Instigator / Pro
1494
rating
6
debates
83.33%
won
Topic
#5507

Free Will is an Illusion

Status
Debating

Waiting for the next argument from the contender.

Round will be automatically forfeited in:

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Parameters
Publication date
Last updated date
Type
Rated
Number of rounds
3
Time for argument
One week
Max argument characters
20,000
Voting period
One month
Point system
Multiple criterions
Voting system
Open
Minimal rating
None
Contender / Con
1500
rating
6
debates
33.33%
won
Description

“Free Will”
- refers to the ability of individuals to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or external forces

“Illusion”
- a false idea or belief

Round 1
Pro
#1
Thanks for the debate, CON and thanks to anyone that will be reading it!


                                                                                                                                           INTRODUCTION


On its most elementary scale the universe exists in a state of fundamental indeterminacy.
What I will not argue for is that everything in reality is deterministic such as the idea that quantum mechanics itself is purely deterministic and that some day we would discover an underlying, deterministic theory. While it might seem simply unreasonable that, for example, an atomic nucleus would decide all on its own to emit an alpha particle, rather than being caused to do so by some external factors we still could be hypothetically wrong. That being said some quantum mechanical processes not being influenced by external factors (as far as we know currently) does not open the door to any free will but simply to pure randomness and chaos in a very very microscopic scale of our universe. Some might say particles popping in and out of existence without any known cause is some kind of proof against our deterministic nature but sadly this has nothing to do with our free will issues and current debate.
PHD physicist at MIT Max Tegmark calculated 23 orders of magnitude that an indeterminist subatomic effect would have to scale up to influence the behavior of a single molecule. It gets decoherent. In his paper, Tegmark examined the role of decoherence in quantum mechanics, which is the process by which a quantum system loses coherence due to its interaction with the environment. Decoherence provides a mechanism for how classical behavior emerges from quantum mechanics at the macroscopic scale, leading to the appearance of determinism in our everyday experiences while preserving the probabilistic and seemingly random nature of quantum mechanics at the microscopic level.
Even if Quantum Physics allows for randomness, that randomness would be due to factors outside of our control too, which will get you closer to random behavior. Or more precisely, some processes in your body might happen for no known reason but you still have to rely on the things I will present in this debate to make a decision.

Does quantum mechanics then come to our rescue and somehow grant free will? No. Firstly, so many molecules are involved in, say, neurotransmission that their action may be considered completely classical and therefore completely deterministic. Even so, the occasional quantum fluctuation would not so much grant free will as it would make our decisions somewhat random, a condition that I think proponents of free will would not particularly care for.

Quantum randomness may have been critically important to the evolution of the early universe. If we ran the “experiment” again, we might, for all I know, end up with a very different universe, one that does not even include us. That said, quantum randomness has very little effect on our daily lives, unless you count, for example, cancers induced by radioactive decay or cosmic radiation. Thus, I will argue here that everything we think, say, and do is wholly and unequivocally determined by our detailed histories (except, as I have noted, for the occasional quantum fluctuation).

Sources :



While quantum mechanics may be non deterministic at the smallest scales, most macroscopic phenomena are governed by deterministic laws. This means that even if our decisions have some influence on the quantum world, the outcomes are still determined by  larger scale physical processes.
Now that I have hopefully explained what this debate is not about, and that quantum randomness cannot possibly lead us to free will (at best it will lead us to random behavior) lets get to the actual evidence against free will. While the principle of cause and effect is deeply embedded in the fabric of our understanding of the universe across all domains of physics (Statistical Mechanics, General Relativity, Causal Structure of Spacetime, Laws of Thermodynamics, Electromagnetism, Classical Mechanics, Empirical Evidence and even in some aspects of Quantum Mechanics) I will be taking an approach more closely relevant to us. Even closer than the role of Human Evolution that effects our behavior significantly today. Lets take a closer look at what is happening in our bodies and environment today.


