you, but on this theory you might just believe it because your parents always told you it was true, or something like this. On this view, you have no grounds for your belief in determinism.

Again, if all of our beliefs are merely determined by the laws of physics, then we have no reason to think that any of them are true. We have no access to the working of the blind atoms in our brains, no way of telling what process might have resulted in a given belief's seeming true to us. All that we know is that at the end of the mechanistic process, a belief came out seeming true to us - it could be true or false, we have no way of telling.

But on that view, again, determinism itself comes into question. You have arrived at false beliefs before, and other people disagree with you about determinism. How do you know that the chemical reactions in your brain are more reliable than theirs? At the end of the day, you don't. At bottom, our only reason for accepting any of our beliefs is that we arrived at them on the basis of an act of free deliberation.

Conclusion

In this speech, I made three main points:

1. The fact that every action is based on a reason doesn't support determinism, because we choose what the reasons for our actions will be.
2. Physics doesn't refute free will, because consciousness isn't a physical thing.
3. Determinism is self refuting, because it implies that you only believe in determinism on the basis of arbitrary "stimuli."

For these reasons, we should negate the resolution. Thank you.
Debate Round No. 2
Danielle

Pro

Free Will Is Incompatible With Psychology

"We have the ability to choose what the reasons for our action will be."

That is false. We cannot control what reasons ultimately affect our decision.

My opponent presents: "For example, a person who is running and trying to decide whether or not to stop can choose to let their actions be caused by their exhaustion (stop running), or they could choose to let their actions be caused by their desire to get in shape (keep running). Which they choose depends on them alone."

That is wrong. Sometimes I want to run 4 miles without stopping, however the fact that I am out-of-shape means I have to stop and catch my breath in between. I am not able to do what I want because the physical forces and limitations of the universe (gravity, my body weight, the terrain of my path, my physical capabilities, etc.) are all influencing my decision to stop running. I do not have control over these things that have ultimately driven my inevitable decision.

Suppose I choose to stop and protect my body rather than keep running. As I explained in the last round, a choice is undeniably made. But I've outlined why this choice is not free from antecedent states of affairs that are out of our control. If I do not have the energy to keep running because I didn't eat lunch, the antecedent state of affairs dictated my choice in that moment. I chose but the choice was determined by prior acts, decisions and physical properties.

My opponent clearly does not see the flaw in his own logic.

In response to my example from the last round, Con writes, "Lots of people who are on diets choose to eat anyway, as we can observe all around us." Indeed I have explained that people on diets have to make a choice to eat or not eat. While the choice is made, it is the inevitable result of prior states. As I explained, people who choose to eat have made that choice because certain factors (XYZ) took precedence to them over other factors (ABC). The reason XYZ was more important than ABC was dictated by two things: genetics and prior experience.

That is a fact. Any single thing Pro claims to value (he can try to name something for example) I can explain is based on his experiences that have led him to value that thing.

My opponent says "We cannot disregard previous experiences in deliberating, but we can choose which experiences to consider, how carefully to consider them, and what logical steps to follow in our deliberations." Once again, while we do make a choice, that choice is made in our brains which are NOT controlled by us. In the last round, I gave the example of schizophrenia and argued that if we are genetically predisposed to schizophrenia, we cannot will ourselves to not have it. The mind controls us; not the other way around. If we have alzheimers, we cannot will it away. Our mind is at the complete mercy of our brain - that's why brain deterioration and traumatic brain injury can have huge affects on the individual.

Consider the most famous case in psychology: Phineas Gage. After suffering a traumatic brain injury, his entire personality changed [1]. Were his choices "free," or did his brain injury dictate the vast majority of his new, completely uncharacteristic behavior? The latter is true. People who hallucinate are at the mercy of their brains. When people take drugs and jump out of windows, their "will" to jump was not free - it was dictated by the things they ingested. When people suffer or respond to PTSD, it is their brains controlling their choices. Their reaction is based on prior experiences, just like ALL of our reactions.

