The Instigator
Neuhaus1994
Pro (for)
Losing
1 Points
The Contender
Axiom
Con (against)
Winning
6 Points

The concept of free will is incorrect and outdated.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 1 vote the winner is...
Axiom
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/5/2012 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,401 times Debate No: 25006
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (0)
Votes (1)

 

Neuhaus1994

Pro

This debate is simple. I will argue that free will does not exist, while con will prove that it does. BOP is shared evenly.

Rules of Conduct

Rounds
1. Acceptance
2. Opening statements
3. Rebuttals only
4. Conclusions only

General Rules
1. Research without a source will be considered void.
2. No repeating statements that have already been said, with the exception of the conclusion.
3. No opinions! Only statements that can be proven philosophically, or scientifically.
4. No religious arguments. (I do not want to have a debate on religion, and theology).

I look forward to a good debate.
Axiom

Con

I accept the debate and look forward to some enlightening discourse.

"I will argue that free will does not exist, while con will prove that it does."

As my opponent did not define his terms, I will provide a suitable definition bellow.

noun
1.
free and independent choice; voluntary decision: You took on the responsibility of your own free will.
2.
Philosophy . the doctrine that the conduct of human beings expresses personal choice and is not simply determined by physical or divine forces.


As round 1 is for acceptance only, I will not raise any arguments. I look forward to hearing my opponent's oppening arguments.
Debate Round No. 1
Neuhaus1994

Pro

I thank my opponent for his definition, but I have found it wanting, in the philosophical sense. So I have supplied a better definition.

“Free Will” is a philosophical term of art for a particular sort of capacity of rational agents to choose a course of action from among various alternatives.[1]

My arguments proceed as follows.

1. Neurologically
Neurologically speaking the actions of an individual are the product of the chemical reactions of the brain. That is to say the resulting neural signals that command non-sentient organic matter, results from the interaction of neurotransmitters and the interneurons of the brain. Therefore any stimulus that would produce a set of action potentials (neural firings), would result in only one predictable action.

Proof: Benjamin Libet a neuron expert tested the human brain for many years. He found that when a participant was given stimulus, the brain would give the body the signal to react a full .5 seconds before the person felt the urge to react. Therefore the act could not have been from free will, but it was a simple action, and reaction occurrence.[2]

2.Quantum Mechanically
In the world of physics, actions on precipitously smaller levels are increasingly difficult to predict. With that said the actions of humans, which are macro scale can be predicted with ease. On the smaller levels actions can only be explained with probabilities. This led to only one conclusion, that since objects existing beyond the atom size can be predicted, so can humans, or any other organic creature. If something can be predicted that means that it cannot choose a course of action, because that action would have to be dependent on the stimulus.[3]

Proof: If an object (a) reacts with object (b), and the resultant of a+b is constant, then either both a and b are constant or both are varying in relation to each other. Therefore anything that follows this model has a dependency on other things, or is constant. In either case it is not independent, and therefore cannot possess free will.

3. Philosophically
Proof: Anything that reacts with its environment has actions that are dependent on the environment. That does not mean that there are not possible options that present itself when in relation to the environment, but if the decision is predictable, then the action is dependent, and not independent. Since humans in general always do what suits them best, one can thereby assume that their choices are dependent, on whom they are. If this is the case then one can also extrapolate that any action about to be performed by an individual can be predicted, so long as one knows the nature of that person. Therefore one can predict the actions of a sentient being. Therefore their actions cannot be seen as the result of free will, but the actions of an object that just happens to be sentient.

I would also like to remind my opponent that there are no rebuttals in the 2nd round, and would also like to request that their response be kept to a manageable size.

Works Cited
[1]http://plato.stanford.edu...
[2]http://en.wikipedia.org...
[3]http://en.wikipedia.org...