Point 1: Neuroscientific Determinism

Scientists are able to delve into the complexities of neurobiology, explaining how neuronal firing patterns, synaptic connections, and neurotransmitter release underlie every decision we make. The brain's frontal cortex, involved in higher-order cognitive functions like decision-making and planning, integrates information from various brain regions to generate behavior. Neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and noradrenaline modulate these processes, influencing our choices. Additionally, neural networks formed through learning and experience shape our behavioral responses to stimuli.
From what neuroscientists can see our thoughts, desires, and actions are determined by physical processes in the brain. Every decision we make is the result of neural activity, and this activity is ultimately dictated by factors beyond our conscious control. If we could examine the state of someone's brain down to the molecular level and knew all the environmental inputs, we could predict their behavior with certainty.
There are studies in neuroscience that also demonstrate brain activity preceding conscious decision-making. For example, experiments by Benjamin Libet and others have shown brain signals associated with decision-making occurring before the person is consciously aware of making that decision, suggesting that consciousness merely reflects decisions already made by the brain.

Sources :









Point 2: Environmental & Genetic Influences

There's a significant role of genetics and environmental factors that shape our behavior. Our genes influence our predispositions and tendencies, while our upbringing, education, and social environment also contribute to our decision-making processes, all of which are beyond our conscious control.
Our genes contribute to behavioral tendencies through their influence on brain development, neurotransmitter systems, and receptor sensitivity. Genetic studies have identified specific gene variants associated with traits like impulsivity, risk-taking, and empathy. However, genes interact with the environment in complex ways, and gene expression can be modified by experiences and environmental factors. Epigenetic mechanisms, such as DNA methylation and histone modification, regulate gene activity in response to environmental cues, further illustrating the dynamic nature of genetic influences on behavior.
The environment exerts profound effects on brain development and behavior throughout life. Prenatal factors, such as maternal stress or nutrition, can influence fetal brain development and predispose individuals to certain behaviors later in life. Early childhood experiences, including attachment styles and exposure to trauma, shape the developing brain's architecture and influence emotional regulation and decision-making abilities. Socioeconomic factors, peer influences, and cultural norms also play crucial roles in shaping behavior by providing different models of social interaction and norms.
Hormones exert multifaceted effects on behavior by acting on various brain regions and influencing neurotransmitter systems. For instance, stress hormones like cortisol can impair prefrontal cortex function, leading to impulsive decision-making under stress. Sex hormones like testosterone and estrogen influence behaviors such as aggression, sexual desire, and risk-taking. Neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, whose levels fluctuate with hormonal changes, play key roles in reward processing, mood regulation, and social behavior.

Sources :












Point 3: The Brain

Neuroplasticity allows the brain to adapt to changing environments and experiences throughout life. Structural plasticity involves changes in synaptic connections and neuronal morphology, while functional plasticity refers to the brain's ability to reorganize functions in response to injury or learning. Experience-dependent plasticity underlies learning and memory processes, with repeated behaviors strengthening neural circuits. However, neuroplasticity is not unlimited and declines with age, making some behaviors more resistant to change than others.
Furthermore, cases of brain damage, neurological disorders, and psychopathy provide evidence against free will. Evidence show that individuals with such conditions exhibit behaviors that are beyond their control, highlighting the brain's role in determining behavior and undermining the notion of free will.
The brain's ability to determine behavior through its structure and function suggests that our actions are heavily influenced by neural mechanisms outside of our control. 

Structural plasticity involves physical changes in the brain's architecture. These changes include:
  1. Synaptic Connections: The formation and pruning of synapses (the connections between neurons) are essential for learning and memory. New experiences and learning opportunities can lead to the creation of new synaptic connections, while connections that are no longer needed may be pruned away.
  2. Neuronal Morphology: This refers to changes in the shape and size of neurons. For instance, dendritic spines (small protrusions on dendrites where synapses form) can grow and retract based on stimulation and experience.
Functional plasticity refers to the brain's ability to shift functions from damaged areas to undamaged areas. This form of plasticity is particularly evident in cases of brain injury or stroke, where unaffected parts of the brain can sometimes take over the functions of the damaged regions. This reorganization helps to maintain cognitive and physical abilities despite injury.

