The Instigator
truthseeker613
Con (against)
Tied
7 Points
The Contender
RoyLatham
Pro (for)
Tied
7 Points

free will without metaphysical

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/14/2011 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,919 times Debate No: 15939
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (17)
Votes (2)

 

truthseeker613

Con

I challenge any one to support the existence of free will without the existence of metaphysical. Burden of evidence, is primarily on me on me. It is my job to show that it cannot exist without Metaphysical last response is not for new arguments but rather for response, clarification and summarization. I obviously cannot prove it 100%, but rather that it is more likely that my position is true. My argument is that without anything metaphysical the human is as far as we know made up of atoms. Logically any result has a cause. logically any cause will always have the same result. now, assuming there are 2 choices of decision "a" and "b". These decisions are results. as every occurrence/happening is a result. In a purely physical world, a decision would be a certain arrangement of atoms, most probably in the brain. Lets call the cause, "c". now if "a" or "b" is to occur "c" must have preceded it if "c" the cause preceded it then the result is dependent on "c". "c" as a cause will always have the same result if so there is no room for free will.
RoyLatham

Pro

This is an interesting topic in the light of modern physics.

Con has accepted the burden of proving that there is no free will, and the argument he has presented is contradicted by modern physics. Specifically, Pro's claim that "a cause will always have the same result [and] so there is no room for free will" is false. We now know that there are unpredictable physical events in nature. It is not just that we lack certain information needed to predict the outcomes, rather that they are inherently theoretically unpredictable. The laws of the physical universe do not allow the prediction.

I cite five categories of unpredictable events:

1. Wave-particle duality demonstrated in diffraction experiments shows that it is impossible to predict the paths of particles.

"One of the most striking consequences of the new science is that it is not in agreement with the belief of Laplace that an omniscient entity, knowing the initial positions and velocities of all particles in the universe at one time, could predict their positions at any future time. (To paraphrase Laplace's idea, the positions and velocities of all things at any given time depend absolutely on their previous positions and velocities and the absolute laws that govern physical interactions.) Laplace believed that such particles would follow the laws of motion discovered by Newton, but twentieth century physics made it clear that the motions of sub-atomic particles and even some small atoms cannot be predicted by using the laws of Newtonian physics. For instance, most of the orbits for electrons moving around atomic nuclei that are permitted by Newtonian physics are excluded by the new physics. And it is not even clear what the "movement" of a particle such as a photon may be when it is not clear that it "goes through" either one slit or the other, but it is clear that the probability of its arrival at various points on the target screen is a function of its wavelength and of the distance between the slits. Whereas Laplace would expect an omniscient mind to be able to predict with absolute confidence the arrival of a photon at some specific point on the target screen, it turns out that the particle may arrive at one of a great number of points, but that the percentage of particles that arrive at each of such points is determined by the laws of the new physics." Wikipedia article quoted at http://roulette404.multiply.com...

2. Quantum states only exist as probability distributions. "Regardless of how carefully we prepare the state ρ of the system, measurement results are not repeatable in general, and we must understand the expectation value of an observable A as a statistical mean. It is this mean that is predicted by physical theories." http://en.wikipedia.org...

This means that the position and momentum of a particle or object only exists as a probability distribution. It follows that particle interactions can only be described in terms of probability distributions. As the article notes, the uncertainty principle applies to both classical and quantum mechanics.

3. Particles decay at unpredictable times.http://en.wikipedia.org... summarizes "Particle decay is the spontaneous process of one elementary particle transforming into other elementary particles. During this process, an elementary particle becomes a different particle with less mass and an intermediate particle such as W boson in muon decay. ... The mean lifetime of a particle is labeled τ, and thus the probability that a particle survives for a time greater than t before decaying is given by the relation P(t) = e^{-t/(tau)}" In other words, the average time for the type of particle decay is known, but the moment at which will decay is completely unpredictable. The W boson has an average decay time of 10^(-25) seconds and an electron has an average life of 4.6 x 10^26 years. Other particles have intermediate times.

There are about 10^80 electrons in the universe http://wiki.answers.com... so even though 10^26 years is a long average life, there are many millions of unpredictable electron decays every second, and many more of other types of particles.

4. From the same Wikipedia article, "The process of particle decay is distinct from radioactive decay, in which an unstable atomic nucleus is transformed into a smaller nucleus accompanied by the emission of particles or radiation."
Radioactive decay is a separate unpredictable process:

"Radioactive decay is the process in which an unstable atomic nucleus spontaneously loses energy by emitting ionizing particles and radiation. This decay, or loss of energy, results in an atom of one type, called the parent nuclide transforming to an atom of a different type, named the daughter nuclide. For example: a carbon-14 atom (the "parent") emits radiation and transforms to a nitrogen-14 atom (the "daughter"). This is a stochastic process on the atomic level, in that it is impossible to predict when a given atom will decay, but given a large number of similar atoms the decay rate, on average, is predictable." http://en.wikipedia.org...