Axiom

Con

Firstly, I thank my opponent for his prompt response. As he is new to this site I will cut him some slack, but two things:

Firstly, If you do not define your terms in your introduction and your opponent provides them in acceptance, it is generally bad form to dismiss a perfectly acceptable definition from a reputable source in favor of your own. And secondly, you are allowed to limit the word count of arguments in the creation of the debate, but beyond that, requesting an opponent 'to keep [their] response to a manageable size,' can be perceived as rude by some. It is my prerogative to determine exactly how much space I need within the given limit. I'd request my opponent stop providing definitions and rules in opening arguments after acceptance and to simply adhere to the guidelines presented in introduction upon which my acceptance was contingent.

Free Will:

Opening:

I will be arguing that at least in a single instance there exists free will. I will not be arguing against the obvious existence of reactions, instinct, intrinsic nature, habit, environmental factors, and determinably limited options. However, I do suggest that there is at least one instance of free will that can be encountered in existence. And as my opponent purports that "free will does not exist," that is all I have to do.

Argument for Free Will Using Worldview Axioms

A worldview axiom forms the building blocks of your belief system. Axioms are all subject to scrutiny as they are either a priori or based in intrinsic assertion. One's ability to change axioms (a theist becoming an atheist or an atheist becoming a theist,) shows that one does have the ability to determine between choices without any outward influences. As worldview axioms cannot be proven or refuted, are not based on other beliefs and are the founding block of all beliefs, they are not subject to intellectual determinism. And since axioms are of the a priori nature they are not contingent upon environmental factors. Thus, switching your belief in one axiom over another is due to free will.

Argument for Free Will From My Opponent's Definition:

“Free Will” is a philosophical term of art for a particular sort of capacity of rational agents to choose a course of action from among various alternatives."

You have a tray of candies in front of you. They are all identical and all rotating on a circular table. You are told to pick a candy. You reach down and 'choose' one. This mind game meets all the criteria of the above definition. Thus, through my opponent's definition, free will exists.

The Minimal Free Will Thesis: (http://rustbeltphilosophy.blogspot.com...)

"1. With respect to the free-will issue, we should refrain from believing falsehoods. (premise)
2. Whatever should be done can be done. (premise)
3. If determinism is true, then whatever can be done, is done. (premise)
4. I believe MFT [i.e., "at least some of the time, someone has more than one course of action that he can perform"]. (premise)
5. With respect to the free-will issue, we can refrain from believing falsehoods. (from 1,2)
6. If determinism is true, then with respect to the free will issue, we refrain from believing falsehoods. (from 3,5)
7. If determinism is true, then MFT is true. (from 6,4)
8. MFT is true. (from 7)"

Machan Proofs of Free Will (http://rebirthofreason.com...)

If we disregard free will then we must also disregard the idea of independent, objective knowledge:

"Those in the sciences, for example, who insist that unprejudiced, unbiased findings trump prejudiced and biased ones implicitly accept that free will is real because only if our judgments can be free, can they be unbiased, independent, objective."

Human individualism regarding culture, practice, institution, belief and philosophy also must be accounted for. The sheer uniqueness and vast diversity in these fields implies an existence of freedom of choice rather than the belief that all humans are compelled by their environment or hard-wiring. (Ie. Twins who have the same genetic code and upbringing and environment and nature can have two very separate personalities and two very separate moral compasses.)

How about the argument that much of what people do can be predicted? Doesn't that suggest determinism? (Key word 'much.')
No. Human beings are subject to nature, nurture, environment and other factors. If you light a fire under someone's hand, you can predict that they'll move their hand. If you tell a lie about someone, you can predict that they will be upset. While this is limiting in one sense, it is defining in another.

Free Will Theorem: (http://en.wikipedia.org...)

The proof of the theorem relies on three axioms, which Conway and Kochen call "fin", "spin", and "twin". The spin and twin axioms can be verified experimentally.

  1. Fin: There is a maximum speed for propagation of information (not necessarily the speed of light). This assumption rests upon causality.
  2. Spin: The squared spin component of certain elementary particles of spin one, taken in three orthogonal directions, will be a permutation of (1,1,0).
  3. Twin: It is possible to "entangle" two elementary particles, and separate them by a significant distance, so that they have the same squared spin results if measured in parallel directions. This is a consequence of (but more limited than) quantum entanglement.