Experience-dependent plasticity is a subset of neuroplasticity that highlights the brain's ability to change based on experiences and learning. This process is crucial for:
  1. Learning and Memory: Repeated activities and behaviors can strengthen the neural circuits involved in those activities. For example, practicing a musical instrument or a sport leads to changes in the brain areas associated with those skills.
  2. Behavioral Adaptations: The brain adapts to new environments and challenges by modifying its neural pathways. This adaptation helps individuals to acquire new skills and modify behaviors based on their experiences.
Neuroplasticity and Free Will
The concept of neuroplasticity has significant implications on free will. The brain's ability to determine behavior through its structure and function suggests that our actions are heavily influenced by neural mechanisms. When considering:
  1. Brain Damage: Individuals with brain injuries often exhibit behaviors that are beyond their control. For instance, damage to the prefrontal cortex can impair decision-making and impulse control, leading to actions that the individual might not have otherwise chosen.
  2. Neurological Disorders: Conditions such as epilepsy, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder can profoundly affect behavior. The altered brain chemistry and structure associated with these disorders can lead to actions and decisions that are not fully within the individual's control.
  3. Psychopathy: Psychopathy is characterized by a lack of empathy and remorse, often linked to abnormalities in brain areas responsible for emotional regulation and social behavior. These neurological differences can drive behavior that deviates from societal norms, further questioning the extent of free will.


Sources :






Point 4: Complex Systems Theory &
Emergent Behavior in Decision-Making


Human behavior is a multifaceted phenomenon, shaped by a web of interconnected factors that interact in complex ways. The complexity of human behavior can be better understood through the lens of complex systems theory, which provides a framework for analyzing how individual components and their interactions give rise to emergent properties and patterns.
Complex systems theory posits that the behavior of a system cannot be fully understood by examining its individual parts in isolation. Instead, it is the interactions among these parts that lead to emergent behaviors—phenomena that arise from these interactions and cannot be predicted solely based on the properties of the individual components. In the context of human behavior, this means that the interplay between biological, psychological, and environmental factors creates behaviors that are more than the sum of their parts.

Decision-making is a prime example of emergent behavior arising from the integration of biological, psychological, and environmental factors. The process of making a decision involves:

  • 1. Sensory Information: Gathering data from the environment through our senses. Our senses are heavily dependent on our physiological bodies and other factors (Sensory Receptors, Neural Pathways, Age, Attention, Perception and Interpretation, Environmental Conditions, Context and Surroundings, Cultural Influences etc.)

  • 2. Cognitive Processes: Interpreting and analyzing this information using memory, reasoning, and problem-solving skills. Another thing determined by our biological, psychological and environmental history. Examples: Education and Learning Experiences, Developmental Stage, Health and Nutrition, Neurotransmitters and Hormones, Neuroanatomy and Brain Function etc.

  • 3. Emotional States: Emotions influence our preferences, risk tolerance, and motivation. Determined by the same factors. Examples: Brain Structure and Function, Neurotransmitters and Hormones, Genetics, Physiological States, Personality Traits, Cognitive Appraisal, Past Experiences, Mental Health, Social Interactions, Cultural Context, Life Circumstances, Environmental Stimuli, Stress Response, Happiness etc.

  • 4. Social Influences: Input and feedback from others, societal norms, and cultural expectations guide our choices. Examples: Family Influence (Attachment and Bonding, Parenting Styles, Family Dynamics),  Peer Influence (Emotional Support, Social Comparison, Peer Pressure), Community Influence (Social Networks, Cultural Norms and Values, Community Resources), Societal Influence (**Media and Technology**, Socioeconomic Status, Social and Political Climate), Interaction of Social Influences (Stress and Coping, Mental Health and Well-Being, etc.)


                                                                                                                                 The Illusion of Authorship

Our sense of agency, the feeling that we are in control of our thoughts and actions, is an illusion. In this debate I will argue that we can not control the factors that lead to those thoughts. Our experience of making choices is merely a subjective interpretation of events rather than an indication of true free will.

Consciousness does not cause our actions but merely observes them. Our conscious experience of decision-making arises after the brain has already initiated the action, suggesting that consciousness is more like a passive observer rather than an active agent in decision-making. 

Research in cognitive neuroscience has revealed the prevalence of unconscious decision-making processes. The brain continuously processes vast amounts of information, often outside of conscious awareness, to guide behavior. Subliminal priming experiments demonstrate how stimuli presented below the threshold of conscious perception can influence subsequent decisions. Brain imaging studies show that regions implicated in decision-making, such as the prefrontal cortex and basal ganglia, are active before individuals become aware of their decisions, suggesting that conscious choice may be preceded by unconscious neural activity.