Neuroscientists have found ways to manipulate the brain into making certain choices [2]. But more on science in a sec.

My opponent did not respond to my quote from the last round, arguing that people's experiences inevitably and directly impact their choices. He claims we can consider what value we give things in weighing each decision, but he does not deny that our genetics nor our experiences directly affect the value we place on things... and since our genetics nor our experiences are within our control, our choices are determined by things outside of our will.

Con has not negated the argument from psychology at all.

And more on the science issue: Neuroscientists from UCLA and Harvard -- Itzhak Fried, Roy Mukamel and Gabriel Kreiman -- have taken an audacious step in the search for free will. Fried and his colleagues implanted electrodes in twelve patients, recording from a total of 1019 neurons. They adopted an experimental procedure to monitor the brain while making choices. With this data, the experimenters could see neurons whose activity correlated with the will to act in the brain. They observed changes as long as a second and a half before the decision, and as early as seven tenths of a second before it. The researchers could predict with over 80% accuracy not only whether a movement had occurred, but when the decision to make it happened. So it turns out that there are neurons in your brain that know you are about to make a movement the better part of a second before you know it yourself [3].

Free Will Is Incompatible With Physics

My opponent questions why I would bring up quantum mechanics when there is no definitive consensus. Obviously the intent is to debate which conclusions in physics have more credibility. God is not (and arguably can not) be proven, yet people debate God's existence all the time. Quantum physics has in fact given us some clues about the way the universe works. I've explained that physics most likely yields a determined universe, a chaotic universe (which is a form of determinism - see quote from last round) or an indetermined universe.

Con suggests that indeterminism is inconsistent with determinism. Even so, if indeterminism is correct, we would still not have FREE WILL which is what this debate is about (per the resolution). I don't have to prove that determinism exists; I only have to prove that free will DOESN'T exist. That's why I've used arguments from physics to explain how science shows a direct link with causality that eliminates the possibility of free will.

"Quantum mechanics in the standard interpretation has an indeterministic element that is a popular hiding place for free will. But quantum mechanical indeterminism is fundamentally random (as opposed to random by lack of knowledge). It doesn’t matter how you define “you” (in the simplest case, think of a subsystem of the universe), “you” won’t be able to influence the future because nothing can. Quantum indeterminism is not influenced by anything, and what kind of decision making is that?" [4]

I have explained why physics does not agree with free will.

Con says "consciousness is not made of matter, not as matter is currently understood by science." This is self-refuting. If consciousness is not understood by science, then Con has no reason to say what matter is or is not made of. He is making that up without any evidence based on his own assertion.

Regardless, it's not true that physics is irrelevant to this debate about conscious choices. "Physical determinism generally refers to the assertion of a deterministic physical universe (greater physical system). This holds that a complete description of the physical state of the world at any given time and a complete statement of the physical laws of nature together entail every truth as to what physical events happen after that time" [5].

Allow me to explain further: our universe (described by quantum mechanics) is deterministic or indeterministic, in that the outcomes of measurements are chosen at random from the slate of possibilities, OR chosen as necessary causations. So, if quantum effects help to shape our conscious choices, they sever the connection between us and the initial conditions of the universe.

Free Will Is Incompatible With Philosophy

Con accuses determinism of being self-refuting, when in fact his own argument is self-refuting.

"If all of our beliefs are merely determined by our previous experiences, as opposed to based on rational deliberation from the evidence of experience, then we have no reason to think that any of them are true." A-ha. He suggests that our beliefs are based on rational deliberation from the evidence of experience.

But in order to consider the evidence of experience, we must be exposed to the evidence.

Thus it is still *our experience* which matters.

My opponent has negated his own argument and used his own argument against himself.

Con writes, "If all of our beliefs are deterministically caused by stimuli, then we have no basis for sorting truth from fiction." This is unsupported. Truth is defined as that which is in accordance with facts or reality. We can still be exposed and react to facts in a determined universe, obviously.

