The Instigator
Pro (for)
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The Contender
Con (against)
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There is no free will

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/31/2011 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 812 times Debate No: 16793
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (3)
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For the purposes of this debate I request accepting one axiom: everything has a reason (except the existence of the universe).
Free will: The ability to choose one of two alternatives, and act accordingly.
Deterministic event: An event that is a result, whether calculable or not, of something.
Randomness: The occurrence of one of two possible events, with no reason for the eventual occurrence of one of them, rather than the other.
My argument is, neatly and straightforwardly the following chain of thought:
1. The reason for the current state of the universe is the state of the universe at the previous moment, and the result of some random processes (whether there are any in the universe or not).
2. From the previous statement we can derive that everything in the universe is either the result of a deterministic process, or of a random one.
3. Now, let's look at free/not-so-free will:
If will, the decision made, is the result deterministic processes:
A. The choice is not "made" by the entity (that possesses the will), but rather occurs, happens, as a result of processes subject to the laws of physics and whatever other rules that govern the universe. If I chose a desert, for example, it's not because I had the free will to choose chocolate cake over fruit salad, but rather a result of the biology in my brain. I wasn't free to choose, I simply experienced the result of some neurons doing things over which I have no control whatsoever.
B. There was never a choice! Two different alternatives never existed. There was only one alternative, the one that was the result of the deterministic process. The entity possessing the "will" "chose" the only existing possibility.

If the will is the result of a random process:
The entity making the choice, for example someone choosing a desert, will end up choosing one of the alternatives, without the power to determine which, because it's random. I'm not free to choose cake over salad. Instead, the in the next moment of the universe, one of the alternative (god, I hope the cake) will be chosen, randomly.

Conclusion: will can be either deterministic or random, and both random will and deterministic will are not free.

[Please don't claim that it's invalid to use the terms "next moment" or "previous moment". Doingthat would be rude, inconsiderate and not at all helpful]


An interesting debate indeed.
I agree with the idea that everything has a reason (!=cause). However I will show that this does not lead to pro-s conclusion.


I agree that deterministic means caused by something. I will add that a deterministic system should be predictable. For example, throwing a die, even if it can be reduced to deterministic collisions and trajectories is random as far as we are concerned.

I also agree that free will means the ability to choose between two alternatives and to act accordingly. For the will to be free one also needs information. Since we are not all knowing, we make decisions with incomplete information. This does not make us deterministic, just less free. The idea is the the more information we have the more free our decisions will be since we can weight all the alternatives.
For example:
A person that knows to calculate can guess the result to x^2- 2x+1. he has one choice
A more knowledgeable person can choose to calculate delta or to write the equation as (x-1)*(x-1). he has two choices
This is to show that there are degrees of freedom according to our information. The more information we have the more choices we have, the more free will we have.
Therefore we are not talking about absolute free will. That is only accessible to a hypothetical God. We are talking about free will that is accessible to a human.

Pro starts by a false bifurcation and a non sequitur.[1]

Everything must have a reason. ok
Therefore non sequitur... why?
Everything is either deterministic or random. false bifurcation

Pro has failed to prove that everything must be either deterministic or random. He is pro so he has the burden of proof; he must show why this dichotomy is true.
I on the other hand will state that a third cause explains some phenomena: free will. So when a phenomena is neither deterministic, neither random it can be attributed to free will.
"Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth".

There are cases where a human behaviour is neither random, neither deterministic. The reason pro speaks about is only known after a person acts. Pro speaks about a biological reason for choosing the cake. What is that reason? If it is deterministic it can be predicted. This is not a cause this is a rationalization of the action. It is a post how explanation; it can not help us predict future action more than we can predict the weather. If we can not predict or statistically model a human action it is a huge leap of faith to say that human actions are deterministic or random.
Marketing companies can predict some of the human responses to stimuli. However, people read about this so they become wiser and harder to predict. As long as people have access to information they can not be predicted. So they will not be deterministic or random - they transcend these concepts; they will be free.

Since pro failed to prove the bifurcation and failed to show the causes (not reasons) behind human decisions the motion is negated.

Debate Round No. 1


Sadly, I forgot to request at the beginning that whoever chooses to participate in the debate refrains from bringing irrationalities like faith into the debate, and from making up stuff.
Anyway, I would like to thank Con for clarifying my definition.
Cons arguments were the following:
"Pro has failed to prove that everything must be either deterministic or random. "I claimed that the state of every object in the universe (metaphysical object included, even welcomed) is the result of either (1) the state of the universe the moment before, or (2) a random process (or a combination, which can be broken down to single deterministic or random components).