5. Quantum fluctuation is the unpredictable temporary appearance of particles. "In quantum physics, a quantum fluctuation is the temporary change in the amount of energy in a point in space, arising from Werner Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. ...That means that conservation of energy can appear to be violated, but only for small times. This allows the creation of particle-antiparticle pairs of virtual particles. The effects of these particles are measurable, for example, in the effective charge of the electron, different from its "naked" charge. ... Quantum fluctuations may have been very important in the origin of the structure of the universe: according to the model of inflation the ones that existed when inflation began were amplified and formed the seed of all current observed structure." http://en.wikipedia.org...

What this all means is that it is not true that an identical cause will produce the same effect. Unknowable probabilistic events may change the outcome.

Because determinism is impossible, free will cannot be defined in contradiction to determinism. So either the definition of free will must be fixed, a job for Con, or free will must prevail. The contrary determinism has been ruled out.

In any case, Con's argument against free will is negated.
Debate Round No. 1
truthseeker613

Con

Thank you for accepting. Before going into the science of your points, I would prefer to address the logic. By the fact that you have not rejected the logic of my evidence I presume you agree to its validity (baring the resent scientific research you present. There for I will respond to your rejection of my evidence by saying that it is evident that in these physical phenomena as well there is a metaphysical factor involved. I await pro's response.
RoyLatham

Pro

It is true by definition that every result has a cause. The definition of "result" is something that it is the product of a cause. However it neither logical nor true that every event has a cause. We know as fact that some events occur purely at random.

It is certainly not a consequence of logic that repeating a cause will repeat the result. If it were true it would be a product of observation, not logic. It is not true because it is observed not to be true. Anything that is a rule of logic is independent of observation.

You are not calling upon logic. You are saying, "In the deterministic world I imagine, every event is caused and the any cause always produces the same event." That's calling upon the properties of the world you imagine. For a long time it seemed that the real world was like the imagined world, but it turns out the real world is not like that.

Metaphysics is distinguished from science as follows:

"Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world, although the term is not easily defined. ...

Prior to the modern history of science, scientific questions were addressed as a part of metaphysics known as natural philosophy. The term
science itself meant "knowledge" of originating from epistemology. The scientific method, however, transformed natural philosophy into an empirical activity deriving from experiment unlike the rest of philosophy. By the end of the 18th century, it had begun to be called "science" to distinguish it from philosophy. Thereafter, metaphysics denoted philosophical enquiry of a non-empirical character into the nature of existence.” [emphasis added]
http://en.wikipedia.org...

If your claim is that the nature of reality is determined by logic that demands deterministic cause and effect, then that is a metaphysical argument and must be rejected under the conditions of the proposed debate. However, if you claim that deterministic cause and effect are observed, then that is a scientific argument and not a metaphysical argument.

My arguments are purely scientific. Observation proves that the world is not as you supposed.


Debate Round No. 2
truthseeker613

Con

I thank pro for his enlightening critique of determination ism, and I appreciate the clarification in the previous round. lastly I apologize for the delay in ans. paradigm shifts are not easy. I believe I understand your position. I would like to hear your response to the following 4 points.
1) you presented a few non deterministic systems, however most systems are deterministic.
2) You say there are events without cause. With regard to decisions there clearly are causes (i.e. genetics and external factors). Free will would just be another force/factor.
3)You say there are events without cause, decision based on free will is an event with a cause as will would have to be some sort of physical cause.
4)This physical cause will is found no were else in the universe.
5)You provided a non deterministic random system. Are you proposing that free will decision is random?
I eagerly await to see your position on these matters.
RoyLatham

Pro

1) you presented a few non deterministic systems, however most systems are deterministic.

Actually, the fundamental nature of the universe is such that no system is deterministic. However, most of the time things behave as if they are, because the averages dominate. We don't have to worry about suddenly falling through the floor because the statistics make that extremely unlikely. Still, many large things are determined by very small changes. this is a part of chaos theory. It's summarized by the notion that the fluttering of a butterfly in Beijing may upset tomorrow's weather here. The brain depends upon trillions of neurons and synapses, so it's quite likely that brain operation is not deterministic.

2) You say there are events without cause. With regard to decisions there clearly are causes (i.e. genetics and external factors). Free will would just be another force/factor.

