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Free Will Exists

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/29/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,261 times Debate No: 58350
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (10)
Votes (1)




~First Round is for acceptance.
~Serious arguments only.
~Must adhere to provided definition of free will and the resolution.
~Burden of proof is shared.
~No new evidence in the final round.

A review of science, history, and philosophy affirms that human beings exercise free will.

Free Will: the ability to make a personal choice that is not simply determined by physical or divine forces.


I accept, but I would like to point out that environmental situations is not a divine or physical force simply a condition that emotionally forms you.
Debate Round No. 1


As stated in the resolution I am going to demonstrate that in the fields of science, history and philosophy, the existence of free will is an impossibility. Before I go any further though, I want to make it clear that free will either exists or it doesn’t. If the choices we make are 99% controlled by physical or divine forces and 1% directed by “free will”, then free will exists. However as I will show, there is no compelling reason to believe are decisions are not determined by either divinity or material factors.


Scientific Evidence~ I, ThermidorSnow decided to initiate this wonderful debate. Well kinda. The issue being that the decision was likely made before I even had become aware of it. As researchers have discovered over the past century, an individual becomes conscious of a decision, only after they have initiated action. The groundbreaking experiment was made in 1984 by Benjamin Libet in regard to volatile motion, more specifically he asked subjects to flick their wrists at random moments. Libet monitored the build up of electrical impulses in the brain(the brain telling the wrist to flick) and had his subjects look at the second’s hand of a clock and then report the moment they became conscious of their will to make the decision. Libet remarkably discovered that the electrical activity in the brain occurred roughly half a second before the subject became aware of the decision[1].Thus: The brain unconsciously initiates movement before we are conscious of the decision. The individual feels as if he has made the decision, but in reality the conscious mind plays no part. Additionally, a recent experiment demonstrated that decisions to cancel or veto an action(which are initiated at the subconscious level) are also subconsciously decided[2].

Occam’s Razor~ Whether or not these findings are precisely accurate, there is a bigger problem for the belief of free will: it is an implicitly unscientific force. Occam’ Razor is the scientific rule of thumb which states that the hypothesis with the least assumptions is likely the correct one[3]. The belief that individuals make decisions not on brain chemistry, subconscious impulse, or environmental factors assumes that contrary to evidence, the conscious mind makes decisions externally to the rest of the brain. Even if some decisions can be made consciously, for what reason is one to believe that conscious decision making has not been determined by psychology, environmental conditioning, or is little more than complex reaction to stimuli? In absence of contrary evidence, the skeptical mind ought to accept the determinist position that human beings make decisions subconsciously, or at the very least, by a conscious mind that is the product of material factors rather than by a hypothetical force called “free will”.


To fully understand why one should dismiss the concept of free will, one must look beyond naturalistic science. This is in-part because free will as a concept is not a scientific or modern idea but is a contention developed by western theologists. First let us examine why within the context of Christian theology, free will is a concept founded upon contradiction.

The Paradox of Free Will~ Themainline Christian interpretation of the Bible tell us the Judeo-Christian God is omnipresent(existing at all places), omniscient(all knowing), and omnipotent(all powerful)[4]. God is additionally the creator of universe and all loving(or at least the source of ultimate moral goodness). Reasonably, one may expect within this framework that God as all knowing, all powerful, and as the source of moral goodness would create the best of all possible universes. The German philosopher Friedrich Leibniz first came to this logically conclusion over three centuries ago[5]. Leibniz goes on to posit that since we are living within God’s creation(the best of all possible worlds) all events are inevitably for the best since God has essentially made the rules of the game, created the players, and foresees the conclusion. Where then can one find room for free will? How could all be for the best, or furthermore, God be all powerful if individuals exercise free moral agency? A paradox is formed, the paradox of moral agency that has been recognized but not solved in Jewish and Christian traditions alike.

as the Jewish Theologian Maimonides puts it best:

“[God] knows everything that will happen before it has happened. So does He know whether a particular person will be righteous or wicked, or not? If He does know, then it will be impossible for that person not to be righteous. If He knows that he will be righteous but that it is possible for him to be wicked, then He does not know everything that He has created[6].”

The Bottom line is if human beings are the creation of God, then God’s knows our destinies, He created the universe, He created us, and he wants the very best for us. If he does not know our future then he is neither all knowing nor existing everywhere at all times. If he does not have the power to determine the best of all possible lives for us, then he is neither all powerful nor the ultimate source of benevolence. Therefore, within the framework of a Judeo-Christian universe, free will cannot exist. It is very unlikely if not impossible for free will exist within the framework of the Judeo-Christian universe. Therefore if the Juedo-Christian model, the origin of the idea of free will, is to believed then it is far more reasonable to conclude that all of our actions are predetermined by divinity(God). Only when the notion of individuals exercising free moral agency is introduced does paradox develop.

That is it for now, as one can see, I have blended philosophy, history, and theology to form my second section. In later rounds I will defend the contentions I have made above and introduce new arguments to better demonstrate that the belief in the existence of free will is unfounded.