Con argued that this logic is flawed, as there is no proof that the list of explanations for an event is only (1) deterministic process and (2) random process.

There is no flaw in the logic, and shall I demonstrate that by (A) analyzing the 3rd explanation for an event that Con called "Free will", and by (B) showing that even if such thing existed it would not make a difference.

-------A. Con made up the 3rd explanation, and it does not make sense

Con says that some phenomena aren't results of either (1) deterministic process or (2) random process.
According to Con, the real list of explanations should (or at least could) be:
1. Deterministic process
2. Random process
3. "Free will"
But hey! Why should we call the 3rd explanation "free will"? What a boring name. Lacking creativity, thoughtfulness or any kind of ability to choose cool slogans... I have a better idea! Let's call it magic! or better, let's call it watermelons... You know what? If we are already at it, we might as well include both in the list. According to Con's convoluted logic, we could say that the list of explanations is really:
1. Deterministic process
2. Random process
3. Magic
4. Watermelons
Or, in other words, it is rediculous to expect Con's attempt to derail this debate to be taken seriously. I could make up things like souls, gods, Pegasuses, waterfruits (Gee, I wonder what those would be like...) and anything really, and deduce from those cool creation, with which my wild imagination is to be credited, that there is, or isn't, free will.

-------B. The Free Will that Con describes, is an object in the universe, therefore subject to the axion "everything has a reason"

Let's divide all the objects and things in the universe to two categories: (1) objects that are subject to the rules that govern the universe, and (2) objects that are not subject to the rules that govern the universe.
Which category does that "free will" that Con invented go into? The answer to this question is that it doesn't matter, because either way there is no free will:

---If it goes into category one:

The "Free Will" is subject to rules. Therefore - it is either the result of something, or it is random, like everything else in the universe. Being subject to rules means that there is some system determining how that object will react in certain situations, and how other object will react to it. If free will is subject to rules it is like anything else in the universe, and, once again, it's not free.

---If it goes into category two:

Free will is not subject to rules. If the "free will" is so "free" that it is free from the laws of physics, how does it affect anything? How can I as an entity utilize my "free will"'s freedom in order to be free? Because it is not subject to rules, I can't influence it! If I want to through an apple in the air, do that by giving the apple some upward momentum and releasing it. It works, because the apple is subject to the laws of physics! Now I want to "make" the "free will" choose what I want. But the "free will" Con make up is not subject to rules!!! I can't apply pressure on it, generate momentum to it, or interact in whatever fashion with the so called "free will"... That ultimately "free" object that Con is calling free will is external to any entity's existence and could not be in any way utilized in order to achieve true, real free will.


Con attacked my example of choosing deserts, excellently choosing a critical, right on clash issue (I'm being totally serious...).
Con says that "Pro speaks about a biological reason for choosing the cake. What is that reason? If it is deterministic it can be predicted. This is not a cause this is a rationalization of the action. It is a post how explanation; it can not help us predict future action more than we can predict the weather. If we can not predict or statistically model a human action it is a huge leap of faith to say that human actions are deterministic or random."

I shall show how every statement in the paragraph above is either an assertion, or just false.

-----A. "If it is deterministic it can be predicted" - Assertion! Prove that there is an exclusive correlation. Also, it's not true. According to modern physics many qualities of matter (especially speed, direction and position of near light-speed near-zero-mass particles, see cannot be calculated to 100% precision, despite being deterministic particles, parts of deterministic processes.

-----B. "This is not a cause this is a rationalization of the action. It is a post how explanation; it can not help us predict future action more than we can predict the weather." - Assertion! Who says we can't model human action. On the weather issue, I don't know about wherever you live, but here in New York before leaving home in the morning I look at something very cool - a weather prophesy - using which I decide whether or not to take an umbrella with me. We can predict the weather fine, and the only reason we can't predict it accurately for long periods of time that we don't have the computer power or sensory power to take all the factors into consideration. As for the brain: We can predict what output a computer algorithm will generate for the input 1+1. We can even predict what the results of running a word indexing algorithm on this very webpage would result in, but doing it would require some time. Going even further, we can predict what will happen when running a super complex computer program, like, for instance, windows 7. Doing this would require even more time, resources and effort. The Human brain is just a very complex system, some super advance computer hardware+software . We may not have the capacity to model to perfectly just yet, but this is no reason to assume that it runs on some watermelon-magical-ridiculous-made-up-non-existent free will, rather than laws of physics.

-----C. "If we can not predict or statistically model a human action it is a huge leap of faith to say that human actions are deterministic or random." - the same assertion that we can't predict or statistically analyse. Also, I refuse to care about faith. I'm sorry it's hard for you to believe that there is no free will. But while it's a leap-of-faith conclusion, there is a perfectly well defined chain of thought, list of logical links, behind the leap. If I need to utilize all the flexibility of my "faith" in order to maintain logically consistency, so be it.

