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19
7
Free Will Determinism
Debate Score:26
Arguments:57
Total Votes:30
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 Free Will (15)
 
 Determinism (7)

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Free Will VS Determinism

Do environmental and biological influences entirely determine human behavior or do humans have some degree of free-will?

Free Will

Side Score: 19
VS.

Determinism

Side Score: 7
2 points

I am a Free Will hardliner.

I believe we are free to determine our own actions in whatever our circumstances happen to be. I do not believe we are free to organize our circumstances because that would negate, among other things, the free will of others (whose actions partially determine our circumstances.)

Moreover, I calculate that the only rational belief is to assume that we have free will.

This is because there are, generally, two possibilities:

1-Free will is in fact the case.

2-The universe is deterministic, and that belief in my own free will is an illusion which I am predetermined to have.

This leaves four possible outcomes.

A--If I behave as if #1 is correct, and I am right, then I get the advantages of free will and the sincere attempt to make decisions which can contribute to my happiness, well-being, and responsible behavior.

B--If I behave as if #1 is correct, and I am wrong, then it is because I was predetermined to do so, my actions were predetermined, and my delusion changes nothing.

C--If I behave as if #2 is correct and I am right, then it is because I was predetermined to do so, my actions were predetermined, and my belief in determinism changes nothing.

D--If I behave as if #2 is correct, and I am wrong, then I am likely to squandere my free will, might freely choose not to avail myself of the advantages of free will, abdicate my responsibilities, and refuse by choice to be held accountable for my actions. This belief in a deterministic universe is thereby likely to result in choices that will be detrimental to my happiness and well-being, as well as the happiness and well-being of others.

The only possible advantages (outcome A) result from belief in free will, and the only disadvantages (outcome D) result from belief in Determinism.

So, in the words of Rush, "I will choose the path that's clear. I will choose free will".

Side: Free Will
Amarel(2350) Clarified
1 point

I believe we are free to determine our own actions

When you choose one action over another, do you do it for a reason; or do you act without reason?

Side: Free Will
marcusmoon(242) Clarified
1 point

Yep, I make choices for reasons. I even choose how to evaluate my reasons, and how to prioritize them, except when I choose to act on a whim.

Side: Free Will
1 point

Free will seems to be self evident. At any given moment I can choose to raise my left hand in the air. Or I could leap up and yell Flying spaghetti monster! If there was no free will I would have no control over my actions and no ability to make a choice.

Side: Free Will
Amarel(2350) Clarified
2 points

I found your distinction between causation and determinism useful.

If you are provided alternatives to which you attribute different values, then you would pick the alternative which holds, for you, the greatest value. If you are provided alternatives of equal value, what determines your choice if not random chance?

Reason provides predictability in choice. Lacking a strong reason, randomness eliminates predictability. It seems to me that predictable outcomes represents free will more than unpredictable outcomes.

Side: Free Will
bozwallocks(44) Clarified
1 point

I think that your intuition is partly correct. In order to be free will, there needs to be some control over the action. If it is random then there is no control. Also, you need some kind of rational grasp of understanding regarding your impulses, otherwise they control you not the other way around.

I think the concept of random can be a bit misleading. Nothing in life is really random in its truest sense. Every physical attribute serves a purpose and every mode of consciousness contains within its self its own directionality.

With regard to values, the choice would depend on which metric of values a person uses at a given moment. A person may have many, sometimes conflicting values and the ability to choose which ones to apply at a given moment. Of course this can take place unconsciously. But the point is that a person can choose to apply their attention and choose a different course of action.

Side: Free Will
marcusmoon(242) Clarified
1 point

I think the counterargument is that your choices result from chemical and electrical events in your brain over which you have no control.

In his book Free Will, Sam Harris argues that we can choose whether to do what we want, but we are powerless to decide what we want--our desires come to us without our permission.

His argument is not completely without merit.

Side: Free Will
excon(4253) Clarified
1 point

His argument is not completely without merit.

