The Instigator
Pricetag
Pro (for)
Tied
21 Points
The Contender
ryanqq
Con (against)
Tied
21 Points

The notion that free will does not exist.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/20/2007 Category: Religion
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 1,466 times Debate No: 743
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (3)
Votes (14)

 

Pricetag

Pro

Is not "choice" (free will) fatalism at its purest? Is it not evident a posteriori that all actions of will are determinable retroactively (meaning that after the action is done, it can be objectively known the choice that was made)? To insist that will may be determinable retroactively, but indeterminable before the choice was made is to insist that there has to be some spontaneous element of will that occurs without precedent causes (meaning it occurred ex nihilo). But, if this spontaneous element is to truly be spontaneous, it must be random. In this sense, if one argues for an indeterminable free will, one is insisting that some element of will must be spontaneous and absolutely random. It is in this particular case that Ockham's razor becomes most useful, in that the simpler presumption (that will is determinable) is the most favorable. The argument for indeterminable free will takes far too many presumptions to be considered more valid than determinable will. Spontaneity and randomness is absolutely unverifiable, while causality is very much verifiable (and, in fact, is the very basis for verifiability). My argument is not logically perfect and does not argue with certainty, but is absolutely reasonably sound (certainty is rarely, if ever, stumbled upon).

And it should be said that the appearance of "choice" is not a valid argument for "free will". It could also be argued that "choice" is simply an act of determinable causality, and that all "choices" are made from necessity and will, and one would be much more reasonable to choose this assumption being that it is more verifiable. Arguing for "choice" as a valid argument for "free will" is much like arguing that -any- event is evidence for the spontaneity and non-causality of the event (while it could be argued that, conversely, the event is evidence for causality and this is both demonstrable and verifiable).

So, indeed, if "free will" is determinable, will must be bounded to causality. It is in this situation that I insist upon "will as bounded by will", will being the thoughts and decisions made, and will being all of the causes that triggered the phenomena of the will. Will may also be thoughts themselves, meaning that causality can also exist within the mind, but all of these internalized causes must also have been caused by external material causes (as such, stimuli from the senses, or even chemicals such as cocaine or dopamine). It is in this case, I argue, that the will is a complex multitude of causes and effects that function together much like a spider web.
ryanqq

Con

You argue for determinism. I don't believe people's decisions are random (I believe in choice; I'll defend it later), but even random actions are far more likely than the immutable causal change you suggest.

A basic choice model shows no causal chain can be perfect. Assume for simplicity a situation where someone, Bob, has no more than two options - press a red button or press a blue button. According to your reasoning, it is theoretically possible for an algorithm to consider Bob's life history, genes, present mental state etc. and calculate his choice. Let's say it calculates "red." Now we add to the factors the algorithm considers: "telling Bob he will press blue but should try to press red." Your argument suggests the algorithm will still calculate an answer, red or blue. If "red," you are saying that Bob cannot press red, even if he tries? If "blue," you are saying Bob cannot disobey the instructions and press blue, even he tries?

Thought shows both restraints are impossible, whether we define Bob's action as the result randomness or choice.

First, let me defend randomness. Determinism gained popularity when people learned about the laws of physics and physical causality. Deeper science, however, specifically quantum mechanics, proves that some events in the universe really do occur randomly. Fundamental processes like a single nucleus's decay can at best have a probability of occurring for any one instance; no single nucleus will definitely decay at any given time, even if we try to encourage it. And not only are we unsure whether a given electron acts as a particle or a wave, we realize it is neither till we observe it, at which point it randomly acts as one of the two. Randomness at a rudimentary level necessarily creates randomness on a larger level, unless you allow for an outside actor with choice, which again violates determinism.

To defend choice, I'll go from the scientific back to the philosophical. Consider the implications of attributing individual action to involuntary causes (or, for that matter, to randomness)? You preclude morality. This means preclude responsibility for harming others, and besides being intuitively abhorrent, you thus demand abandoning the punitive justice system and discipline in general. You also preclude credit for individual accomplishments, and thus rule out compliments, awards, property rights, intellectual property rights and capitalism. These issues don't prove free will, but I want to hear your responses to them. Do you accept them as just, or do you admit a logically inconsistent position?