Sources Cited





5. Liebniz’s essay on theology

6. Maimonides’s Mishneh Torah



I would just like to start by thanking my opponent for the debate, I was partially worried you had dropped it yesterday so I'm glad to see you haven't. I am also glad to see you accepted the BOP.


What my opponent has presented to you is no longer considered correct information, while some scientists believe that there may no free will they have little to back it up. This study, and studies of this caliber has been addressed many times by various scientists. W. R. Klemm, DVM, PhD in a paper he published titled Free Will is NOT An Illusion [1] stated "Many modern scientists also hold that position and have even performed experiments since the 1980s they say prove it. These experiments supposedly show that the brain makes a subconscious decision before it is realized consciously. In the typical experiment supporting illusory free will, a subject is asked to voluntarily press a button at any time and notice the position of a clock marker when they think they first willed the movement. At the same time, brain activity is monitored over the part of the brain that controls the mechanics of the movement. The startling typical observation is that subjects show brain activity changes before they say they intended to make the movement. In other words the brain issued the command before the conscious mind had a chance to decide to move. All this happens in less than a second, but various scientists have interpreted this to mean that the subconscious mind made the decision to move and the conscious mind only realized the decision later." However Klemm disagrees with them stating "These experiments do not test what they are intended to test and are misinterpreted to support the view of illusory free will." So the studies my opponent has presented are false and misinterpreted in support of his own view. Klemm continues giving his reason for disagreeing:

"1) timing of when a free-will event occurred requires introspection, and other research shows that introspective estimates of event timing are not accurate

2) simple finger movements may be performed without much conscious thought and certainly not representative of the conscious decisions and choices required in high-speed conversation or situations where the subconscious mind cannot know ahead of time what to do

3) the brain activity measures have been primitive and incomplete."

To address the second point my opponent brings up about Occam’s Razor, Occam's Razor cannot be applied liberally and isn't even a scientifically recognized concept anymore. Occam's Razor came about in the medieval era, that's right the same era that the theory of the world being flat came out. Chris Chatham a professor of Computational Cognitive Neuroscience of Adaptive Control in his article [2] Why The Simplest Theory Is Never The Right One: Occam’s Razor Has A Double Edge he states "there are numerous reasons to suspect that this simple “theory of theories” is itself fundamentally misguided. Nowhere is this more apparent than in physics, the science attempting to uncover the fundamental laws giving rise to reality." So if you let this point stand then you are supporting a theory that states the laws of physics are incorrect, that gravity, which is a complex force, cannot be real because of the assumptions made in defining it.

So at this point there is nothing to support scientifically that freewill is illusionary. what we have to see is that the subconscious and conscious minds are interacting with one another constantly. Our subconscious mind governs simple or well-learned tasks, like habits, ingrained prejudices, or flicking our wrists, while conscious mind deals with tasks that require judgment and decisions that are dictated by freewill. What you must understand is that nothing still stands against Free Will thus 0% is controlled by physical forces defined by science leaving 100% open to free will.


This part of the debate can be dismissed entirely, seeing as if I do not adhere to the idea of a god it then doesn't matter what a Jewish theologist said or any theologist said for that matter. It should also be dismissed because of contrary views between religious groups. No religions align completely on any point, not even this one, thus this would no longer be a debate but instead us pulling up different religions that believe in different ideals when it comes to free will. For example:

I am a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) we believe that what your describing is called "Foreordination". that essentially god may know the outcome and every detail but its key that we make them, god does not force this upon us but allows us to make these decisions exercising our freewill or as we often refer to it free agency. and seeing as you quoted theologists of a religion I will do the same for my own and hold them too as fact. Our eternal destiny is determined by the use or misuse of our agency. [3]The Church of Jesus Christ Of Latter-day Saints believes:

Every individual is free to choose liberty and eternal life or captivity and spiritual death (see 2 Nephi 2:27; Helaman 14:30).

Our final state is determined by our own choices (see Galatians 6:7–9; D&C 58:26–29; Alma 41:3–8; 42:27–28).

Wilford Woodruff, a prophet in the Church of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints stated "With regard to the rights of the human family, I wish to say that God has given unto all of his children of this dispensation, as he gave unto all of his children of previous dispensations, individual agency. This agency has always been the heritage of man under the rule and government of God. He possessed it in the heaven of heavens before the world was, and the Lord maintained and defended it there against the aggression of Lucifer and those that took sides with him, to the overthrow of Lucifer and one-third part of the heavenly hosts. By virtue of this agency you and I and all mankind are made responsible beings, responsible for the course we pursue, the lives we live, the deeds we do in the body" And if you really want us to look at this theologically notice we are alive, thus even if god knows every detail we don't, we still make decisions uninfluenced by divine powers. And seeing as we aren't influenced that leaves 0% of decisions influenced and 100% free will.

Thanks for reading!

Debate Round No. 2


As agreed no new evidence in the final round, just concise rebutals.


In regard to neuroscience, I would like to simply point out that the second experiment I cited(source 2), was performed in the new millenium by a team of well qualified and academically accpeted researchers. Secondly, the critique that the experiments are crude and incomplete may well be valid. However, PRO presented no scientific evidence in favor of the existence of free will, and cited no studies. The position with minute evidence must be selected over the position with no evidence introduced. Thus I stand by my contention that the field of science, sides with the position that free will does not exist, albeit not unanimously.