"The theorem states that, given the axioms, if the two experimenters in question are free to make choices about what measurements to take, then the results of the measurements cannot be determined by anything previous to the experiments. Since the theorem applies to any arbitrary physical theory consistent with the axioms, it would not even be possible to place the information into the universe's past in an ad hoc way. The argument proceeds from the Kochen-Specker theorem, which shows that the result of any individual measurement of spin was not fixed independently of the choice of measurements."

Let me conclude by saying that free will is a multi-faceted, metaphysical concept that needs only be proven on a single tier of interpretation for Con to have fulfilled his light BOP. I have done this and look forward to hearing Pro's rebuttals.

Debate Round No. 2
Neuhaus1994

Pro

I would like to address my opponents comments regarding my conduct. Firstly, I concede that it was "bad form" to not have a definition already presented at the beginning of the debate. I apologise for this, and I am well aware that ignorance of the common code of conduct is no excuse. Also I meant no disrespect by saying that my opponent should keep his response to a manageable size. I was trying to prevent a "battle of verbiage." So on this, I also concede to my opponent.

Con states that: "You have a tray of candies in front of you. They are all identical and all rotating on a circular table. You are told to pick a candy. You reach down and 'choose' one. theis mind game meets all the criteria of the above definition. Thus, through my opponent's definition, free will exists."

Refute: This example is flawed in one major way. I will assume that the person in question, was not being exposed to any other form of stimulus. Thus the only stimulus being presented to the person is the auditory command, and the visual sensation of the candles. The fact is that if the exact same situation, meaning perfectly identical, then the candle that was chosen would always be the same. The "decision" to pick up a particular candle would be preordained by the simple fact that the brain at that particular point in time will, and can only respond to that particular instance, in only one way. Since with modern science that action can be predicted that would prompt the inevitable conclusion that no choice was made, only that a fixed neurochemical reaction occurred in the presence of a stimulus.

Note: I would like to remind con that spelling is important. The replacement of the word candle, with the word candy is a significant flaw.

Counterexample: If a mechanism, that was of equal complexity to the human brain was put into action, through imputing a stimulus, would the expected product be thought of as a conscience choice. The answer is no. That mechanism had a variety of courses of actions, but is only yielded one, and would only yield one. Also that mechanism if it were of equal complexity to the human brain would then qualify for being rational, as paramount in the definition of free will.

Con states that: "Human individualism regarding culture, practice, institution, belief and philosophy also must be accounted for. The sheer uniqueness and vast diversity in these fields implies an existense of freedom of choice rather than the belief that all humans are compelled by their environment or hard-wiring. (Ie. Twins who have the same genetic code and upbringing and environment and nature can have two very separate personalities and two very separate moral compasses.)"

Refute: Con states that diversity revelas that there is free will. This argument is not logical. This is an assumption that diversity is the result of freedom of choice. Con also brings up the idea of identical twins. Again there is an assumption that the brain does not change to enviromental stresses that would vary between the individuals. In short con is attempting to refute the complimentary nature of nature v. nurture. Also the use of the phrase "moral compasses," is superfluous. Free will must be proven before morality can be discussed.

Counterexample: I will use the example of the identical twins that con used. The twins that had identical gentical structures, will be born virtually identical in temperment, at birth. Enviromental stresses then will rework the "hard wired brain". Therefore there will be two people that were identical, but have been changed into the different individuals that the enviroment molded. The fact that they will both respond to the same stimulus differently is irrelevent. The only thing that matters is that both individual would react the exact same if the same stimuls was presented in th exact same circumstances.

Con states that: "How about the argument that much of what people do can be predicted? Doesn't that suggest determinism? (Key word 'much.')"

Refute: Con sates that much of what people do can be predicted. This is incorrect, because all human actions can be predicted. Thus when my opponent uses the word "much," he is assuming that humans cannot be predicted, at least in a philosophical sense.