The problem is that without determinism, free will seems undefined. I don't agree that free will has the nature of a force. I think it is a process.

The best I can conjure is that free will is like a computer program. Humans use it to process events to arrive at actions. The general nature of the program is determined by heredity, but at any time the program has been modified by past experience and it is also subject to random events that change the decision paths.

3)You say there are events without cause, decision based on free will is an event with a cause as will would have to be some sort of physical cause.

This gets back to how free will is defined in a universe that is not deterministic. Originally, free will was a departure from determinism. Without determinism, what is free will?

Events definitely are the inputs to decision making, so free will depends upon events. However, neither the input events or the free will process can be necessarily repeated, so we cannot say that the same result will always occur.

4)This physical cause will is found no were else in the universe.


Are you saying that free will will be found nowhere else?

Remember, you set the ground rule that the debate was to exclude metaphysics. That means we are only able to use empiricism. Since the whole universe has not been observed we do not know whether free will exists elsewhere.

I think that chances are that there are probably intelligent life forms that are subjectively conscious and have free will, but I don't know. I think that once we understand subjective consciousness, we'll have better understanding of what is involved.

5)You provided a non deterministic random system. Are you proposing that free will decision is random?

Partly random, but not entirely, I claim that free will is now undefined. We still have some concept of free will, but it needs an entirely new definiion. If there is a valid definition, then I suppose free will must be a type of process that is both non-deterministic and self-modifying. In other words, our decisions depend upon a combination of our genetic makeup, our experience of events including all our past history, and randomness.

How do you define free will? You cannot use the concept of a deterministic universe in the definition, because that does not exist. Your initial argument posed the question so that free will was the exception to determinism.

Debate Round No. 3
truthseeker613

Con

Well I must say this has been a most fascinating debate. When I 1st read your response in round 2 I thought you had me beat but the more I thought about it more ideas came to me, this has certainly been a great learning experience for me and I am privileged to be debating it with the greatest debtor on DDO. Thank you.
Addressing your closing words 1st, you ask for a definition of free will. I did not want to impose any definition so I did not give one I preferred to allow my opponent to choose any reasonable definition, but having been asked I will respond with my opinion. In my opinion free will is a sort of oxymoron, like a square circle."Free" would imply that it is not bound by rules, while "will" implies a controlled force. The only way which I could possibly fathom such a thing would be with metaphysics. Not bec. Then it would be understood but rather it would be understandably not understood. As I don't have much grasp on metaphysical.
You state that you think free will is not a force but rather a process. I beg to differ; a decision is a process free will is a factor in that process. Perhaps this is what you meant and I misunderstood you, I do not want to make this a semantics debate.
The underlying problem here I believe is that free will cannot be defined in physical terms. Even if it is a process this process is made up of a combination of factors with randomness. Where does free will fit in? It's difficult to discus something that I maintain cannot exist in a purely physical world.
Regarding the last line of the 2nd to last paragraph I had trouble with what you said I quote: "In other words, our decisions depend upon a combination of our genetic makeup, our experience of events including all our past history, and randomness."
Where does free will fit in we are not in control of our genetic makeup nor of our experience of events?
I look forward to your response as we wrap up this debate for me it has been an insightful learning experience and I thank you.
(p.s. I apologize for the delayed responses, this has been a challenging debate for me, and required much thought.)
RoyLatham

Pro

RoyLatham forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
truthseeker613

Con

To summarize, I started the debate by challenging anyone to support the concept of free will without use of metaphysics, metaphysics being none physical beings/forces. I placed BoP primarily upon myself to show that it is more likely that free will does not exist (in a purely physical world). My 1st argument of determinism was brilliantly opposed by my opponent using modern physics to show physics is not deterministic but rather the same cause/circumstance can have different results.
At this point R3 things got a bit complicated so I will quote my opponent to ensure accuracy:
"The problem is that without determinism, free will seems undefined. I don't agree that free will has the nature of a force. I think it is a process.