Finally, I'd like to prove choice by giving an example of limited choice. People with Tourette's Syndrome or addictions have greater difficulty exerting their will than those without, right? But while these conditions seem in themselves prime examples of free will's absence, their existence proves how will exists in varying degrees in different people. If free will didn't exist, nothing would distinguish us from people with involuntary tics, who wish to control their actions but can't. Clearly something does distinguish us from them, which proves we can exert our will.

Now to address your points. They're defensive - you're argument seems to be, "An argument for free will has flaws, therefore determinism exists."

---"Is it not evident a posteriori that all actions of will are determinable retroactively?

No. We can determine which action occurred, but not why. Take a single atom's decay for instance. Most of your argument assumes we can assign reasons for all occurrences, but we can't, and you've given no evidence that we can.

---"To insist that will may be indeterminable before the choice was made is to insist that there has to be some spontaneous element...If this spontaneous element is to truly be spontaneous, it must be random."

Actually, no. It only must be random if you presuppose the nonexistence of choice. Choice is a spontaneous, non-causal external element. You assume the nonexistence of choice to prove its nonexistence. That's circular reasoning and fallacious.

---"Occam's Razor is useful...indeterminable free will takes far too many presumptions."

You're saying here that free will is impossible because determinism is simple? We prefer simplicity when explaining phenomena, but that does not mean simpler explanations are right. Occam's Razor says we should eliminate assumptions that make no difference in the observable predictions of a hypothesis, but the existence of an outside agent makes a difference all right - it's the most crucial factor in question.

---"'Choice' is simply an act of determinable causality, and that all 'choices' are made from necessity and will."

Apply that to Bob?

The rest of your case seems to depend on your first few assertions.

(By the way, I leave for vacation Saturday morning. Can we finish this before then?)
Debate Round No. 1
Pricetag

Pro

In debating I will address each of your points starting with your first one and moving down, I don't know how others debate here but this round will not be a fluid paragraph, simply my reaction to your arguments.

To the contrary it is impossible to know what someone is going to do before they do it, because every second leading up to those options would push their hand this way or that. I will expand on your "Bob" scenario. You question which one he will "choose" if I told him that he's going to press let's say blue but should press red. Well let's consider in his history that he had a rebellious streak and hated authority so he chooses blue because he doesn't want others telling him what he should or should not do. Now on the other hand let's suppose he was a well disciplined soldier that was trained to do whatever his commander told him to against all odd which one do you think he would choose? The problem is that determinism is so complex and that there are so many factors that you yourself can't know which way your hand will be pushed until the option is picked, in some cases. In others it is more clear which side you will be pushed to. However, the person will always know right before the decision is made which side he will be pushed to. There could and probably are millions of causes in Bob's life that pushes him one way or the other. The point is that every "choice" you make is determined by your past experiences, genetic predispositions, and current state of being (mind and body).

I don't think that the scientific community knows enough about quantum physics to be able to make that assertion. Whenever science was in it's earlier stages we thought that spontaneous combustion was an accurate theory for why certain things would suddenly go up in flames, now we know better. Same could be true here, your "randomness" may end up to not be truly random once we figure out what the universe is truly made of and how it's components actually work (string theory, worm holes, et cetera).

The problem you outline is a common one that people fire back whenever this idea is being discussed. The fact of the matter is that no you are not truly responsibly for your actions and in all cases you are justified for doing them. However, law enforcement and society would be equally justified in putting you in prison or showing you how your past experiences made you in their mind "wrong". The justification goes both ways. Even though you are justified in killing someone I am in turn justified in throwing you in prison for the good of society. In this way the penal system is not bothered in the slightest.

That's simply not the case. You seem to be going with a one way or the other mentality. You by default have no choice. You are subject to the same cause and effect that the rest of the material world is subject to because you are simply that, part of the material world. People with tourettes or addictions simply have another cause to determining their decisions. It is a bigger cause than most others but itself falls into the extremely long list of causes that determine our decisions.

In response to your responses:

I am not saying that this theory is the only one or that because it exists in science that free will must not exist. We could go either way on this, I simply think that it is the best theory because it is verifiable and demonstrable where as free will I believe is not. If you would like reasons look to yourself. Why are you here debating me right now? Did you grow up in a home where reading was encouraged and you became enthralled with philosophy as I did and this is an outlet for your ideas and perceptions on life? Think about your decisions and I can guarantee that there was not one point in your life that you were able to put all your past experiences and current state of mind and body aside and make the "choice". All of those things were considerations and eventually one side one. I know that's how all my decisions were made, weren't yours the same?