Con says, "Determinism could seem perfectly reasonable to you, but on this theory you might just believe it because your parents always told you it was true, or something like this. On this view, you have no grounds for your belief in determinism." Indeed I believe it was my experience (my exposure to determinsm based on my exposure to philosophy classes and materials) that have led me to recognize there is no free will. Yet Con's argument is pretty nonsensical or at the very least irrelevant. Just because my experiences have led me to this conclusion doesn't mean my conclusion is invalid. Moreover, Con's beliefs are based on his experiences as well.

"Again, if all of our beliefs are merely determined by the laws of physics, then we have no reason to think that any of them are true." If evolution was determined by physics, should we assume evolution isn't true? No. Physics, like math, is the science that studies matter, motion and time -- it is completely relevant to this discussion.

Out of characters. I will make my conclusion in the final round.

SOURCES: http://tinyurl.com...

Ockham

Con

I'll be addressing my opponent's contentions in the same order as previously.

Psychology

In this section, my opponent repeatedly conflates determinism with the fact that our minds depend on our physical bodies. These are distinct issues. For example, the mind can depend on the brain being intact without that dependency implying that the mind operates deterministically. My opponent makes this mistake at several points.

First, she makes this mistake when she says "I am not able to do what I want because the physical forces and limitations of the universe[...] are all influencing my decision to stop running." This is clearly distinct from the issue of determinism. No one denies that the body has physical limitations, but that is irrelevant to whether we have free will. We can still have choice within the range permitted by our nature.

Secondly, she says "if we are genetically predisposed to schizophrenia, we cannot will ourselves to not have it. The mind controls us; not the other way around. If we have alzheimers, we cannot will it away." This is true, but it is irrelevant to the issue of free will and determinism. The question is whether we are able to make free choices, not whether physical factors can dispose us toward mental illness.

Thirdly, she says of Phineas Gage, "Were his choices "free," or did his brain injury dictate the vast majority of his new, completely uncharacteristic behavior? The latter is true." But this alternative is not exhaustive. Another possibility is that although his choices were free, his brain injury had an influence on them. There is no reason why free will should be mutually exclusive with the possibility of someone's personality being influenced by a brain injury.

So, to be clear, we need to keep these issues distinct. We make free choices, and those free choices are constrained and influenced by our biology. There is no contradiction here.

My opponent asserts that "Any single thing Pro claims to value (he can try to name something for example) I can explain is based on his experiences that have led him to value that thing." Surely she could find a post hoc explanation looking backwards, since we make decisions based on choosing between the possible reasons for action that are presented to us, as I explained previously. What we need is actual evidence that these choices are determined, which my opponent has not provided, however strongly she asserts the claim.

In fact, our constant experience tells us unequivocally that we do make free choices, undetermined by our experiences or genetics. As you read my argument, you can see that you have the ability to weigh my arguments, to focus on what I am saying, and to decide whether or not to believe that it is true. You also have the ability to drift and let my words pass over you, or evade my arguments. Either way, the fact of choice is evident.

Finally, my opponent cites a study where scientists studied the neural activity of people deciding whether or not to move their fingers. This is allegedly a disproof of free will because the scientists could predict in advance, before the subjects could, whether they were going to move their finger.

This sort of rudimentary study is incapable of casting any doubt on the existence of free will. The capacity for free will applies to conscious, rational deliberation. What were these people given to engage in conscious, rational deliberation about? They were only deciding whether or not to move their finger. There were no arguments or evidence to weigh, and indeed there is no rational basis for moving one's finger at one time rather than another. There was no reason not to move their finger just whenever they felt like it, and whether they "felt like it" would of course have resulted from the output of their subconscious, automatic brain functions, which was what the study found.

Studies like this have no applicability to the free will debate, since they shed no light on what goes on during a process of conscious, rational deliberation.

Physics

My opponent argues that although indeterminism is inconsistent with determinism, both are inconsistent with free will. That may be so, but in Round 1 my opponent said that "In this debate, my burden is to demonstrate that the universe is determined." Her concession that indeterminism may be true undermines her ability to meet her burden, so defined.

