Thank you, Duel, for accepting this debate.
In this first round, I will render two arguments:
1. Free will feeds the courage to overcome obstacles such as oppression.
2. Any past event may influence a decision of free will, but thought and/or action is not compelled by determinism.
1 Free will feeds the courage to overcome obstacles such as oppression.
a. Free will, or free agency, by definition, is each person’s decision to think and act by response to external, universal stimuli by freedom of choice, regardless of potential reaction by external forces. It may be argued by proponents of determinism that not all people are free to be agents unto themselves, either by oppressive governments, parents, teachers, employers, or even in the extreme cases of slavery or unjustified imprisonment.
b. These “oppressors” may have legal oversight presenting an imposition on ages of minority, but these impositions disappear, typically, when a subject reaches a determined age of legal majority/accountability when free will can be applied at will.
c. These ‘oppressors” may also have legal oversight by virtue of a person’s arrest, trial, and conviction for illegal actions for which imprisonment restricts freedom of action, but it still does not oppress freedom of thought unless the prisoner allows him-herself to be so oppressed even in thought.
d. However, no proponent of determinism can deny that, in spite of these obstacles, each person, child or adult, can decide to defy even oppressive authority, even if defiance is at risk of loss of life or limb. Some people are courageous enough to act on the process of free will. Others shy away from that courage, but their fear is not sourced in a lack of free will, but in a lack of courage, which is entirely another matter not germane to this debate.
e. 0bserve:“…while both humanization and dehumanization are real alter- natives, only the first is the people's vocation. This vocation is constantly negated, yet it is affirmed by that very negation. It is thwarted by injustice, exploitation, oppression, and the violence of the oppressors; it is affirmed by the yearning of the oppressed for freedom and justice, and by their struggle to recover their lost humanity.”[i]
f. The above, 1.d, demonstrates that courage, not lack of free will, is the motivation to be willing to overcome oppression. That oppression exists cannot be argued. Many in the world suffer under its force. But, time and time again, throughout history, we have seen examples of people have gather courage to fight against their injustice of oppression. Some died in the process, but others lived to see their free will call them to action to overcome their obstacles.
g. Observe:“Liberation is defined as the social, cultural, economic, and political freedom and emancipation to have agency, control, and power over one’s life. To live life freely and unaffected or harmed by conditions of oppression is to experience liberation (Watkins, 2002). Although there are varied ways of experiencing liberation – from the individual to the community to the systemic – each one is interconnected with the other.”[ii]
h. Note that liberation from oppression demonstrated by 1.f is couched in the same terms as the resolution of this debate: free will, or “to have agency.” The simple fact is, liberation from the various oppressions, given the restrictions outlined in 1.b, are just one facet of many functions of free will. Otherwise, so determinism insists, we remain oppressed after all that we can do. No, that is clearly not the story of human history.
i. Therefore, the resolution is upheld.
2 Any past event may precede a decision of free will, but thought or action is not compelled.
a. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) now reveals the science behind the function of free will indicates that “that the outcome of free decisions can be decoded from brain activity several seconds before reaching conscious awareness.”[iii]
With this discovery, it is evident that determinism by past events has no place in the human physiological system to have predetermined consequences, but that a decisive process rendered by free will is the vehicle driving our determination of thought and action. Otherwise, determinism would be evident all along, and not before a conscious decision is made.
b. The activity of choice is evident by physiological change in the brain, evident by an MRI record. If determinism were the operative process, there would be no evidence of brain activity showing a selective process taking place.
The MRI scan demonstrated that “…we show predictive activity patterns recorded before a decision was made became increasingly stable with increasing temporal proximity to the time point of the conscious decision.”[iv]
d. The fact that the signal became “increasingly stable” indicates a process of review of options and selection of a determined course of thought or action, and not an instantaneous thought or act as would be expected by determinism.
e. Therefore, the resolution is upheld.
I rest my case for R1 and turn the round over to my opponent. In my frame of R2, I will add argument, and rebut Con’s R1 arguments.