Our sense of agency is an emergent property of the brain rather than an indication of genuine autonomy. While we feel like we are making choices, these decisions are influenced by deterministic processes operating at subconscious levels. The illusion of free will serves adaptive purposes, helping us navigate the world and interact with others, but it does not imply ultimate control over our actions beyond the constraints of biology and environment.
I conclude, then, that we have no free will in any sense. I do not understand why some people consider that threatening; it simply is the way it is. We feel as if we have free will, we act as if we have free will, and we are treated as if we have free will. Free will is thus a useful fiction, but in reality it is only a fiction. All evidence show that our "free" will is either determined by prior causes, external factors, with room for a occasional chaos which would just make some things random. Therefore free will is an illusion, but feel free to disagree






Con
#2
Introduction
The strongest argument for the existence of free will is that we all observe it during every conscious moment, it is always a fundamental and significant part of our experiential reality, hence it is self-evident. To deny Free Will by designating our experience of reality an illusion is necessarily a rejection of the very concept of empirical evidence, this eliminates induction as valid, which is the foundational basis of science and scientific knowledge, leaving us with nothing but detached abstractions that have nothing whatsoever to do with the real world. 

The existence of free will is the self-evident default state, Pro wants to deny the experiential reality of every waking moment and challenge the validity of every moral and legal system found in every known time and place where humans have ever existed, by no more than arbitrarily proclaiming our experiential reality to be an illusion while presupposing the failed doctrine of determinism.  The denial of the self-evident truth of free will is an extraordinary claim, such a claim requires an extraordinary argument backed up by extraordinary evidence.

Pro’s entire argument is a mix of logical fallacies: a combination of presupposing determinism without establishing determinism as a fact, confirmation bias, and attempts to “define” free will out of existence.

The attempt to define Free Will out of existence is naïve at best, understanding wholes in terms of their parts is what science does, but that certainly does not mean the wholes disappear. Pro is working with a definition of free will as requiring an immaterial soul and consequently focuses on providing evidence that our minds are physical, which is not in dispute. This argument is logically equivalent to arguing that since organic chemistry has determined that that living organisms are made up of non-living material, that life doesn’t exist, or inferring that because the color green has been explained by science as merely a particular wavelength of light within the visible spectrum of the electromagnetic field, so therefore the color green is an illusion.  These are not valid arguments.

Determinism is Self-Refuting
Pro’s argument is self-refuting, if as Pro asserts, our beliefs, and reasoning processes are determined, our responses are predetermined, and consequently, Pro’s conclusion undermines the very reasoning process he is using to justify it. A predetermined event is neither “true” nor “false” because for a person to know something to be true, it is necessary that they are free to choose to accept it as true. Justification requires some degree of cognitive freedom, some ability to have control over your deliberation, over what you do or do not accept based on evidence, but determinism makes the requisite freedom impossible. Pro’s is attempting to put forth a convincing argument while asserting that it is impossible to be convinced and maintaining that his conclusion cannot be rationally held.

The self-refuting nature of the argument for determinism has been recognized for centuries, 2,300 years ago Epicurus put forth "He who says that all things happen of necessity cannot criticize another who says that not all things happen of necessity. For he has to admit that his saying also happened of necessity."  rationality: and Its Brain” (1973) Karl Popper claimed that “by committing to determinism you forfeit any claim to rationality; in particular, you cannot support your belief in determinism by a rational argument.”  Sir John Eccles, the Neurophysiologist who won the 1963 Nobel Prize for showing how nerve impulses are conveyed from one cell to another, claimed "this denial either presupposes free will for the deliberately chosen response in making that denial, which is a contradiction, or else it is merely the automatic response of a nervous system built by genetic coding and molded by conditioning. One does not conduct a rational argument with a being who makes the claim that all its responses are reflexes, no matter how complex and subtle the conditioning."

Pro’s argument is irrational as it effectively denies the very basis of reason, logic, and truth.