My opponent argues that my version of dualism about consciousness is self refuting because "If consciousness is not understood by science, then Con has no reason to say what matter is or is not made of." I am not making either of these assertions. I regard consciousness as fully comprehensible by science, and I am not putting forward any theory of what matter is made out of.

My point is that it is evident from introspection, as described previously, that consciousness is not composed of matter as currently understood by science. To say otherwise is tantamount to denying the existence of consciousness on the basis of a dogmatic, self refuting materialism. There is no difference between saying that consciousness is composed of chemical reactions and saying that consciousness does not exist, insofar as our observations of consciousness go.

The Self Refutation of Determinism

My opponent says, as if it is some grand revelation, "in order to consider the evidence of experience, we must be exposed to the evidence."

No duh. No one disagrees with that, it's an uncontroversial truism with no relevance to the free will debate. This is like saying that free will is refuted because you have to look at something to reason about it. There is no connection between the concepts.

The question, which my opponent does not deal with, is whether the process of reasoning that takes place after experience is due to a deterministic series of chemical reactions, or whether it is due to a series of acts of free deliberation. In her response, my opponent simply dismisses out of hand the idea that the process of reasoning is done by free will and assumes that the only way of responding to evidence is deterministically, which is question begging.

My opponent attempts to solve the issue by definition: "Truth is defined as that which is in accordance with facts or reality. We can still be exposed and react to facts in a determined universe, obviously." But you couldn't respond to the content of the facts, you could only react to them according to whatever causal laws held between them and you. You couldn't draw rational conclusions, you could only "react," as you say. The conclusions you drew wouldn't be "true" any more than a parrot uttering "one plus one is two" is a mathematician.

Most significantly, my opponent says, " I believe it was my experience (my exposure to determinsm based on my exposure to philosophy classes and materials) that have led me to recognize there is no free will."

This is a key point: How does she know this, given determinism? Given determinism, the actual ground for her belief in determinism could have been any number of things: an experience in early childhood that inclined her toward it, a chemical reaction in her brain that just happened to produce a favorable impression of the doctrine, or a number of other things that have no relationship to whether determinism is true. She really has no idea, given determinism, whether determinism is true or false, because on her own view she doesn't actually know why she holds it.

The only grounds my opponent has for being a determinist is that she has engaged in rational deliberation about determinism and concluded, based on the evidence, that it is true. But then she is no longer a determinist, because she has accepted the existence of free deliberation.
Debate Round No. 3
Danielle

Pro

Psychology

Con claims that the physical limitations that affect my choices have nothing to do with determinism. I've repeatedly explained that if the factors that affect your decision are out of your control, then your will is not free, but DETERMINED by factors that are out of your control. Ergo, the choice was not free - it was the inevitable consequence of previous states of nature/physical affairs.

However my opponent loses this point on psychology when he writes, "The question is whether we are able to make free choices, not whether physical factors can dispose us toward mental illness." The fact that Con manipulated the argument into a red herring is pretty obvious. The argument isn't about mental illness, specifically. The argument is about how physical forces (the brain) control our decisions.

My opponent never once contests the fact that our brain dictates if we have mental illness; the brain dictates every single thing about our personality including our choices. We literally could not make a single choice if our brain was not working. Every choice we make is DEFINITIVELY controlled by the brain; that is an indisputable, biological fact. If we are mentally well, that is due to our brain being in tact and functioning properly.

If every part of our psyche is determined by the brain, then our will is not free. Our will is controlled by our brain. Our brain is influenced by nature and nature. The nature part is genetics and any other physical factors that affect our choice. The nurture is our experiences or what we have been exposed to. Con dropped my example on PTSD which is a mental illness caused by a traumatic experience. Once again, it is our experience (and/or nature: genetics) that control our persona.