Hello m:

Sure they are... Certainly we are products of our environment.. As such, it's not unusual that we would seek to make our environment as comfortable and enjoyable as we can.. To be desirous of these things does NOT mean god is sending us messages.. If anybody is sending us messages, it's nature.. And, sometimes it's your wife..

excon

Side: Free Will
bozwallocks(44) Clarified
1 point

Yes this opinion is all the rage at the minute with the cognitive neuroscience and new atheist crowd, but I don't buy it. Of course our bodies and our consciousness come to us as part of the structure of nature, this is the method of propagation and procreation, you cant have the content without the structure. However, free will still exists. The flexibility of the structure allows it, I would even say accommodates it. Conscious attention and will has within it the power of causation. Of course much comes instinctively but I can also summon up things on demand using my imagination.

Side: Free Will
1 point

No doubt there are a huge number of factors which determine who we are and how we live. Life is not all free will and it might even be overwhelmingly determined. However, if we ever conclude that free will simply does not exist in any form then we must also conclude there really is no individualism or individual accountability (for anything). I don't want to live in that kind of world. So I personally choose (whether it's an illusion or for real) to believe free will does exist.

Side: Free Will
1 point

The notion that we either have free will, or we live in a causal world is a misunderstanding. There can be no free will unless we live in a causal world.

Free will is often taken to mean a person can act independent of causes, that their actions can be random or undetermined. But if a persons actions were random, and you asked them why they did something, they would literally have no answer for you. This would not be a person in control of their self or their life. This would not be free will. On the other hand, a person who is thoroughly aware the reasons behind all of their actions is considered a person thoroughly in command of their life.

People make choices; a process of a determined world. We weigh variables against other variables and come to conclusions. The existence of causal variables does not preclude the weighing process.

Side: Determinism
Quantumhead(850) Disputed
1 point

Amarel, I agree with your conclusions, but your reasoning is nonsensical. Let me give some examples:-

There can be no free will unless we live in a causal world.

We do live in a causal world.

Free will is often taken to mean a person can act independent of causes

This is just absolute gobbledegook. Free will means the person is the cause. If the effect is me turning left, then free will means it was caused by my decision to turn left.

But if a persons actions were random

If a person's actions were random they would have no free will.

People make choices; a process of a determined world

Choice and determinism are non-rectifiable opposites. If time is predetermined, then choice cannot therefore exist, since you only have one option.

You quite literally have written three paragraphs of senseless nonsense.

Side: Free Will
Amarel(2350) Disputed
1 point

"Free will is often taken to mean a person can act independent of causes"

This is just absolute gobbledegook. Free will means the person is the cause. If the effect is me turning left, then free will means it was caused by my decision to turn left

Those familiar with the subject will understand that a person acting as first cause acts randomly. The individual taking action for reasons (causes) acts in a causal universe. The individual taking action as the first cause (without reason) acts randomly.

Choice and determinism are non-rectifiable opposites. If time is predetermined, then choice cannot therefore exist, since you only have one option.

Choice is simply the process of choosing, whether the outcome is determined or not. Consider, by analogy, a balance scale that is conscious of weighing items against weights. The fact that the outcome is determined does not eliminate the scales experience of weighing variables.

If all variables could be known, then the outcomes of choice would be known, but that would not eliminate the experience of choosing. Since, all variables cannot be known, and choice is still experienced in this causal universe, then choice and determinism are clearly not rectifiable opposites.

senseless nonsense

This is redundant. The way you lash out at simple concepts that you fail to understand is almost as amusing as the way you pretend to be tough over the internet.

Side: Determinism

The theory of general relativity gives a strong proof that free will is an illusion precipitated by humanity's incomplete perception of time.

All time is relative and hence terminologies like "past", "present" and "future" are also relative. These terminologies do not exist in any objective sense. They are purely subjective methods of communicating to each other where (i.e. when) something is. One of the most startling revelations of relativity is that time -- while entropy directional -- is not linear as we experience it. It is a sheet rather than a line, so to speak. Hence, if we observe the only part of time our brains are capable of perceiving (i.e. the past) we see that it is unequivocally set in stone and unchangeable. The same must be true of all time, since time does not make such divisions of "past", "present" and "future" in the first place.

Side: Determinism
Amarel(2350) Disputed
2 points

Relativity accounts for variations in the forward progression of time. But not for reverse progress as nothing surpasses the speed of light. The past is not relative.