Counterexample: If there was a machine that was capable of mapping everying single atom of the brain, and that machine could calculate the neurochemical reaction's results almost instantaneously, then could not then that machine accurately predict every action that would result from any stimulus. Therefore philosophically, that would yeild the conclusion that only one action canm be yeilded, from a single stimulus. If this is the case then a "choice" cannot be made, because the choice was already made before the alternatives were presented.

Con states that: "The theorem states that, given the axioms, if the two experimenters in question are free to make choices about what measurements to take, then the results of the measurements cannot be determined by anything previous to the experiments. Since the theorem applies to any arbitrary physical theory consistent with the axioms, it would not even be possible to place the information into the universe's past in an ad hoc way. The argument proceeds from the Kochen-Specker theorem, which shows that the result of any individual measurement of spin was not fixed independently of the choice of measurements."

Refute: While I appreciate the free will theorem, it is inherantly flawed. This rather wordy argument boils down to; if something in question proves to be totally random, then the actions of individuals must then be the product of a rational mind, making a choice amoung alternatives. The fact is that even that even the decision to measure certain elements of quantumly entangled atoms, is only a stimulus to the experimentor, and that experimentor then would react to that stimulus, in the normal mechanical manner, in which all reactions are carried out, in the "hard wired brain."

Counterexample: If an object were to be exposed to a random force, then that object would react differently, according to the different forces. According to the definition of free will, a rational object must have alternatives to choose from. If that rational object was exposed to a random stimulus then the reaction to that stumuls would be the result only of the nature of the object, not the choice of the object.

I would like to state that rebuttals are only for the opening statements of the opponent. I would also like to state that I am not trying to be rude by this statement, but only convey that it would be inherantly unfair, to refute, the opponents rebuttels, without the opposition having a turn also.

Works Cited: I have listed my opponent's sources, as not to offend the authors of my opposition's sources
[1] (http://rustbeltphilosophy.blogspot.com......)
[2] (http://rebirthofreason.com......)
[3] (http://en.wikipedia.org......)
Axiom

Con

Well firstly, in my opponent's rebuttal he drops half my arguments. So I extend them all. But I find that they'll be unnecessary in the end as Pro has decided to fight an unwinnable battle by the mere definition he's provided.


(And also, I was the one who wrote the word 'candy.' I spelt 'candy' correctly. My opponent was the one who spelt it 'candle.' And he has a host of misspellings, so please ignore his confounding jibe about misspellings.)


My opponent is attempting to engage in 'semantics' over what the word 'choice' means. He is trying to argue 'morally,' or 'intrinsic value' to decisions and is assuming that I am arguing from that standpoint myself. I reject both notions.


A choice is simply a single route from a set of options. Which is in agreement with my opponent's definition of free will. It simply means that not all of human kind will react in the exact same way to a single thing. It could be physical factors. It could be emotional, environmental, genetic, nurture etc... In the end all these things make up you. And you make the choice. By my opponent's standpoint, you are no more than tissue and firing electrons. I am arguing nothing different. But your brain isn't an external factor. In a purely physical world, which my opponent presupposes, you can only have matter and that which effects it. So what exactly is my opponent defining 'free will' as? Some ethereal concept of conscience? Or metaphysical, out-of-body force? If he is he is breaking his own rule about 'religions.' I am adhering to a strictly 'physical world' definition of the term.


Simply put: with free will you have different choices. You have alternatives and you, (your experiences, your brain, yourself) makes a specific choice. It's that simple. It may be predictable, it may be predetermined as my opponent asserts, but it is still your choice. You have decided to choose the second candy from the rotating tray instead of the third, fourth, fifth or first. That was a choice from a list of alternatives. BOP fulfilled.


1. Neurology:


Rebuttal: My opponent misses the mark with this argument if he suggests that everyone (Mother Theresa and Adolf Hitler for instance) would react the same way in the same situation if all the factors were identical. The brain explains the process by which we arrive at our decisions, but my opponent's description of it doesn't account for the character doing the deciding. The person behind the decision determines what choice will be taken. Example: Imagine a position of power where a decree is to be issued that is identical in both situations. Adolf Hitler in a position of power would choose genocide over the Jews. Mother Theresa would choose compassion.