On Phineas Gage, science has determined that his injury affected his decisions and newfound personality [1] because our decisions are influenced by things that are out of our control - nature and nurture - genetics/brain and previous states of affairs. Gage did not will his choices; his brain dictated his choices.

Con continues, "There is no reason why free will should be mutually exclusive with the possibility of someone's personality being influenced by a brain injury." I'm not sure how many times I can repeat the explanation. If one's personality and choices are dictated by their brain... which is an indisputable, biological fact [2]... then our brain controls our choices, and our choices are not "free."

I asked Con to present an example of a choice that he would make, but he declined to do so. Experiences are required for values. That's why Con neglected to present a value that could arise without experience. He can't. If he values loyalty, it's because he was taught things and experienced things that led him to appreciate that value. If he values lobster, it's because he was exposed to lobster and his taste buds (genetics) have compelled him to appreciate the flavor. His choice to eat lobster would be based on his experiences and genetics.

Con writes, "we make decisions based on choosing between the possible reasons for action that are presented to us." How do we choose between possible reasons? We consider the outcomes which requires that we are exposed to the information (our experience) in order for us to make assumptions about the outcomes. Once again Con defeats his own argument.

Con says, "What we need is actual evidence that these choices are determined, which my opponent has not provided..."

That is completely false.

First, I've given psychological proof by explaining how the brain controls our choices which is a biological fact. Second, I provided studies proving how our brain dictates our choices, and how the brain can easily have its choices influenced/manipulated and even predicted. My opponent dropped the contention/source that neuroscientists can manipulate our decsions. Third, I gave an argument from quantum physics explaining how determinism is widely accepted at the anatomical level. And finally, I explained how determinism is logically valid in philosophy.

Con writes, "As you read my argument, you can see that you have the ability to weigh my arguments, to focus on what I am saying..." It is one's experience that is MANDATORY for the choice to read this debate. If one did not experience exposure to this debate, they would not be able to choose reading it. Can cannot deny that prior experiences and one's brain have everything to do with the person's choice.

Con continues, "You also have the ability to drift and let my words pass over you, or evade my arguments. Either way, the fact of choice is evident." Once again my opponent points out the blatantly obvious fact that a choice is evident, which I have repeated is true throughout this discussion. The point is that the choice is not FREE from antecedent states of affairs: nature (physical forces of nature and biology) and nurture (events from the past and our personal experiences). All of these things are out of our control, so our choices are not free but determined by these factors.

On the brain study, Con writes "What were these people given to engage in conscious, rational deliberation about? They were only deciding whether or not to move their finger." The choice to move one's finger is a conscious decision. Con is completely wrong in suggesting that a choice requires the careful deliberation of arguments. We make split second choices all the time; most of the time they are instinctual reactions or our brain processing information much faster than we can consciously interpret it (although our brains can) [3]. In fact research shows that 90% of our purchases are subsconsious [4]. This is just further proof that we are at the biological mercy of our brains!

My opponent's claim that the study on brains has no bearing on free will is completely false, which is why it is highlighted in articles that are specifically about free will.

Physics

Con says that my burden is to prove that determinism is valid even if free will is not. Indeed the resolution is about FREE WILL, not determinism, but I do believe determinsim = reality so I accept that burden as stated in R1. However the point here is clear: the scientific community has reached near consensus that free will doesn't exist. Either things are determined, or things are random/chaotic (indetermined). Neither possibility allows for free will, yet I do believe that quantum mechanics arguments are in support of determinism.

I accidentally wrote the word "matter" in the last round instead of "consciousness," so let me repeat how my opponent's argument is self-refuting. Con said, "consciousness isn't composed of matter as currently understood by science, which means that bringing in physics is irrelevant to the capacities of consciousness." First, he concedes that he is talking about consciousness "as currently understood by science" which means current understanding does not discount the possibility. Second, many physicists do suggest that consciousness does in fact involve matter [5]. This has been observed at the quantum level [6].