That's true, it is a bit of circular logic if you accept "choice". I personally do not but I should have been wise enough to know that others might not feel the same. However, looking in the material world it is impossible to find complete randomness. Everything is a reaction to something else(s), am I right? To say otherwise would be akin to saying a ball chooses to roll down a hill instead of the fact that gravity, the force parallel, et cetera pushed it down the hill. You are simply the tool of determinism and thus must be subject to it's design.

Again I'm not saying that my theory is absolutely certain, simply that it is the best choice. It stays to one law whereas free will makes too many presumptions.

Refer to my "Bob" scenarios.

I'll try to hurry it up, but these things take time, if we don't finish by then we could exchange emails and finish at a later time.
ryanqq

Con

Addressing point by point...

"To the contrary it is impossible to know what someone is going to do before they do it, because every second leading up to those options would push their hand this way or that."

Difficult, yes, but you suggest that theoretically some algorithm would be able to do this. Unless you're changing your position and now concede we have something determinable after the fact but not before?

"Well let's consider in his history that he had a rebellious streak and hated authority so he chooses blue because he doesn't want others telling him what he should or should not do. Now on the other hand let's suppose he was a well disciplined soldier that was trained to do whatever his commander told him to against all odd which one do you think he would choose?"

If the spectrum of preferences could be expressed in such a neat dichotomy, they could have arisen from the sort of conditioning you suggest, but you admit human will is more complicated. A rebellious person may choose red because he thinks you're secretly trying to make him pick blue by suggesting the opposite. Or he may think that choice is precisely what you're trying to make him think, so he takes it a step further and goes back to blue. Nothing can then predict where he'll end this chain of logic. It's not enough to say, "No one knows why he chose this, therefore there must be an unknown cause." If anything, wouldn't it be simpler (since you like the simplest solution) to say, "I don't know why he chose this, so perhaps this choice was indeterminable"?

"I don't think that the scientific community knows enough about quantum physics to be able to make that assertion [of random events]."

There's plenty I don't understand about the subject, but it seems it's the indeterminate nature of a particle's state before observation that rocked the scientific community. Not only is the state indeterminate because people cannot determine it - it's indeterminate in that it literally exists in two forms initially, creating branches in the otherwise supposedly straight causal chain.

"Even though you are justified in killing someone I am in turn justified in throwing you in prison for the good of society."

Which means... everything is justified? Just confirming: you are claiming everyone is amoral?

"People with Tourette's or addictions simply have another cause to determining their decisions. It is a bigger cause than most others but itself falls into the extremely long list of causes that determine our decisions."

Yet isn't there a struggle when a sufferer tries to overcome the forces within him? How would you describe that struggle? I would call it voluntary, rational will fighting involuntary, irrational, possible random urges. Furthermore, don't you agree that we perceive a difference between ourselves and such people driven by involuntary impulses? If no difference exists, what is this difference we observe and feel?

"I simply think that it is the best theory because it is verifiable and demonstrable."

How is the absence of free will demonstrable? Quite apart from the difficulty of proving something's absence, your original proof for its absence rests chiefly on absence of proof of its presence.

"You are simply the tool of determinism and thus must be subject to it's design."

Slipping a little off-topic now: how would you define consciousness?
Debate Round No. 2
Pricetag

Pro

Point by point...

"Difficult, yes, but you suggest that theoretically some algorithm would be able to do this. Unless you're changing your position and now concede we have something determinable after the fact but not before?"

We're really splitting hairs here, in theory it's possible yes, but like many theories it is not realistic. If you, in real life, were there with a person every second of every moment and could read his thoughts and/or mood then you could definitely determine what he would do in that situation. However, since determinism is a constant force realistically it would not be possible to do that. I'm not conceding I'm just trying to give a clear picture of what I mean.

"If the spectrum of preferences could be expressed in such a neat dichotomy, they could have arisen from the sort of conditioning you suggest, but you admit human will is more complicated. A rebellious person may choose red because he thinks you're secretly trying to make him pick blue by suggesting the opposite. Or he may think that choice is precisely what you're trying to make him think, so he takes it a step further and goes back to blue. Nothing can then predict where he'll end this chain of logic. It's not enough to say, "No one knows why he chose this, therefore there must be an unknown cause." If anything, wouldn't it be simpler (since you like the simplest solution) to say, "I don't know why he chose this, so perhaps this choice was indeterminable"?"