The definition my opponent provided is clear "“Free Will” is a philosophical term of art for a particular sort of capacity of rational agents to choose a course of action from among various alternatives." We have two rational agents who choose from various alternatives. (We can tell there are alternatives because given the same situation, two different results occurred.)


Quantum Mechanically:


"If something can be predicted that means that it cannot choose a course of action," My opponent makes this bold statement, but unfortunately is trying to redefine the word 'choose' to suit his theory. If you have five marbles and are going to select one, my opponent can argue that it can be predicted which marble you choose, this may be true. But look at the definition again: we have a rational agent, a choice, and alternatives. Just because the choice is predictable, doesn't mean it isn't a choice.



Philosophically:


My opponent is one again missing the mark by his own definition. Free will isn't something ethereal or an out-of-body action. It is perfectly contingent upon genetics, neurology, environment, nurture, nature etc... But that doesn't mean it isn't free will. By my opponent's own definition, in any given scenario: we have a rational agent, we have alternatives and we finally have a choice. Just because it is predictable, or due to nature, doesn't make it any less of a choice.


You see, what my opponent is trying to do is first reject anything 'religious' as he calls it. This includes conscience, spirit, will of god, or any other concept that can be thought of. And then my opponent proceeds to define free will from a perfectly 'scientific' standpoint, but he tries to debate me as if I were arguing for the aforementioned 'religious' definition of free will. I am not. I believe choices are contingent upon yourself. But who you are is a summation of the factors above from a scientists perspective. Let's ignore the semantics and just focus on the definition:


“Free Will” is a philosophical term of art for a particular sort of capacity of rational agents to choose a course of action from among various alternatives."


In a scenario with choosing candies from a rotating dish: ask yourself: do you have a rational agent (yes) since there are five candies do you have various alternatives (yes) and once you pick up that candy have you chosen a course of action? (yes)


We have fulfilled the obligation of free will. It isn't ethereal. It doesn't require a god. It is a term coined to describe decision-making based in rational agents. BOP fulfilled.


Note: Pro states: I would like to remind con that spelling is important. The replacement of the word candle, with the word candy is a significant flaw.


I agree wholeheartedly. I don't know why Pro decided to spell 'candy' or 'candies' as 'candles.'

Debate Round No. 3
Neuhaus1994

Pro

I will attempt to keep my conclusion as simple as possible.

1. It must be remembered that scientifically, and philosophically the difference between living and non-living is only a matter of slight difference.
2. Performing an action is not the same a making a choice.
3. Religion and divine forces cannot be considered in this debate.
4. The human brain is only a highly complex mechanism, and cannot be considered anything other than that without proof. My opponent has made no such proof.
5. My opponent has failed to prove that one particular type of action is a choice, while another is not.
6. My opponent has used inappropriate examples, that do not match up to the point he is trying to make.
7. I do not deny that there are various elements that make a person an individual, but the fact of the matter is that variety does not prove the existence of free will.

Final Example: If a rock exists in midair, and it has the possibility to move in any direction that it can, does the repeated choice to follow the force of gravity prove that it has chosen that course? Does that then mean that the rock has free will, because it is rational in the fact that it is not irrational? The answer is no. One can argue all day that any action is the result of a choice. That argument is clearly circular, and proves nothing.

I hope that you can see that the my opponent has not meet his burden of proof, in that he has even failed to prove that certain actions are choices, rather than the result of simple mechanical yields.

I compliment con on his debating skills. I have sincerely enjoyed this debate, and I appreciate my opponent's tolerance with the fact that I am a novice.

Vote Pro!
Axiom

Con


My opponent has a very interesting concept of what a conclusion should be. Usually it entails some sort of defense of previously made points, rebuttal, and an attack on the extended arguments he dropped in the previous round. But I suppose one could equate summary with conclusion as well.


Firstly in regards to his final points:


1. Scientifically and philosophically the difference between let's say a rock anda person is huge, not slight as my opponent purports.