MIT’s Max Tegmark says that by “matter,” he doesn’t mean that somewhere in the deep recesses of your brain is a small bundle of liquid, sloshing around and powering your sense of self and your awareness of the world. Instead, Tegmark suggests that consciousness arises out of a particular set of mathematical conditions, and there are varying degrees of consciousness [7, 8].

"No wonder most neurobiologists reach the conclusion that Physics cannot explain consciousness, since they are using a Physics that 1) was designed to study matter and leave out consciousness and that 2) does not work in the microworld... but the first detailed quantum model of consciousness was probably the American physicist Evan Walker's synaptic tunneling model, in which he showed electrons can 'tunnel' between adjacent neurons, thereby creating a virtual neural network overlapping the real one" [9]

The quantum double slit experiment is a very popular experiment used to examine how consciousness and our physical material world are intertwined [10]. But I don't have enough character space to go on about the various theories. Physics is relevant to this discussion not only because consciousness may be composed of matter (which is another debate entirely), but because the outcomes of measurements are chosen as necessary causations via the butterfly effect. The outcome of all the events in the universe were determined at the inception of the universe.

It's been explained: "It's like detonating a bomb in empty space. It doesn't matter how many times you detonate it, assuming you detonate it the exact same way each time, you'll get the same outcome each time (things will be pushed out at the same speed, and finally come to a stop at the same place)."

Philosophy

Apparently my opponent realizes how self-evident it is that we don't have free will.

And indeed I am saying that our choices are nothing but chain reactions.

It's true that I don't know why I believe in determinism, but I am 100% certain that it has to do with my prior experiences which Con does not (can not) contest. Con says that my "free deliberation" of determinism means I am not a determinist which is nonsensical. My deliberation was rooted in my exposure to the philosophy and the fact that my brain functions well enough to reason the way it does.

Con writes, "the question is whether the process of reasoning that takes place after experience is due to a deterministic series of chemical reactions, or whether it is due to a series of acts of free deliberation." Con maniputively uses the words "free deliberation" as if deliberation could be free from prior experiences which it cannot be. Deliberation MANDATES that you be exposed to (experience) certain information; otherwise you would have nothing to deliberate. Therefore your will is dictated by your experiences and brain function. Con has lost the debate.


SOURCES: http://tinyurl.com...
Ockham

Con

I will be using the same headings and organization as throughout the debate.

Psychology

My opponent continues to commit the fallacy that I pointed out several times in my previous speech. Since I apparently was not clear enough, my opponent is moving from:

1. SOME aspects of our behavior are determined by our biology.

to

2. ALL aspects of our behavior are determined by our biology.

The premise, 1, is obvious and uncontroversial, but the leap from 1 to 2 is enormous and question begging. It's like saying "if I hit you over the head with a baseball bat, you will fall unconscious; therefore, you do not have free will." Some aspects of our behavior, like whether we have schizophrenia, can be caused by our genes without that taking away our ability to make free choices within the bounds of our nature.

My opponent makes an inference almost exactly as absurd as my hypothetical example above when she says "My opponent never once contests the fact that our brain dictates if we have mental illness; the brain dictates every single thing about our personality including our choices." The non-sequitur is obvious, and my opponent repeats it over and over.

Another obvious problem with all of this is that we can all see that we do make free decisions that aren't determined by chemical reactions in our brains. Think about what goes on when you evaluate this argument, or think about a mathematical problem, or weigh the evidence in support of a scientific claim. You can choose whether or not to focus, and what logical steps to perform - this is self evident.

My opponent claims I "dropped" the PTSD example - no, I took care of it implicitly, by covering the relation of free will to our biology in general. If free will isn't incompatible with the existence of mental illness, then any intelligent person can see that it isn't incompatible with the existence of PTSD. This isn't experience "controlling" the brain, it's experience overloading the brain, and overwhelming the capacity we normally have for free choice, resulting in damage.

The same mistake shows up when my opponent confuses the ability of a brain injury to influence our decisions with the brain dictating every aspect of our lives. Again, this is the fallacious switch from some to all. Just because a brain injury can influence a person's decisions doesn't mean they don't still have free choice within a certain range, or that we don't have free will in the normal case.