Conversely, quantum theory accounts for randomness. Even if all variables are known, quantum randomness cannot be predicted, thus the future is not set. A random quantum event is not determined, but as everything else it cannot be undone. The belief that the future is set is merely an illusion based on the fact that the past is set.

Side: Free Will
marcusmoon(242) Disputed
1 point

The theory of general relativity gives a strong proof that free will is an illusion precipitated by humanity's incomplete perception of time.

While I appreciate the contribution of the theory of relativity to the conversation, please bear in mind that a theory can be supported by proof, but because it is merely a theory, it cannot be proof.

Still, the model of time being relative does provide an interesting way to think about the problem of free will. Thank you for that.

Determinism is the apparent conclusion if we start at some event, and then track time backward from that event. At the point of the event, the preceding events and choices that led to that event have already happened, and are immutable and already determined. It is easy to use that to conclude a deterministic universe because we can clearly see that in order to come to that endpoint circumstance, the exact set of preceding circumstances, choices, and events would be required. Looking backward through time makes it look like the endpoint was "predetermined".

On the other hand, if we track time forward from some present circumstance, we only have indications of the beginning points as being immutable, and all later events, choices, and conditions as being undetermined. This is the result of not knowing the future. We cannot foresee the future events and then track backward from them, so we have no way to tell whether only the past is determined, or if the future is likewise static. We have no way to tell the difference between our ignorance and free will.

Unfortunately, we do not know if all points in space-time really are coexistant, or if that is only a useful model. In order to prove that the universe is actually deterministic, we would have to be able to know (predict with 100% reliability) the future.

I don't think we are there yet.

Side: Free Will
Quantumhead(850) Disputed
1 point

While I appreciate the contribution of the theory of relativity to the conversation, please bear in mind that a theory can be supported by proof, but because it is merely a theory, it cannot be proof.

This is a moot argument, Marcus. I have no wish to debate the philosophy of proof with you. Relativity has never failed in all the years it has been tested. Einstein himself turned science on its head by writing it, and a great many of his contemporaries were extremely eager to disprove him. If you want to go down this road then there is no such thing as proof outside pure mathematics. It is a bullshit argument and a deflection of the fact that without relativity much of today's technology would not exist (for example satellite navigation systems, which must allow for time dilation).

Still, the model of time being relative does provide an interesting way to think about the problem of free will. Thank you for that.

Anytime. Thank you for your politeness. You are sincerely the most polite Conservative I have ever met.

Determinism is

I am aware of what determinism is. Thank you.

This is the result of not knowing the future. We cannot foresee the future events and then track backward from them, so we have no way to tell whether only the past is determined, or if the future is likewise static. We have no way to tell the difference between our ignorance and free will.

My friend, you are entirely ignoring the point I made in my previous post. Past and future do not exist. They do not exist any more than millimetres and inches exist. Time is the fourth dimension of space, and our references to past and future are merely methods the human race has devised to measure co-ordinates within it relative to ourselves. They do not exist outside of our own interpretation; not in the real physical world. They are abstract ideas.

Let me try to illustrate the point a little better.

Outside our own universe is a place where there is no time. Hence, an observer who were outside the universe looking in with some form of hypothetical viewing device would have to see all events within it simultaneously, regardless of when they occurred. This is what is meant by time being a "sheet" rather than a "line". Time has no bias for our age being the "present". The outside observer would not see various possibilities of future occurrences, but rather the complete history of time. Assuming you will have a great granddaughter, then to her you are already the past. Nothing you can do or say will affect the time she inhabits, which precludes that the (immediate, between you and her) future can be changed.

I have gone into greater depth here, but I believe the simplest explanations are often the best, which is why I cut the length of my previous post. The thing to remember is that past and future do not exist outside of our own imaginations (i.e. they do not exist as far as the universe is concerned), and so if we observe time from an exclusively scientific perspective we get the following results:-

A) We do not know whether the future can be changed because we are not there yet.

B) We do know that the past cannot be changed.

Thus, in the absence of senses capable of enabling a more direct (i.e. observational) answer to the hypothesis, reason must conclude that time cannot be changed.