The best I can conjure is that free will is like a computer program. Humans use it to process events to arrive at actions. The general nature of the program is determined by heredity, but at any time the program has been modified by past experience and it is also subject to random events that change the decision paths."
With regard to my inquiry of whether he was considering free will to be "random" my opponent resounded:
"Partly random, but not entirely, I claim that free will is now undefined. We still have some concept of free will, but it needs an entirely new definition. If there is a valid definition, then I suppose free will must be a type of process that is both non-deterministic and self-modifying. In other words, our decisions depend upon a combination of our genetic makeup, our experience of events including all our past history, and randomness."
Unfortunately I was unable to verify my understanding of my opponent's position in R4. As far as I can tell my opponent has no clear definition of free will. I maintain there is no clear definition for free will bec. if it does exist, it's not physical/not within our observable capabilities, there for cannot really be understood with enough clarity to be described in words. I believe inability to define a term is reason to doubt something's physical existence, as most physical things/forces/processes ect. Are defined.
Lastly from the last sentence I quoted I don't see were free will fits in it would seem we are not in control of our free will, this fits with "free" but the problem is "will". I can fathom physics in terms of determinism, randomness, or a combination of both. But free will does not seem to fit.
To sum up my argument: Being that free will cannot be given evidence for, observed, or defined, it is more probable that freewill does not exist in a physical sense.
I again thank my opponent for a most enlightening debate.
RoyLatham

Pro

My opponent began with an implicit definition of free will. He said that free will cannot exist because the universe was deterministic. The implication is that free will equates to decisions that are not predetermined. I accepted that definition and refuted it, Modern physics shows that the universe is not deterministic, and moreover the laws of nature in our universe cannot function with a deterministic model. In other words, not only is the universe not deterministic, we cannot properly imagine it to be deterministic.

Con made some inquiries and, I believe, ultimately conceded that my argument was correct. That conceded the debate base upon the definition of free will he had implied in his challenge. I don't think a debate can been won by changing definitions after the original ones were defeated, but, hey, we are here in the spirit of inquiry. Still, it is the instigator's responsibility to make a clear and meaningful resolution to debate. I suggested that free will is a type of process that embraced at least genetics, experience, and randomness as elements in the process.

Saying that free will is a type of process does not define it well enough to debate. It's like saying that a cat is a type of animal. That's fine as far as it goes, but it's not enough to debate the nature of cats. In our case, free will being a process does not define the nature of the process.

Con opined that free will is a "force." In the physical world, a force is something that causes objects to accelerate, like the force of gravity. So what is the analogy of that to free will? I don't understand and my opponent did not explain. We remain without a definition of free will.

My opponent then argued that if free will is undefined, it "is more probable that freewill does not exist in a physical sense." This is amounts to claiming that if something is not understood, the best explanation is magic. Houdini, the great magician, performed amazing feats that no one could explain. He proclaimed, "It is all just tricks." Many in his audience heard that and said, "Wow, he is performing real magic and is trying to throw us off!" If Houdini's tricks are unexplained, is it probable they are magic? No, it's more probable that they fit within the laws of nature. The same holds for free will. We don't understand it, but in all probability it fits within the laws of nature.

There are millions of scientists in the world. Each of them is working on a problem that is not solved. Each therefore has the opportunity to say, "I have not found the explanation, so chances are it is magic at work." No scentist does that, because we had great success in finding physical solutions to problems. Ancient peoples did not understand why volcanoes erupted, so they postulated a volcano god as the most probable explanation, and they imagined what might please the volcano god. They would have been better off leaving it unexplained, and still better off supposing there was an unknown physical explanation.

I think the problem of subjective consciousness is similar to the problem of free will. We all have an idea of what it is to be conscious, but there is now no scientifically precise definition. Nonetheless, scientists are working on the problem and they believe they will solve it. Scientist Steven Pinker writes,

"Although neither problem [of subjective consciousness] has been solved, neuroscientists agree on many features of both of them, and the feature they find least controversial is the one that many people outside the field find the most shocking. Francis Crick called it "the astonishing hypothesis"--the idea that our thoughts, sensations, joys and aches consist entirely of physiological activity in the tissues of the brain. Consciousness does not reside in an ethereal soul that uses the brain like a PDA; consciousness is the activity of the brain."
http://blogs.uww.edu...

It's not directly relevant to the debate, but saying that the laws of nature can explain free will and consciousness does not rule out the possibility of God. A religious commentator wrote.

"In The Grand Design Hawking declares that understanding complex theories of physics makes it "[un]necessary to invoke God." Believers are in a tizzy over this statement, claiming that Hawking has dismissed God. Hawking has not dismissed God – he is staying true to the tenets of science by giving a scientific explanation that does not invoke God. Anytime we claim that something happened because God did it, we are giving a theological explanation, not a scientific one. It is good to acknowledge deity in science; it is not good to invoke deity in scientific explanations."
http://www.mormonsandscience.com...

The greater God would be one who need not continually intervene to set things right, but rather works through consistent laws of nature.

If Con's implcit definition of free will made in his challenge is correct, then the Con's argument fails directly. If it free will is undfined, then it's more probable that a physical solution will be found than to suppose a metaphysical explanation. The resolution is affirmed.