My opponent asks me to present a value that arises without experience, which shows a misunderstanding of my position. I have agreed, throughout this debate, that values require experiences. We choose between the reasons presented to us by experience. That is the key point - whether we can freely choose between the reasons provided by the experiences, not whether experience is necessary. I do not know why my opponent has been so confused about this throughout the debate.

Pro writes, "How do we choose between possible reasons? We consider the outcomes which requires that we are exposed to the information (our experience) in order for us to make assumptions about the outcomes." This is the same misunderstanding. The question is whether we make free choices between the outcomes, not whether they are presented to us by experience. (My opponent then recites a bunch of "evidence" she claims she has given, some of which I have addressed already and some of which I will get to momentarily.)

Pro repeats these mistakes again, then says "The point is that the choice is not FREE from antecedent states of affairs: nature (physical forces of nature and biology) and nurture (events from the past and our personal experiences). All of these things are out of our control, so our choices are not free but determined by these factors."

For the umpteenth time, no, that is not the question. The question is not whether there are reasons for our decisions, the question is whether our decisions are caused deterministically, which has never been demonstrated.

Regarding the brain study, Pro claims that it doesn't matter that the study only studied people who were moving their finger because "we make split second choices all the time" and because some of our purchases are subconscious. I'm not denying that, when we are thinking quickly or making an impulse buy, our automatic subconscious processes might play a disproportionate role. But that is not what my opponent is claiming.

My opponent has claimed throughout the debate that we are simply at the mercy of our brains, all the time. She has claimed that we never make a free choice, even in our most focused, careful, abstract deliberations. If that's her claim, she needs to do better than a study on finger twitching.

Physics

In this section, my opponent continues to try to get out of the fact that she said in Round 1 that she would be defending determinism and then proceeded to accept that indeterminism might be true, directly contradicting the burden she accepted. I don't see any need to highlight this further, since it is a simply matter of deduction from the burden and definition she laid down in Round 1.

Pro says, without evidence, "the scientific community has reached near consensus that free will doesn't exist." Even if that's true, the relevant community is not the scientific community but the philosophical community, since this is a philosophical issue. Most philosophers believe in some form of free will.

My opponent then goes on at length about physics but at the end of the day seems to concede that consciousness may not be composed of matter as currently understood by science. I don't think any of the physics is really necessary, here, since all we have to do is appeal to introspection, as I previously described (Pro has never directly addressed this introspective argument for dualism).

Self Refutation

My opponent concedes that "It's true that I don't know why I believe in determinism, but I am 100% certain that it has to do with my prior experiences which Con does not (can not) contest."

This is a total concession. If my opponent does not know why she believes in determinism, then she has no reason to be a determinist, so the argument that determinism is self refuting goes through. If determinism is true, no one can know that determinism is true, which makes justifying the resolution impossible.

Asserting that one's belief in determinism has to do with one's prior experiences does not help the determinist. For one thing, the belief that one's belief in determinism has to do with one's prior experiences would itself be the product of deterministic processes, and therefore itself unjustified.

For another thing, just because my opponent's belief in determinism allegedly "has to do" with her prior experiences doesn't mean it is based on evidence, since on my opponent's view my belief in free will also "has to do" with my prior experiences. Everyone's belief in anything "has to do" with their prior experiences on my opponent's view, so that clearly doesn't count for anything, which leaves my opponent without any justification for any of her beliefs.

My opponent says that "My deliberation was rooted in my exposure to the philosophy and the fact that my brain functions well enough to reason the way it does." But she doesn't know this, given determinism. As I said, on her view it could be the result of an early childhood experience or a chemical reaction in her brain. She herself concedes that she does not know why she is a determinist.