Unfortunately, we do not know if all points in space-time really are coexistant, or if that is only a useful model.

I am afraid we do know this. It is proven by the Einsteinian phenomena of time dilation, which has been measured and proven to occur. As I alluded to earlier in my reply, certain modern technologies depend upon it.

Thank you for taking the time to give your views. It's nice when we can throw politics aside and have a conversation about things equally -- if not more -- important.

Side: Determinism
1 point

Quantumhead:

I'm still not sure where I stand on this matter, but I understand the point you argue about general relativity etc. The question I have is this: What is the cause of the results of the apparent decisions that we make? To clarify the question, here is an example: If I 'choose' to buy a burger over a hot-dog, what is the cause of my choosing the burger?

I'm thinking that, although determinism (I think the general relativity thing is basically determinism?) may mean the results of the decisions are set, the processes / causes of the results of those decisions can at least count for free will? I mean, if I did have true free will (the definition of which is perhaps a whole new debate) wouldn't the decisions I make be the same as if determinism is valid? If that's true, then determinism wouldn't truly replace free will right? Our fate would be set, but if it's the fate we would choose anyway, what's the difference? I think it might only remove free will if you knew in advance what you would choose, and couldn't choose otherwise.

There might still be some good arguments against free will (I still like Galen Strawson's one, but I think we got into a big fight about that before :)), but let's focus on determinism here.

Thanks

Side: Free Will
bozwallocks(44) Clarified
1 point

Hi Mack

I think there's some confusion in some of the comments above about determinism. Its useful to distinguish between causality and determinism as being two different things. Or more accurately, determinism is a specific type of causality. If there is a causal relationship between 2 events then we can say that one caused the other (or was part of a larger context of causes that lead to the other). However, if one event was determined by the other then event 1 MUST lead to event 2, there is no other option, no event 2b or event banana split. This would preclude any kind of free will and is not a description of our universe as our most fundamental theories indicate by virtue of their probabilistic nature.

Side: Free Will
1 point

It really depends on where you frame this from. In a universal sense, there is no free will: what has happened can't have happened any other way, because it didn't, and "in the end" everything that exist(s)(ed) will have done so in a manner unchangeable.

But, from a temporal, present perspective, we are arbiters of our own decisions to the extent of our power to carry them out, constrained only by time and momentary circumstance. I say "only", but those are both huge constraints, and truly "free" will has no constraints. If the will is constrained by the degree of ability and opportunity, then the will isn't really free.

We don't choose our birthplace, our skin colour, our parents, our infant diet, our country, our genetics, our illnesses, our relatives, our planet, our species, which foods we like and don't like, what we find attractive, what we need to survive. There's a lot that is entirely out of our hands. If we get right down to it, everything we do is a result of a stimulus entered and a chemical reaction taken place in response.

We can direct ourselves to an extent in terms of our momentary decisions, but the material conditions those decisions are predicated upon (the physical nature of the universe) are out of our hands.

Look back across the entirety of time and ask yourself what past events would be like if they weren't like they were. Then pinch yourself for asking a silly question.

Side: Determinism
Amarel(2350) Disputed
1 point

The first part of your post can be summarized by saying the past is determined, the future is not determined, and eventually everything is in the past, thus determined. Brilliant. The second part of your post states that free will is constrained, by definition, and then rambles across the various things we do not choose in life. The conclusion indicates you belief that the determined past could have been no other way.

If this summary is inaccurate, correct me. My question is; if our definition of free will is not free in the constraints of this universe, what should free will look like, in order to actually be free?

Side: Free Will
seanB(355) Clarified
1 point

Well, I suppose it should be unlimited, unrestrained, boundless, endless. Simultaneously present, past, and future, and entirely malleable in all ways and forms, completely enlightened, totally knowledgeable, entirely and singularly powerful. It should be what people imagine "God" to be.

Complete free-will is, I think, dependent upon having infinite power and possibility to enact it.

I can will mysef all day long to grow a million miles tall and sprout planets from my armpits -- closes eyes and concentrates REALLY hard -- , but I have zero power to make that a material reality.

Side: Free Will