I'm going to address this without directly speaking of the Bob scenario because it will undoubtedly become too confusing for either one of us to remember our own arguments. Is there truly such a thing as chaos? Or as is much more logical to accept chaos is simply a point to where there are so many factors that it is no longer worth it to calculate all the different factors and their effects on the system. I would say the same with a person's decision, there are too many factors to calculate realistically the person's choice before it happens; however, that doesn't mean that it is indeterminable. Just as there may be too many factors in a system to calculate what the system is doing but that doesn't mean that the system is in chaos.

"There's plenty I don't understand about the subject, but it seems it's the indeterminate nature of a particle's state before observation that rocked the scientific community. Not only is the state indeterminate because people cannot determine it - it's indeterminate in that it literally exists in two forms initially, creating branches in the otherwise supposedly straight causal chain."

I read an article that suggests that at the quantum level when you see what you just described "it literally exists in two forms initially" that the universe is splitting into two universes and that it does this constantly. I'm having trouble finding the article, it was on the Telegraph newspaper's website. Now this could explain why it seems random. Not that it truly is random but that it in it's nature splits constantly creating multiple realities. It's in no way verifiable but an interesting thought nonetheless and serves on my part to show that there very well could be a logical reason to the "randomness" of the quantum world.

"Which means... everything is justified? Just confirming: you are claiming everyone is amoral?"

Yes I believe morals are completely subjective.

"Yet isn't there a struggle when a sufferer tries to overcome the forces within him? How would you describe that struggle? I would call it voluntary, rational will fighting involuntary, irrational, possible random urges. Furthermore, don't you agree that we perceive a difference between ourselves and such people driven by involuntary impulses? If no difference exists, what is this difference we observe and feel?"

Your right some fight to overcome this specific cause and others accept it. So what caused the ones to fight and what caused the others to accept? Will itself is a cause to the effect of fighting. That will could come from a number of things teasing, not wanting to be identified by your disease, et cetera. I don't get your question. I think you're saying what's different between us and those who have these problems for which I've already stated that they simply have a longer list of causes. If that is not what you were trying to say please reword and ask again.

"How is the absence of free will demonstrable? Quite apart from the difficulty of proving something absence, your original proof for its absence rests chiefly on absence of proof of its presence."

It is not but determinism itself is and is the very definition of demonstrability. To show a direct correlation between two objects is our test for everything. In that way determinism is demonstrable thus meaning that it exists in all of the material world including the human mind and body.

"Slipping a little off-topic now: how would you define consciousness?"

Here's an explanation that's been sitting in my hard drive for some time now:

"Being" (or, rather, who you are in your entirety) is not a substantial agent, much in like a foundation for a building. I believe that this thought is absurd - being is structured, but not upon itself, but rather, the material universe (the brain, the senses, et cetera), hence, fundamentally, the "I" is materialistic, not dualistic. It is in this sense that all actions of "being" are not actions of "being" itself. "Being", rather, is a categorical of all the causal relations, all inherently material in nature, given to play in any given context. What does this mean? What I mean is that there is no "I" from which all outside things accumulate around. My argument is that the "I" is an encompassing generalization of all the things external to our being which directly interact with the psyche through means of material deterministic causality, hence all aspects of our psyche are directly inherited from external material sources. Our psyche also has the ability to synthesize information, categorize, abstract, symbolize, et cetera - all of these processes, although perceivable "internal" to ourselves and "external" to the world around us are all done by material processes within the brain. It is here that we discover the duality from which many misconceptions about the self arise - self awareness. The notion of "internal to ourselves" and "external to the world" are creating a false duality of "being" as a substantial agent. The true fact is that, subjectively, all things absolutely are inclusive to the "I" (meaning anything that is thought, perceived; any phenomena is part of the 'foundationless' structure of our being), and, objectively, all of these subjective phenomena (the "I") are inclusive of the objective universe, meaning they are all material and temporal entities.

This is the concept of Heidegger's "Dasein" - that the "I" is a temporal being that is not a substantial agent, but rather, context; the "I" is context (and I mean this very literately).

The statement that all appropriations of our being (actions, decisions, choice) are determinable naturally follows, as it is included in all of the precepts of the definition of "being".
ryanqq

Con

"If you, in real life, were there with a person every second of every moment and could read his thoughts and/or mood then you could definitely determine what he would do in that situation."