For these reasons, we should negate the resolution.
Debate Round No. 4
14 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Furyan5 11 months ago
Furyan5
Sorry i just noticed my x button is sticking. Where it says eternal please read as external.
Posted by Furyan5 11 months ago
Furyan5
You do not choose to be rational. You learn to control your emotions. (Well some of us anyway) and even the best of us do things out of anger we would not normally do. This is something we learn by eternal influences such as books or by watching people we admire. We do not just decide out of the blue to control our emotions.

Conscious, rational deliberation.....or repetition of what we learnt elsewhere?
The fact that our opinions only change when we get new information proves that our opinions are based on eternal factors and are not a matter of choice.
To prove a point, can you will yourself to believe that free will is an illusion?
Or will your view only be altered by undeniable evidence to the contrary?

I think not.
Posted by Ockham 11 months ago
Ockham
Furyan5, you say: "If (rational) is the deciding factor and every choice has an option that is more rational than the rest then we have but one choice."

This overlooks two things:

First, you choose whether rationality will be "the deciding factor," by choosing whether or not to bring your mind into focus. Reason is only the deciding factor if you make the effort to use it. There are countless examples of intellectual laziness and evasion in everyday life.

Second, you choose the steps you take to evaluate the facts available to you. For example, if you see two people debating the existence of free will on this site, you have the ability to consider that fact in light of your values and decide whether it is important enough to comment on.

The fact of conscious, rational deliberation is evident in every debate on this website.
Posted by Furyan5 11 months ago
Furyan5
@Ockham. Circumstances beyond our control and choices we were forced to make, have conspired in just the right way that we are drawn to this particular site, at this particular moment. Depending on our beliefs and personality we either respond or ignore certain debates. If put in exactly the same situation and given the exact same options we will always do exactly the same thing. If we always do the same thing, how can we call the choices we make free?
If (rational) is the deciding factor and every choice has an option that is more rational than the rest then we have but one choice.
Nothing forces me to drink coffee. I do it because i like coffee better than tea. But I can't choose to like tea more than coffee. Therefore my choice is not free. It's determined.
Posted by Furyan5 11 months ago
Furyan5
I fully agree with you that it's irrelevant whether free will exists or not when it comes to our daily lives and from a philosophical perspective everything is either predetermined or random. Either way there is no choice involved. The only people who would insist that free will exists are those too ignorant to understand why they do things or those who hate the idea of being mere puppets to forces beyond their control.
Posted by Furyan5 11 months ago
Furyan5
Thanks Canis.
Posted by Kreakin 11 months ago
Kreakin
We are all ghosts of futures past...
Posted by Kreakin 11 months ago
Kreakin
Is this debate going to be about time as a dimension therefore all events must already exist? ie There cannot be free will if time is a dimension.
Posted by canis 11 months ago
canis
@Furian5. 1. If you only had free will... Your life would be what it is.
2. If you only had determinated will...Your life would be what it is.
On a practical level its therefore irelevant..But Free will makes no sence on a more philosophical level. Why would I want something or anything in the fist place ? There would have to be a determinating factor.
Posted by Ockham 11 months ago
Ockham
Furyan5, we have the ability to consciously, rationally weigh the evidence for our beliefs. It's pretty funny that you're on a *debate* site when you deny this. What are people doing in the tens of thousands of debates on this website?
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Udel 11 months ago
Udel
DanielleOckhamTied
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Con dropped Danielle's arguments on physics. He did not prove her logic to be self-refuting on philosophy because he straw manned her argument, and he did not prove that any single choice can be made without being determined by the brain. He lost the psychology points because Danielle showed how the brain structure dictates our capacity for choices and how our biology, culture and experience influence our personality and choices, which are things we are born into. Pro showed how any choice you make exemplifies a value and experiences or lack of experiences determine values. Also that we are at the mercy of our hormones and chemicals which I don't feel she focused on enough, but she won so handedly that it didn't even matter. She can drop the physics point entirely (since Con did) and the philosophy part and win on psychology alone, but allow my long RFD to explain further since it took me a long time to write! Check it out here http://www.debate.org/forums/debate.org/topic/88549/