2. Performing an action is part of making a choice. My opponent's biggest flaw is in continually trying to redefine the word 'choice.' Here is the definition for all who are interested:



  1. choice/CHois/ (http://www.google.com...)


An act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities.



In all the scenarios presented, there are two or more possibilities. (Seven candies to choose from. Five marbles to choose from.) Not two or more selections, but two or more possibilities. THAT is a choice.


3. I agree, but my opponent seems to be trying to use something outside of nature to define 'free will.' By purporting that it something more than simply a choice from a list of alternatives by a rational agent. That is HIS definition of free will that we agreed upon. All the criteria are fulfilled by anyone (rational agent) approaching a tray of candies to pick from (alternatives) and reaching down to choose one (An act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities.) That's it. BOP fulfilled.



4. I agree. I am not suggesting that the human brain is anything more. My opponent seems to be suggesting this. Once again he is trying to say I'm defining free will as metaphysical. I reject this notion. I am simply fulfilling the definition of free will through the physical realm. Rational Agent. Alternatives. Choice.


5. I didn't need to prove any such thing. Once again my opponent is trying to redefine the word 'choice.' Choices are meant to be in congruence with one's personality, nature, and who they are. "Who you are' can be defined as something purely physical and that doesn't change anything. If you are considered 'purely physical' then your free will is also 'an effect on the purely physical by the purely physical.' You are still a rational agent. You are still presented with a list of options or alternatives. And you still make a choice. None of this is rejected by a purely physical world. Once again, BOP fulfilled.


6. Not true.


7. Variety does prove the existence of free will. If everyone chose the exact same thing, then there are no choices. But as there are choices given the fact that people choose from alternatives, it allows for the definition of 'free will' to be fulfilled. This seems elementary logic to me, but I'll lay it out one last time:


Free will as defined by my opponent: “Free Will” is a philosophical term of art for a particular sort of capacity of rational agents to choose a course of action from among various alternatives.[1]



Let's take a situation with 100 people given an experiment. All 100 people are presented with five pieces of candy that they can choose from. Not all 100 will choose the exact same piece of candy, thus lending us to the conclusion that there are alternatives. (Alternatives, check.)


Humans are by definition rational agents. (Check.)


And a choice is simply the act of making a decision when presented with two or more alternatives. As we have stipulated above, there are five alternatives in this case study. The rational agent (person) chooses from one of the five. Thus fulfilling a purely physical definition of free will.



My opponent has a poor grasp on what the definition he provided was. He misunderstands what the word 'choice' means. And he is trying to attribute metaphysical aspects to my argument, which I clearly do not purport. I am simply taking his definition and applying a thought experiment to it.


One last time for the sake of repetition:


In the case of five marbles on a tray where a group of people are posed the same experiment and they select separate marbles. 1.There are rational agents. (Check) 2. They are making a choice. (check) 3. There are obvious alternatives. (Check.)


This entire debate is contingent on the definition my opponent provided, and then proceeded to ignore. He has an argument for rejecting 'metaphysical' free will. But not physical free will. He fails to uphold his BOP and fails to refute simple logic stemming from an even simpler definition. I have fulfilled my BOP by simply proving that the definition of 'free will' applies to various scenarios.


Just because something is predictable, doesn't mean it isn't a product of choice. Just because something is a result of firing neurons doesn't mean it isn't a product of you (In a physical world, your personality is due to those firing neurons. THEY ARE YOU.) I am not assuming the supernatural, my opponent seems to be.


Anyway, this is an easy win for Con. This debate would've been more interesting if we had been allowed to debate from the metaphysical. But my opponent defeated himself through his own definition.



Debate Round No. 4
No comments have been posted on this debate.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by abstractposters 5 years ago
abstractposters
Neuhaus1994AxiomTied
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:-Vote Checkmark-2 points
Total points awarded:16 
Reasons for voting decision: (1) Freedom exists. (2) Action is adequately defined in physics. (3) I observed Pro's arrogance. (4) Pro's was easier on my eyes and methodical mind. (5) Con's position was most solid. (6) Trust is relevant here.