We return then to the original problem. The flawless calculation (which, incidentally, you say should be able to predict everything that will ever happen because all events are ultimately effects of what exists now) says Bob picks blue (or red). It could predict this weeks in advance so long as it has enough information. Bob then CANNOT choose the opposite, even if he tries? What if, as you suggested, he is rebellious? One of the calculation's parameter's can't be "And also, Bob will choose the opposite of what this calculation says he'll pick," because that would be a paradox. We get these exact sort of paradoxes when we imagine time-travel or changing the past, and the paradoxes reveal how impossible changing the past really is. Similarly, this paradox shows that it's impossible to completely determine what will happen, even if your information is perfect.

"Is there truly such a thing as chaos? Or as is much more logical to accept chaos is simply a point to where there are so many factors that it is no longer worth it to calculate all the different factors and their effects on the system."

I heard something or another saying that was the originally chaos's only meaning. Of course that was in the old Greek days, when they believed the gods determined everything... :-)

"I read an article that suggests that at the quantum level when you see what you just described 'it literally exists in two forms initially' that the universe is splitting into two universes and that it does this constantly."

If we believe that, that's not just the appearance of randomness, that's absolute randomness. Every action creates multiple universes each with a separate consequence? That means nothing can determine the outcome of a action, becomes both outcomes will occur. Determinism then can't exist.

"I believe morals are completely subjective."

Ah. I'm slipping kind of off-topic again, but moral relativism isn't the same as the absence of morality. And you say it's okay to throw some in prison to show them how what they did was wrong. So you say we should only have rehabilitative justice, not punitive?

"People with tourettes or addictions simply have another cause to determining their decisions. It is a bigger cause than most others but itself falls into the extremely long list of causes that determine our decisions."

Yet there is a difference between those with Tourette's and those without, a difference you haven't addressed. They feel a compulsion guiding their actions against their will. If will didn't exist, they would simply interpret this as the desire to twitch (of blink or swear or whatever). Why do they interpret involuntary actions differently from the rest of us, if all our actions are involuntary?

"To show a direct correlation between two objects is our test for everything. In that way determinism is demonstrable thus meaning that it exists in all of the material world including the human mind and body."

Again, very circular. "Causation is what science seeks... therefore all things have causes." That's not an explanation for WHY things must have causes.

With all this defense of randomness though, I've veered from my point that people's choice's aren't random but aren't effects either. Multiple causes may influence your choice, and your choice will have an effect, but conscious choice determines WHICH effect happens.
Debate Round No. 3
Pricetag

Pro

"We return then to the original problem. The flawless calculation (which, incidentally, you say should be able to predict everything that will ever happen because all events are ultimately effects of what exists now) says Bob picks blue (or red). It could predict this weeks in advance so long as it has enough information. Bob then CANNOT choose the opposite, even if he tries? One of the calculation's parameter's can't be "And also, Bob will choose the opposite of what this calculation says he'll pick," because that would be a paradox..."

Not really. Since determinism is a constant force you can't make the prediction that far in advance and hope to be accurate. You might know the minute or the second before he makes the decision, but certainly not weeks, too much could change by then. Bob can choose the opposite if he desires it, because desire is a cause that stems from something in his mood/attitude. So, yes he could pick the opposite, that's why I said the calculation would have to know his mood and thoughts constantly in order to accurately find the outcome. Again, in theory it could possibly work (long shot at best), but realistically it's impossible.

"If we believe that, that's not just the appearance of randomness, that's absolute randomness. Every action creates multiple universes each with a separate consequence? That means nothing can determine the outcome of a action, becomes both outcomes will occur. Determinism then can't exist."

Depends on how you see it. The question would then become what is truly reality? If reality is the sphere of space in which you can experience life then wouldn't this be the exact definition of determinism? That decisions in your reality can't happen any other way. Sure there may be other realities, but they are nonconsequential because you can't experience life there.

"Ah. I'm slipping kind of off-topic again, but moral relativism isn't the same as the absence of morality. And you say it's okay to throw some in prison to show them how what they did was wrong. So you say we should only have rehabilitative justice, not punitive?"

I believe we create our own ideas of right and wrong, but those are based off of our unique experiences and situations and should in no way be forced on others. So, in effect if everyone didn't believe in a unified list of morals, then wouldn't there be no morals? At least they wouldn't matter. Punitive justice can be rehabilitative because it instills fear in some who need it. But yes I prefer rehabilitative justice.

