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Does free will in human beings exist?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/22/2018 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 389 times Debate No: 108957
Debate Rounds (3)
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By free will I mean the ability to make our own choices. I choose to write this debate. Is it even a choice or was it inevitable?
The argument has been presented by neuroscientist and philosopher Sam Harris in his book Free Will.

I'm looking for a convincing argument for the existence of free will. For now I'm convinced that essentially we are just atoms and chemical reactions which are happening at this very moment, even you reading these words, the only reason you are reading this is because everything what happened before this exact moment led you here. Your genes, your upbringing, your parents, your education, the bully that bullied you in school, it all defines the composition of atoms you are in this very moment. This makes every action you made in the past inevitable, it could've not have happened otherwise because in that very moment you were that composition of atoms that led you to that choice.
Even now if you think: "I'm going to raise my arm to prove I made that choice." whereas in reality the reason you made that choice is because you have the illusion of free will and wanted to prove it exists. It's mind boggling.
Some argue that our spirit or soul give us free will but there's no evidence for the existence of a soul, we are just a product of billions of years of evolution.


Slightly low on characters here so it's going to be a necessity to make this a little simplistic (definitely too simplistic to deal with the actual issue at stake.

Free will is not an all-or-nothing affair

Harris's argument was ably summarised by my opponent, and it shares a similar origin to the telelogical argument for the existence of G-d - the cause and effect structure we appear to see means that everything is a cause and everything is caused by something else therefore if one were to know all the conditions one would be able to predict everything. In the case of the teleological argument this is argued to be absurd and therefore there must be an uncaused causer. Let's break this down.

There is no neurological evidence for this
Libet's famous [1] 1999 study sought to explore this understanding - they attempted to see whether brain function happened prior to being conscious of the decision - and they indeed did find that this was the case. The problem with attempting such a purely empirical understanding of free will is this breaks down as soon as we attempt to apply it to basic phenomena - consider the example of tapping a kneecap with a hammer - the reflex action is involuntary, unconscious and unthought about yet doesn't invalidate free will at all!

There doesn't necessarily need to be a "soul" for free will to exist
Harris's other key assumption which breaks down is that he assumes that free will is dependent upon something greater than the body - perhaps Descartes's soul, or some concept of "ghost in the machine". Free will doesn't need to be that "spiritual" in order to exist - it could be simply the ability to think about things in an abstract way - that's surely free will, right? Some use the definition "We act of our own free will to the extent that we have the opportunity to exercise these capacities, without unreasonable external or internal pressure.”.

More to follow.

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1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by canis 3 years ago
Will free of what ?
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