Refutation of Pro’s Argument
Pro began by arguing that Free Will is defeated by determinism, specifically macroscopic determinism, as he makes an exception for quantum indeterminism as irrelevant. While I do not necessarily agree with this distinction, I will grant the exclusion of quantum indeterminism as irrelevant for the purpose of the debate. I will still address the unwarranted assertion of determinism, which will necessarily entail addressing it both macroscopically, and in quantum physics where it is relevant to the rejection of determinism as a philosophical concept. I will not try to look to quantum physics as a mechanism for, or explanation of, free will.

Pro presupposes determinism without establishing determinism as a fact, stating “the principle of cause and effect is deeply embedded in the fabric of our understanding of the universe across all domains of physics”, which is true, but “cause and effect” should not be confused with the concept of determinism, they are related concepts, but they are not at all the same.

Although it is typically presented as such, determinism is not a conclusion of science, it is an archaic philosophical doctrine, nothing more than a failed concept that is unscientific and completely faith based.

Let us recognize what determinism really is to understand it conceptually. Initially it was nothing but a thought experiment about Newton’s mathematics that was best articulated by Pierre Laplace in 1814, who combined Newton’s equations with epistemological and metaphysical reductionism to portray all of nature as strictly materialistic and perfectly deterministic. It theoretically simplified physical systems enough to allow the use of logical and mathematical methods on idealized abstract "objects" and "events,” it was an abstraction that had little to say about the real world.

Two hundred years later it has not made any credible advance beyond being an abstract theoretical “thought experiment.”  By “any credible advance” I mean evidence, evidence that it is something more than an abstracted thought experiment, and there has been none whatsoever, while the counterfactual evidence has grown exponentially during that time.

It’s important to recognize exactly what Laplace (and before him Leibnitz) proposed, it was explicitly that, IF the mathematics we apply to our physical systems is consistent and complete, which is to say that mathematics itself is completely deterministic (Godel proved that it isn’t), AND reality is completely circumscribed by Newtonian mechanics (and it isn’t), AND the motion of every particle in the universe can in principle be predicted from exact knowledge of its position, momentum, and the forces acting on it (and it can’t),  AND everything occurred within a single, universal reference frame where an absolute Euclidean space and an absolute time that passes uniformly, are independent aspects of reality (and they aren’t), THEN “theoretically”, all events, including human action, are ultimately determined by purely physical causes such that, there is one and only one possible effect for a particular cause or set of causes, (and there isn’t).

Our two most accurate prevailing scientific theories, Relativity Theory and Quantum Physics are explicit that reality is not the Newtonian World Machine that Laplace believed in, and Heisenberg showed us that even in principle, adequate knowledge of a particle’s position, momentum, and the forces acting on it are impossible, and it isn’t that we can’t know with the necessary precision, it is that the requisite exactness of those quantities doesn’t actually occur in reality. Determinism requires Newton’s autonomous and absolute Euclidean space along with an autonomous and absolute time that passes uniformly, and those presumptions have been proven to be false for well over a century.

Determinism requires the causal closure of the material world; science has not even come close to establishing the causal closure of the material world. The 200-year-old idea that Newtonian physics translates into a mechanistic and deterministic model of the universe was never demonstrated, and in fact, it has proven to be counterfactual many times and on multiple levels. At the bottom of it all, most physical processes turned out to be probabilistic rather than deterministic, they tried but the thought experiment just did not apply to the real world, not in practice, or even theoretically.

Philosophical Essay on Probabilities - Pierre-Simon Laplace (1814)

Leibniz on Freedom and Determinism in Relation to Aquinas and Molina - by Kaphagawani, Didier Njirayamanda (2019)

Point 1: Neuroscientific Determinism
In this section, Pro relies on the common fallacy that “Correlation is Causation,” I do not think anybody on either side of the argument denies that our thoughts have neural correlates, but that does not tell us anything about whether those neural correlates are cause or effect.

After a brief discussion of neurobiology, he states that every decision is a “result” of neural activity “dictated by factors beyond our conscious control,” and then states that we could predict all behavior with certainty if we could have full knowledge of the physical system down to the molecular level.

