The Instigator
boggleface
Pro (for)
Losing
6 Points
The Contender
TesterPot
Con (against)
Winning
22 Points

There is no contradiction between free will and determinism

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/13/2011 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 1,786 times Debate No: 15345
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (4)
Votes (6)

 

boggleface

Pro

One's personal choices are based on the workings of the mind which are ultimately based on the physical processes of the brain. This constitutes an individuals will. Their free will. I don't understand that because a persons actions might be determinable they aren't making free choices.
TesterPot

Con

Thanks first to boggleface for this debate. This happens to be one of my favourite subjects to discuss.

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I feel it wise to clarify in advance the meaning of free will: http://www.thefreedictionary.com...

"1. The ability or discretion to choose; free choice: chose to remain behind of my own free will.
2. The power of making free choices that are unconstrained by external circumstances or by an agency such as fate or divine will."

While we're at it, I might as well include determinism: http://www.thefreedictionary.com...

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

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Two types of deterministic influences come to my mind that could be used in argument against free will. I will explore them both below.

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1. The psychological level.

It makes sense from a survivability perspective to say that, when humans make decisions, the mind draws upon knowledge, experience and present conditions to decide the best course of action. We probably wouldn't have survived to this day had our ancestors' choices to flee from predators been reliant on a chemical coin toss. It's much more logical to say that thought processes and algorithms are in place to make analyses and predictions and consequently decisions.

It then follows that the human mind isn't making a free decision completely out of the blue, but comes to a conclusion that has outside influences. For example, a parent of a child being asked whether the child can have a pet dog may say no based on their fear of dogs stemming from when they themselves were attacked by one. Another example may be someone declining to go to their favourite restaurant with friends because they're too tired from work. In yet another example, a person may not want to go into some woods because they've heard stories of an axe murderer that lives there.

In effect, experience, conditions and knowledge tell the human what to do, think and choose, regardless of how complicated the individual's working psychology may be.

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2. The physical level.

It has already been agreed that in a deterministic universe, physical processes at the very least are at the mercy of determinism.

If we also accept that the human body is an entirely physical entity, even if we then stretch to the unimaginable idea that human decision making is the result of spontaneous releases of chemicals or electrical signals, those physical manifestations are still influenced by determinism - and by extension, so is the decision making process that relies on them.

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So to draw all appropriate connections and tie up all loose ends: free will is defined as "choices that are unconstrained by external circumstances," but as we have found here, choices are indeed the product of external circumstances.
Debate Round No. 1
boggleface

Pro

I don't see the psychological or physical arguments as constraints they are what define our decision making process. If they are a constraint, what are they constraining? A decision making process? What is an unrestrained will? It's.... ....nothing. Not the same as a free will.

"There is no contradiction between free will and knowing in advance precisely what one will do. If one knows ones self completely then this is the situation. One does not deliberately do the opposite of what one wants." ~ Kurt G�del
TesterPot

Con

I reiterate that free will is very specifically defined as making choices that are not influenced by external forces - and Pro seems to acknowledge that external forces influence human thought. Pro's argument instead seems to be that "free will" is some ambiguous term for a human's thought processes, but this is not the case.

I will also ignore Pro's quote as it has no obvious context (determinism is mentioned nowhere) and is of no real value to the discussion.
Debate Round No. 2
boggleface

Pro

Your definition of free will appears to be a decision that occurs completely out of the blue..... Which of course is non-sense. The reasoning and emotion that influences a persons will is not an external force it's an internal, part and parcel, make-up of a persons consciousness - their free will.

On the subject of THE definition you give for free will, I think the only place for this is in the garbage. The idea that because a decision is even influenced by an external circumstance means it's not a free decision is absurd. This, to my mind, is a very basic and self apparent fact. I would have deep concerns about anyone who thought otherwise.

The quote by Kurt G�del clearly refers to a deterministic universe 'knowing in advance precisely what one will do'. Given a deterministic universe this has no bearing on the issue of a person making free decisions. Even if a person is able to determine their future choices, then this is the case, a person will always confirm to their will.
TesterPot

Con

The definition I gave is taken straight from the dictionary - which I linked to.

To summarize this discussion: "free will" is very clearly dictionary-defined as the ability to make decisions that are not determined by external influences. I have already argued how the mind is influenced by determinism on both the physical level (cells, chemicals, electricity) and its inputs (environment, circumstances, past experiences, etc). Note that my opponent has not argued against these, but rather against my quoted definition of free will and its conflict with his interpretation.

Thanks anyway to Pro for the discussion.
Debate Round No. 3
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by Gileandos 6 years ago
Gileandos
Good job Pro, but I would have liked to see more content.
To clarify the definition process, I would find fault with a "freedictionary" understanding of freewill in a philosophical debate.
This would be a more appropriate defintional source.

http://www.iep.utm.edu...
Posted by TesterPot 6 years ago
TesterPot
Good to see this debate got us absolutely nowhere.
Posted by boggleface 6 years ago
boggleface
In this case, obviously, yes, determinism has an impact on free will but determinism (a completely deterministic universe) does not exclude free will.
Posted by wolfhaines 6 years ago
wolfhaines
Paradox: A man is walking home from work, he gets hit on the head and kidnapped. When he comes round, he finds himself in a room with everything he needs to survive and entertain himself for a lifetime. He decides to stay in the room and doesn't even attempt to open the door. However, the room is locked so he is staying in the room regardless. Which one prevailed- determinism or free will?
6 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Vote Placed by socialpinko 5 years ago
socialpinko
bogglefaceTesterPotTied
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro's only case after Con's argument from external cirumstances was to attack Con's definition of free will. However, Pro did not define free will either in rounds 1 or 2 while Con defined it and sourced the definition in round 1. Pro also never provided an alternative superior definition of free will. Therefore we are left with Con's definition and consequently his argument which Pro never attempts to dispute.
Vote Placed by Cliff.Stamp 6 years ago
Cliff.Stamp
bogglefaceTesterPotTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro should have defined in the opening, or at least offered a competing definition.
Vote Placed by KRFournier 6 years ago
KRFournier
bogglefaceTesterPotTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: I see where Pro was going, but he did not provide a competing definition of Free Will. He was on the right track though. However, Con provided a more thorough argument and Pro just really didn't refute it as much as dismiss it. So, I must reward debate points to Con. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, these debates always reduce to debate of definitions. That's why clearly defining and defending the correct term is so important.
Vote Placed by Gileandos 6 years ago
Gileandos
bogglefaceTesterPotTied
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Total points awarded:60 
Reasons for voting decision: Conduct point to Pro, for concise arguments despite misunderstanding of Con's statements. Pro had more convincing arguments as Freewill was not defined accurately by Con and Freewill is not defined as out of the blue. All of Con's arguements only serve to validate Pro's point and Pro's definition of freewill. Reliable source flows to Pro for quoting. Con only quoted Free Dictionary.
Vote Placed by Nails 6 years ago
Nails
bogglefaceTesterPotTied
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Reasons for voting decision: CON appears to be the only one adequately addressing the distinction between a free and externally controlled will.
Vote Placed by Robikan 6 years ago
Robikan
bogglefaceTesterPotTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro missed several opportunities to refute Con's claims, and Con made a pretty convincing argument.