"Yet there is a difference between those with Tourette's and those without, a difference you haven't addressed. They feel a compulsion guiding their actions against their will. If will didn't exist, they would simply interpret this as the desire to twitch (of blink or swear or whatever). Why do they interpret involuntary actions differently from the rest of us, if all our actions are involuntary?"

Because they don't live under the same illusions that we do. We have this illusion of choice which makes us think that we have control over our choices and that our mind can control the things around us, when in actuality all of our choices are simply a reactionary element against all things around us with consideration of our life past and present. They don't have that illusion. They are aware that they're ticks are involuntary and that they can't control it. However, another idea here, perhaps it's simply that what happens to them is unfavorable. Whenever our decisions are good we praise ourselves, whenever they are bad we curse luck, God, other people, et cetera. It seems to be human nature to take credit for the good things and dole out blame for the bad. Perhaps this caries over to people with tourettes and because the things that happen to them are undesirable they don't blame themselves, but realize the more realistic thing that this is out of their control.

"Again, very circular. "Causation is what science seeks... therefore all things have causes." That's not an explanation for WHY things must have causes."

But does not determinism control the material world? That is my argument, because determinism can be seen everywhere in the material universe and governs all relationships in the material universe then humans as part of the material universe must be also controlled by/affected by it.

"With all this defense of randomness though, I've veered from my point that people's choice's aren't random but aren't effects either. Multiple causes may influence your choice, and your choice will have an effect, but conscious choice determines WHICH effect happens."

I'm just going to pull out that "conscious choice" from this paragraph. Conscious choice though to me is an illusion and is only your past experiences, genetic predispositions, and current mood/attitude. So when a decision comes all of your past experiences, all of your genetic predispositions, all of your current mood/attitude are considered and all these causes are battled against each other until one side tips the balance and you are pushed into that direction. Is that not how decisions happen? Are they not directly determined by all of these aforementioned items? Have you ever been able to put aside these items and use "choice" to make your decision? I know I never have.
ryanqq

Con

"Since determinism is a constant force you can't make the prediction that far in advance and hope to be accurate. You might know the minute or the second before he makes the decision, but certainly not weeks, too much could change by then."

Ah hah! See, if determinism existed, not only could we theoretically determine events about to happen in a split-second, we could determine all events because even the causes of far-future events would be the effect of things that exist right now. Yet you concede that "too much could change" between now and later events - you allow for an undetermined change, either random or willed!

"The question would then become what is truly reality? If reality is the sphere of space in which you can experience life then wouldn't this be the exact definition of determinism? That decisions in your reality can't happen any other way. Sure there may be other realities, but they are nonconsequential because you can't experience life there."

No. Even in that multiple-reality scenario, I'd still say: "IF I hadn't shot Bob (for choosing the wrong color button and defeating my prediction) THEN he would be alive. He might have been dead in an alternate reality, but he would be alive in this one, so my choice mattered."

"We have this illusion of choice which makes us think that we have control over our choices and that our mind can control the things around us, when in actuality all of our choices are simply a reactionary element against all things around us with consideration of our life past and present. They don't have that illusion."

So... Tourette's sufferers are the only true enlightened people? It's a fun thought, but it wouldn't explain how they think their desire to resist the impulses is voluntary.

"However, another idea here, perhaps it's simply that what happens to them is unfavorable. Whenever our decisions are good we praise ourselves, whenever they are bad we curse luck, God, other people, et cetera."

Interesting. Nonetheless, people are usually capable of feeling guilt, or at least responsibility/credit for their actions, and even Tourette's sufferers don't think they're being controlled by an outside force if they, say, vandalize a building. This once again proves that when people truly suffer from involuntary urges, they experience something unique.

"But does not determinism control the material world? That is my argument, because determinism can be seen everywhere in the material universe and governs all relationships in the material universe then humans as part of the material universe must be also controlled by/affected by it."

I have given a counterexample: spontaneous nuclear decay. No two things are more similar than two neighboring atoms in the middle of a sample, yet one may decay while the other may not. No one can even suggest what determines which does so.

"Conscious choice though to me is an illusion and is only your past experiences, genetic predispositions, and current mood/attitude. So when a decision comes all of your past experiences, all of your genetic predispositions, all of your current mood/attitude are considered and all these causes are battled against each other until one side tips the balance and you are pushed into that direction. Is that not how decisions happen?"