I did not fail to show logical links and proofs for my claim, despite what Con says.
Sorry about the length.


Nice humor. I had a good laugh.
I used no "faith", magic or watermelons to prove my argument. Use find on the first argument and you won't find any of this terms. I only made up the arguments not the facts.
Unfortunately, you are Pro so you have the burden of proof.
This means that I can win by bringing only defensive arguments. I did more than this. I brought offensive arguments. So to make things clear. You must show beyond reasonable doubt that there is no free will. I must show that there is reasonable doubt or that there is some free will - either of those negates your argument.

First, Pro did not attack extension to the definition of free will; he must therefore accept that we are going to talk about degrees of free will that are affected by the amount of information available to the subject.

I use the term free will as defined by Pro. Pro did not say we would debate about magic or watermelons being the cause of some events. Pro came forth with an hypothesis (universe = deterministic + random). I showed that an alternative hypothesis is more probable. It is not a matter of this debate (and it is a red herring form Pro) if a third hypothesis with melons explains the universe even better. Even if that were the case, Pro's argument would still be flawed because he would not have a bifurcation (deterministic/random) to begin with.

I like how I pointed out a false bifurcation and Pro comes up with another:
Free will is either subject to the laws of the universe or is not. Pro may seem that he is applying logic here; but he is not.
If we would have applied the same logic to waves and particles we wouldn't have a very good model to describe the universe now. What if free will (and it seems to be the case) is subject to some laws of the universe but it is not subject to others. This is very probable since humans act according to initial causes sometimes and sometimes they don't. For example they act like irrational or they act rational or a combination of the two. Pro's bifurcation does not take this into account and for this reason creates a poor model to explain the universe.

I am not sure what Pro is trying to show. He starts by showing that a phenomena cannot be predicted with 100% precision then states that we need more calculating power. If humans can't be predicted, than there is no proof that they are deterministic. In fact, the weather pro speaks about can't be predicted for more than 7 days (and sometimes even tomorrow is unsure) precisely because some guy uses his free will to start a fire in some forest and this destroys any prediction. Chess is even simpler and deterministic and not even the most advanced computer can predict the moves or the outcome of the game. The problem becomes nightmarish if you let the people know they are being observed.

I think that what is important from Pro's argument is that the brain is " just a very complex system, some super advance computer hardware+software". This is wrong and it misses the entire point about humans being able to learn. I you use something (superior computer) to predict human behavior and the human finds out about that you are back to square one. This relates to the fact that free will is related to the amount of information available. This can go on and on and it is the reason that new manipulation techniques must be invented all the time. As human knowledge expands it is even harder to predict human behavior. By induction [1] human knowledge will expand more that it is physically possible to predict. If this induction and our intuition show that it is not possible to predict a human than it is a larger leap of faith to assume that the human is deterministic/random than to conclude that the human has free will. Free will better explains the reality.

My argument is not based on faith - why does Pro bring up faith?. It is based on an expanded definition of free will and an argument that was never addressed - the fact that humans learn. For now it is a smaller leap of faith to believe in in free will.

Topic negated.


Debate Round No. 2


mj_bear forfeited this round.


Pro gave up...
To waste no more of the reader's time I will sum up the debate.

Definition of free will
My expanded definition should be considered since pro did not attack that.
=> free will depends on the amount of information available.


I have show a reasonable probability that there is a third category of phenomena that are neither random, neither deterministic and that free will explains these phenomena very well while pro did nothing but mock this argument with magic and melons. Therefore the free will idea hepatises stands.


I have also refuted the second bifurcation of Pro (things have a reason/ things have no reason). This was shown false because there are things that are partially explained by reason. Pros argument is the same thing as saying that a mellon is or is not. This does not take into account 1/2 or 99/100 of a mellon. This is why we are trying to teach computers more than formal logic. To better describe the world.


I have also shown that due to their ability to learn, humans are more than a " just a very complex system, some super advance computer hardware+software" taking them out of the realm of determinism and randomness.

Because of the extended definition of "free will" and the refutation of the two false bifurcations Pros case is negated.
Vote for Con.

Debate Round No. 3
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by Republican95 5 years ago
Proposition 2 doesn't logically flow from Prop 1. If I had more time, I might accept it...but I don't.
Posted by Ore_Ele 5 years ago
Otherwise, I would accept.
Posted by Ore_Ele 5 years ago
I deny the axiom to begin with.
No votes have been placed for this debate.