Thanks to Con for an interesting debate. I apologize for having missed the fourth round, but I don't think that had a significant effect on the debate as a whole.
Debate Round No. 5
17 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Yraelz 3 years ago
Yraelz
Yeah, I'll think of something in a bit. I recently finished Genome by Matt Ridley, it had some great ideas about this topic. I'm going to finish Incognito and then I'll get back to you on this.
Posted by RoyLatham 3 years ago
RoyLatham
You say, "Even if an all knowing computer was precluded from calculating the future, it's not much much different to say, "my actions are produced of randomness"." The fundamental inescapable randomness is important because it breaks the dichotomy between "my actions are predetermined" and "my actions are not predetermined." The second part about free will being a metaprocess seems to me to depend upon there being fundamental randomness to deal with.

Anyway we seem to have a lot of agreement. How depressing!
Posted by Yraelz 3 years ago
Yraelz
Also to your first point. It feels like pure randomness, unpredictability granted, would still be a prison much like determinism. Even if an all knowing computer was precluded from calculating the future, it's not much much different to say, "my actions are produced of randomness". It's still part of Hume's fork.
Posted by Yraelz 3 years ago
Yraelz
"There is another problem that I cannot resolve. The brain modifies it's algorithm for making decisions based upon data. So perhaps "free will" can be defined not as a process for making decisions, but rather the metaprocess by which the process for making decisions is continually modified. If so, then what makes a person "free" is way the decisonmaking process is altered as a result of both chance and data."

This is what I really want to debate about. My exact position is that the conscious mind modifies the "weights" used by the rest of the brain in retrospect and therefor influences future actions. That metaprocess, I believe, is the key to free will. Unfortunately our outlooks seem to be quite similar; I don't see an obvious topic that we would both debate sans devil's advocate.
Posted by RoyLatham 3 years ago
RoyLatham
My position is driven by observation of how the universe appears to work. We know determinism is wrong because there are genuinely random events in nature. We know free will is wrote because "will" is a brain process that we assume is an algorithm that we presume to be deterministic. To maintain determinism, one must take the stance that although random events are unpredictable, there is only one way that they in fact happen so the pattern is nonetheless determined. But that's wrong because, the laws of nature depend upon random events being truly unpredictable at any level. It cannot be that the random events are really predetermined and just revealed.

There is another problem that I cannot resolve. The brain modifies it's algorithm for making decisions based upon data. So perhaps "free will" can be defined not as a process for making decisions, but rather the metaprocess by which the process for making decisions is continually modified. If so, then what makes a person "free" is way the decisonmaking process is altered as a result of both chance and data.
Posted by Yraelz 3 years ago
Yraelz
Probably, but not until I clear my other ones.

Why do you feel that way? Because the definition of determinism often excludes any possibility for free will?
Posted by RoyLatham 3 years ago
RoyLatham
My position is that "free will" is undefined. Basically free will vs. determinism is a false dichotomy. A fun debate?
Posted by Yraelz 3 years ago
Yraelz
Hmmm, so Roy, if I challenged you to a debate on free-will you would prefer to take the pro "free will" side?
Posted by RoyLatham 5 years ago
RoyLatham
The evidence for free will is the subjective sense that we make decisions. The classic opposition is that the feeling is an illusion, because everything is deterministic. That opposition fails. To make a new case that free will is an illusion, there needs to be a new definition of what free will really is. I think that is were we are now stuck. I think there is a good chance that more science will come up with a definition and an explanation, but I don't know what that will be.

Some say that subjective consciousness was proof of God. At this point scientists seem convinced it occurs entirely by physical processes in the brain, although thy don't know how. I think free will won't be explained until after subjective consciousness.

It would be nice if one of the debaters who specialize in philosophical topics would comment.
Posted by truthseeker613 5 years ago
truthseeker613
Regarding your 1st comment. I think free will is just an intuitive feeling/concept, or religious dogma.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by jewgirl 5 years ago
jewgirl
truthseeker613RoyLathamTied
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Total points awarded:70 
Reasons for voting decision: pretty even debate. As in evenly poor on both sides. Could be I am bias to cons way of thinking. This vote is primarily to counter lionharts obvious vote bomb. (pro forfited R4 and you give him conduct?).
Vote Placed by Lionheart 5 years ago
Lionheart
truthseeker613RoyLathamTied
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Total points awarded:07 
Reasons for voting decision: Con is falls short of making a clear argument for his burden. Con's stance is one of someone that is confused and Pro's stance is made with confidence and clarity.