That just says decisions are rational rather than random. Attacking thought itself weakens your argument, and some choices are so SELF-determined that you cannot attribute them to outside causes alone. Like invention. Experiences can put you in a certain mood, but you can't give them credit for the melody you write when in that mood. And unless you believe in idea bubbles floating around, you can't give determinism credit when someone designs a radio or a better engine. His environment allowed him to do it and maybe made it easier, but it didn't put every word of his idea in his head.
Debate Round No. 4
Pricetag

Pro

"Ah hah! See, if determinism existed, not only could we theoretically determine events about to happen in a split-second, we could determine all events because even the causes of far-future events would be the effect of things that exist right now. Yet you concede that "too much could change" between now and later events - you allow for an undetermined change, either random or willed!"

I see your point; however, I go back to the chaos metaphor. You could do it but there's too many possible variables that it wouldn't be worth it. I should have phrased my words better, not that there's "too much [that] could change" but that there are too many outside influences that could arise. You may want to play outside right now, but if a blizzard comes along in a week would you still want to? These outside influences are determined by other things and will itself is determined by genetics, outside influences, and experience, see however you boil it down it's still determinism.

"No. Even in that multiple-reality scenario, I'd still say: "IF I hadn't shot Bob (for choosing the wrong color button and defeating my prediction) THEN he would be alive. He might have been dead in an alternate reality, but he would be alive in this one, so my choice mattered.""

What?

"So... Tourette's sufferers are the only true enlightened people? It's a fun thought, but it wouldn't explain how they think their desire to resist the impulses is voluntary."

In a way yes, but they're still probably only enlightened to that aspect of their life. Their ego probably still makes them think that they're mind is free from the laws of the material universe.

"Interesting. Nonetheless, people are usually capable of feeling guilt, or at least responsibility/credit for their actions, and even Tourette's sufferers don't think they're being controlled by an outside force if they, say, vandalize a building. This once again proves that when people truly suffer from involuntary urges, they experience something unique."

Depends, what do they perceive as the cause for their action? If it's Tourette's then they can't blame themselves, but if they perceive their own will then they might feel guilt. However, we must ask what in their past experience caused them to want to burn down a building. Each will can be traced back to past experience or genetics. Why are there pedophiles? Most likely they themselves were molested as children, cause and effect. Is not temptation (will) an involuntary urge? We can fight against it but ultimately it usually wins, correct? The same can be said about Tourette's, so why is it so hard to imagine that they are not similar in that they are both causes to our effects, it's not unique in the slightest.

"I have given a counterexample: spontaneous nuclear decay. No two things are more similar than two neighboring atoms in the middle of a sample, yet one may decay while the other may not. No one can even suggest what determines which does so."

Again I don't think we know nearly enough about quantum physics to be able to make that assertion yet. There are so many unanswered questions in that field that when they become answered I would really be surprised if "randomness" is still the best they can come up with. To do so would be to say that the universe is innately illogical which would make no sense in juxtaposition with the order that the universe creates.

"That just says decisions are rational rather than random. Attacking thought itself weakens your argument, and some choices are so SELF-determined that you cannot attribute them to outside causes alone. Like invention. Experiences can put you in a certain mood, but you can't give them credit for the melody you write when in that mood. And unless you believe in idea bubbles floating around, you can't give determinism credit when someone designs a radio or a better engine. His environment allowed him to do it and maybe made it easier, but it didn't put every word of his idea in his head."

Inventions, most of the time, are inspired by the environment around us. Melodies and other things are made in nature by birds, could the mind not synthesize sounds and overtime synthesize those sounds to make the melodies you hear in music. A better engine is simply that, combining multiple ideas and concepts and creating something better than what you had before, that would be the very definition of determinism. A radio came from studying nature's different sound waves and how they can be transmitted, again not an original idea. All things we make or have made are building on things around us. They're building blocks just like math. Many different things in a person's environment and his own past knowledge/experiences can directly determine an invention.
ryanqq

Con

I guess this is the last round. SO, three points that disprove determinism:

1) Will exists
2) Some things are causeless
3) The future can change

We know will sometimes exists because we see a definite difference between its absence and presence. When people have Tourette's, no one has to tell them that this one impulse that takes over them is involuntary. They instead accurately distinguish between surmountable urges that present them a choice of reaction and insurmountable urges that subvert their will. If will can exist in varying strengths, then obviously it can exist. There are other more common examples of this. A joke can make us laugh, or we can force laughter. We perceive a difference between the two because one laugh really does arise due to strong external stimuli and the other really does arise due to rational willful choice. We also know will exists because if you discount will, you discount all rationality with it. While you may call building an engine a small accomplishment, I say no manner of flying particles and genetic code could have produced it without a guiding intelligence capable of original thought. Intelligence and original thought necessarily possess choice. And without these qualities, nothing could produce something more complex or original that its programmer could - its programmer being the chaotic mass of DNA and air molecules you say guide people's every move.