Since I can bring forth no new academic evidence in favour of Occam's Razor as a logical rule of thumb, I will provide a demonstration. Imagine that there exist two theories on this debate: 1.ThermidorSnow is a debator who seeks to disprove free will, and Preston is a debator who wishes to affirm the concept. 2. The account "Preston" was set up by the same owner of ThermidorSnow several weeks ago, in an effort to stage this debate. The second theory relies on the belief in a conspiracy, which is hard to both disprove nor prove. Following Occam's Razor one must dismiss the second theory because it also relies on a belief on a number of assumptions which is not based on objective data. If the line of thinking shown above apears to be a logical rule fo thumb, then I urge you to vote CON.

My opponent first dismisses my evidence then goes on to give an example of evidence he judges to be equally without value. This is violation of the resolution, the resolution clearly states: "review of science, history, and philosophy affirms that human beings exercise free will." Thus to ignore the conclusions of two essential thinkers in Judeo-Christian, fails to satisfy the demands of the resolution in regard to philosophy. Their conclusions were indeed of a theological nature, the same tradition that produced, free will, the subject of our debate. Thus I urge you once agian to vote Pro.

Over and out, GG.


To address my opponents "newer study" it was conducted in 2005, while my quote on why all previous studies occurred in 2010. mine is newer and thus more credible, thus mine should be looked to when valuing your studies. My source if you actually read it has written multiple studies to back it and explained how his experiments were conducted. my neuroscientist is a more viable scientific recourse when compared to a summary provided by my opponent. remember my opponent in round 2 took the BOP upon himself, and he has not accurately filled this he stated that if even 99% controlled by physical or divine forces and 1% directed by "free will", then free will exists. by winning this argument alone I've shown at least 1% exists and thus win this round.

Either way we can drop Occam's Razor completely, my opponent didn't refute my evidence at all. Occam's razor is not a modern principle and works against the science of physics completely.

My opponent has confused religion for philosophy, he seems to think that philosophy that allows the views of general ideas to form understandings on hypothetical concepts is the same as a dogmatic narrowed view on creation that is meant to explain why we exist. but if my opponent were to argue they are the same thing they would need to provide an explanation why that is. thus out of failure for an argument after accepting the BOP we can only see this point flowing to my side.

For the reasons stated above, and my opponents failure to meet the BOP, we can only see a vote in favor of Pro. GG indeed!

P.S. my opponent even asked you to vote pro.
Debate Round No. 3
10 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Preston 7 years ago
Hey blade read this " I want to make it clear that free will either exists or it doesn"t. If the choices we make are 99% controlled by physical or divine forces and 1% directed by "free will", then free will exists. However as I will show, there is no compelling reason to believe are decisions are not determined by either divinity or material factors." that's where he accepts BOP
Posted by Preston 7 years ago
Nah he took the BOP in round 2
Posted by lifemeansevolutionisgood 7 years ago
socratits: Not really. Daniel Dennett has a secular philosophy about free will. Free will does not REALLY need a god in order to exist.

It can be somewhat hard to understand what he is saying, but it is still interesting.
Posted by ChosenWolff 7 years ago
Almost took this. I wish you would secure this debate. Spending the day relaxing outside and that will give me a chance to philosophize on an argument.
Posted by Malacoda 7 years ago
I kind of agree with AlexanderOc here.
Posted by AlexanderOc 7 years ago
With the lack of a divine or physical force, what other force is there? Con is basically requiring Pro to show proof of an unobservable force that has yet to be discovered. Which seems pretty impossible.
Posted by socratits 7 years ago
isnt free will just a debate about a higher being?
Posted by Hematite12 7 years ago
My question for believers in free will is whence does it come? If it's from your character as a person, which is pretty much the universal opinion so far as I can tell, then it isn't free will. Your character is determined by environmental and/or divine factors.

So my question is what free will even is, because the concept seems bunk from the beginning when you think about it.
Posted by wrichcirw 7 years ago
I thought about taking this debate, but I am CON as well on the resolution. Hope you get a good opponent.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by bladerunner060 7 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro claims that Con accepted the BoP in R2, but I don't see it. I see Con noting that this is a true dichotomy, that free will either exists, or it does not. Con ran several arguments against the notion. Unfortunately, his religious arguments would require a great deal of support before they could stand on their own, and weren't set up to be required to be assumed for the sake of the debate. As such, his assertions seem, as Pro notes, easy to dismiss. Con's science is not as clear as he makes out, as Pro has called it into question. Unfortunately, as the R1 rules state that the BoP is SHARED, Pro must make a constructive, too. I don't think he sufficiently supported the notion of free will with his own case, as he spent a good deal of time merely refuting. And his refutation of the science seemed to point out the flaws to a degree that makes BOTH questionable. As such, I'm casting a nulled vote, as I don't think either side fulfilled their BoP. As always, happy to clarify this RFD.

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