The Instigator
Pro (for)
1 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

You cannot be a Naturalist and believe you have Free Will

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/4/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 430 times Debate No: 48302
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (6)
Votes (1)





This will be a short debate. I will be arguing that free will is not compatible with Naturalism as it needs to be invoked by the supernatural.

There will be 4 rounds. First round is acceptance, final round is summary.

I welcome the contender.


I argue that freewill can be compatible with naturalism, as there is nothing supernatural about using our reason and logic to make decisions and exercise our freewill.
Debate Round No. 1


Thanks very much to Con for accepting the debate.

Naturalism and belief in free will cannot co-exist together.

Naturalism is the idea that only natural forces are present in the universe, but free will cannot be invoked without supernatural explanation.

The reason is very simple. The decisions we make according to the naturalist are nothing more than reactions, reacting to predetermined stimuli. For instance, a person is born and they are a genetic robot. A person develops a unique character and psychology when genetics interact with environmental and experiential factors. A person then makes decisions based on genetic inclination (leading to for example brain chemistry) and psychology/previous experience.

What room is there for free will here?

Whenever a decision is made a concoction of ingredients such as psychology, genetics and experience are all thrown into a pot and the reaction is determined by the ingredients that went into it. The naturalist therefore has no basis to argue for free will as he is suggesting that any reaction can decide its own fate, rather than is predecided by the ingredients.

This is fundamentally at odds with the naturalistic world view as they can only invoke the supernatural to argue for free will. Otherwise Con needs to explain when there has ever been a reaction which decided its own fate, and his tools for arguing this can only be limited to scientific, empirical examples.

That concludes my opening remarks. Best of luck to Con.



I define free will as having the ability to choose an alternative course of action.

You argue that all of our decisions are based on pre-determined causes such as our genetic nature. However, while this may leave us more predisposed to certain behaviours or actions, it does not take away our ability to choose an alternative.
Bringing this back to the concept of naturalism, the brain functions used to make decisions are completely natural forces, as we have electrical impulses etc that cause thoughts and reasoning within the brain.

To have free will, we must be able to think and choose. If you argue that the processes of free will - the thinking and reasoning - are supernatural, then how do you account for individual thoughts? You are probably reading this with the little voice in your head, are you saying that that's supernatural as well? It uses the same brain functions required for free will.
Debate Round No. 2


Thankyou Con for his thoughtful response.

Con claims that our genetic nature: "does not take away our ability to choose an alternative."

But this is merely an opinion, he has not even tried to provide a philosophical or scientific basis for it.

I don't doubt that we have the appearance of free will, but for a naturalist that appearance must be an illusion

Con asks:

"To have free will, we must be able to think and choose. If you argue that the processes of free will - the thinking and reasoning - are supernatural, then how do you account for individual thoughts? You are probably reading this with the little voice in your head, are you saying that that's supernatural as well"

Well, the little voice in your head is not necessarily an indicator of free will, it just gives the illusion of free will because you feel like you can discuss with yourself.

The question is, is there any basis to for a naturalist to believe he has free will? A naturalist recognises that all things in nature are mechanical, any reaction is always decided by its ingredients rather than by itself. How therefore can humans have free will without the laws of physics being broken?




Click107 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


Sadly Con has forfeited the debate.

Please vote pro!


Apologies for forfeiting the previous round, busy weekend etc..
I realise that I gave no scientific or philosophical example for my so-called "opinion" that our genetic nature or upbringing does not take away our ability to choose an alternative, in my view, this is simply common sense. For example, it has been shown that children born into criminal families are more likely to turn to crime themselves, either through genetics or simply by being in that environment, but this does not mean that they have no choice in the matter. Since not all of these children will go on to commit crime themselves, it clearly is possible. Undoubtedly, people are influenced by their surroundings and the people they interact with but if a person has peer pressure and social conformity shoved down their throat, it doesn't mean they now suddenly don't have brain function. IT HAS NO IMPLICATIONS ON THEIR ABILITY TO REASON. They still have the ability to choose their behaviours. Whether they do or not is irrelevant, the point is that they CAN choose not to be criminal.
And coming back to the little voice in your head, it is not the same thing as free will obviously, though it uses similar brain processes - electrical impulses etc (I am not a scientist so am unable to go into detail about this). A person gets free will through thinking and reasoning with themselves (" should I eat a Mars bar or a Snickers?") and if they use their reasoning to decide that they don't like nuts, they will choose a Mars bar. Since they also have the ability to use neurological processes to lift their arm and pick up a Mars bar, they made this choice all by themselves, showing free will.

Naturalism comes into this as everything I explained above is completely natural and viewable in the natural world. There is nothing supernatural about brain processes and arm movements.
This concludes my argument, thank you to Pro for the debate.
Debate Round No. 4
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by Click107 2 years ago
I apologise profusely for not responding quick enough with my argument. I am in the middle of A level mock week, though I know that this is no excuse, I do apologise.
I think signing off permanently because my response was a little late in my very first debate is a little extreme....
Also, I did not attempt to pull any "gender victim crap". All I did was point out that Pro has been continuously referring to me as something that I am not. If it was a male stating that he did not appreciate being constantly called "she" then I doubt it would have been referrer to as trying to portray the victim. There wasn't even any emotion or anything in that comment, I purely made a statement.
Posted by andymcstab 2 years ago
completely agree capt. please dont forget to vote
Posted by captmurk 2 years ago
Con, it is unbelievable that you can't even acknowledge your poor conduct in this debate by 'forfeiting', then jumping back in at the last minute, which, by default, caused Pro to waste an entire round. Then to have the nerve to pull this gender victim crap in the comments? Pro is right, you should loose by default on conduct alone. And you should also do this website a favor and sign off, permanently.
Posted by andymcstab 2 years ago
Please vote pro. Con has showed no respect to anyone accepting a debate then forfeiting, then only returning to get the last word which i cannot respond to. He should lost by default, thankyou.
Posted by Click107 2 years ago
Would just like to point out to Pro that I am in fact female and did not enjoy being repeatedly referred to as "he" throughout the debate.
Posted by captmurk 2 years ago
This is a great topic. What Pro is also stating, by default, is that a naturalistic philosophy is one that endorses the concept of fate or destiny. In other words, choice is merely an illusion. In reality, we are all just victims of cause and effect, action and reaction. Takes me back to some of the great conversations and characters of The Matrix. I look forward to the upcoming rounds.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Krazzy_Player 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:10 
Reasons for voting decision: FF