Some things are causeless, because randomness exists: it exists in nature. I assumed from the beginning that Pricetag's burden would be to prove that randomness can't exist, but he's totally failed to meet it. His only argument to disprove randomness is that science studies causes and effects. Yes, scientists want to assign causes to everything, but that's not proof that everything has a cause. You might as well suggest that since physicists and chemists focus on quantitative explanations, disease must have a mathematical solution. Some do suggest that, but disease exceeds the scope of physics and chemistry. And even if we one day find the cause for each atom's decay, choice exceeds the scope of science.

The final problem with determinism I'll mention is how it suggests the future's immutable. I've talked a bit about how troubling that is philosophically since it eliminates all morality; there's no reason to ever feel guilty or proud if you believe in determinism. But an immutable future's also logically contradictory. If everything results directly and inevitably from a previous cause, everything that ever happens has already been determined. And though practically we could never map out the entire future, theoretically, we could. But in mapping it, we'd inevitably prevent some of the consequences we'd predict, creating a paradox. Therefore, we could never map out the future for certain, even theoretically. Therefore, things don't all result directly and inevitably from previous causes. Therefore, determinism doesn't exist.

All effects have causes, yet. But not everything is an effect.
Debate Round No. 5
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by tremendoustie 9 years ago
tremendoustie
I think the "Bob" discussion goes to PRO. Informing Bob of the decision will affect the decision, so a new decision would have to be made, taking into account the new factor that Bob had been informed. There is no reason to believe the result when Bob is not informed would match the result when Bob is informed.

That said, I voted for CON, because I think PRO continuously makes the assumption that there cannot be any factor outside of deterministic forces and randomness (called, for example, "choice"). This position should be at least explicitly declared, or better yet, somehown shown to be true. Also, PRO dismisses the contribution of chance by postulating that eventually we will discover that even chance never really existed in the first place.

Well yeah, then, if one postulates that the only concievable factors are chance and determinism, and chance is really not real anyway, of course all that is left is determinism. I really think that there is a fundamental, circular flaw to PRO's argument -- he/she ends up begging the point.
Posted by Yrael 9 years ago
Yrael
The argument that nuclear decay is random only works from a human viewpoint. From the atoms viewpoint I would seriously doubt that it is random and in time, once we as a race know more about quantum physics, neither will it be for us. Many things once attributed to randomness are now common sense.

However I do not mean to say that I agree with determinism, or at least determinism in this light. To say that one has no free will in a matter is to insinuate that one cannot make a choice. So let me ask this, what if one had no ability to consciously choose. For instance Bob, must choose red every time. Most would agree when I say, "he now lacks free will". A determinist argues that choice is merely an illusion but they don't give thought to the idea of what would occur without the "illusion". Furthermore to not have the illusion would be, simply put, not-human. It would forfeit the ability to feel any emotion at all.

Secondly choices are not always based upon past experience, choices are at times based upon what a person wishes to happen in the future. One can then argue that the future knowledge will force an a posteriori determinism but this has a substantial problem when an individual has never had the future experience before and lacks the a posteriori knowledge necessary.

Third, determinism leaves out first experiences. What happens when Johnny sees the optical illusion for the first time and entertains himself by flipping between the two different views in his mind many times? What determines when he stops?

Fourth, determinism determines the outcome split seconds beforehand. What determines? Sure argue the mind is just a big computer, but it still has to do the calculations.

Lastly, determinism is inherently flawed. It assumes each action is determined by a prior one. Thus it assumes what it sets out to prove. To say that humans are subjects to determinism and sight as evidence "cause & effect" is simply to use determinism to prove it.
Posted by qwerty15ster 9 years ago
qwerty15ster
I would love to debate this, however I feel I would do an insufficient job, I hope whomever does decide to debate this is as intelligent as Pricetag seems to be.
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Vote Placed by obama0804 9 years ago
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Vote Placed by obama0805 9 years ago
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Vote Placed by Gao 9 years ago
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Vote Placed by zjack3 9 years ago
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