The fact is that the lack of an adequate explanatory theory about a particular gap in our knowledge does not rationally yield a conclusion that supports a faith-based belief in materialistic determinism, any more than it supports a belief that “God did it.”  “God of the gaps,” “evolutionary advantage of the gaps,” “complexity of the gaps,” “hidden variables of the gaps,” “emergent property of the gaps,” are all the same theory in principle. They are only different forms of the argument from ignorance, illogical attempts to say that the lack of information supports my presumptions, and not yours, which is a logically invalid argument. All are fundamentally religious beliefs, with a subtext of omniscience, the certainty with which materialists and physicalists invoke the belief that these gaps will be filled in as science progresses is based on a belief in the eventual omniscience of science.

Neurophysiologist and Nobel laureate Sir John Eccles and philosopher of science Karl Popper have both referred to it as “promissory materialism,” Sir John Eccles stated, “Promissiory materialism is a superstition without a rational foundation. It is simply a religious belief held by dogmatic materialists who confuse their religion with their science. It has all the features of a messianic prophecy.”

Next, Pro alludes to the work of Benjamin Libet and other to argue that neuroscience “demonstrates brain activity preceding conscious decision-making.”  This is a common interpretation by so called “Willusionists,” but it is agenda-based conclusion rather than a valid inference. Benjamin Libet himself did not conclude from his research that we do not have free will, he saw these results as indicating nothing more than a “readiness potential,” a physiological preparation for movement. The data only indicated that there are discernible patterns of neural activity that precede simple decisions, but it did not show that a decision has been made before people are aware of having made it, he also showed that we have the conscious ability to decide whether or not to act on that “readiness potential”, maintaining the ability to choose to not respond. 

If, as everybody does, we assume that conscious decisions have neural correlates, then it is only natural that there will be neural activity that precedes the moment of consciousness. It would be a miracle if the brain did nothing up to the moment of awareness of a decision to act, and you cannot presume miracles and still be talking about science or logic.

Also, keep in mind, Libet’s and the related experiments involved conducting small, simple motor activity, pressing a button, flexing a finger or wrist, or eye movement, they were all examining small and reflexive actions where the brain activity takes place primarily in the secondary motor cortex. These experiments involved quick, repetitive decisions and the early neural activity measured in these experiments represent nothing more than the preparations for movement that precede conscious awareness, which is exactly what we should expect with these kinds of simple, repetitive actions.

It is a Hasty Generalization fallacy to infer from a readiness potential for such simple hand movements that we do not have the ability to imagine future courses of action, deliberate about one’s reasons for choosing them, plan one’s actions in light of this deliberation and control our actions in the face of competing desires, which the exercise of Free Will entails. We can conclude that these experiments do nothing to even touch upon the issues of the deliberation and complex decision making involved in free will.


Points 2, 3 and The Illusion of Authorship
In these sections, Pro is viewing scientific research about the brain with confirmation bias to draw his conclusions. None of this research demonstrates his point, it is not contested that there are neural correlates to brain function, and the fact that there are many influences does nothing to prove that all actions are determined, or that when we are faced with a decision, we are not free to choose among alternatives

The real problem here is that Pro is completely discounting the primary experiential reality of consciousness. The simple and self-evident fact is that consciousness is not merely a passive perception or awareness of the universe that simply reacts to stimuli; it is an active force that we exert upon the universe as causal agents. The very process by which science translates qualitative experiences into measurable quantities that do not themselves exhibit the qualitative constituents of experience, fundamentally changes the subject matter of the investigation such that the resultant account of consciousness is a contradiction in terms.

On a material level, consciousness represents a supervenient structure that bears properties that its subvenient parts do not exhibit. Consciousness is not coextensive with the brain, it exists independently of the material brain as a higher order structure that cannot be decomposed into its parts and their relationships, so it is an ontologically novel entity. It exists independently of the physical materials and properties of its parts and yet, exerts causal influence on events in the world, exerting a causal influence that its constituent components, in sum, cannot exert. Consequently, it has an ontological status apart from its material components, and it logically follows that it is itself a causal agent as well as an entity that is acted upon by external causes.

Consciousness has causal influence due to its content, not solely because of the physical aspects of its neural correlates. A continuous conscious state includes desires or intentions, it includes the ability to envision a future state and establish a strategy for attaining that state. That makes it more than a purely physical state, it is a conscious state with reference to a future possibility, and no such reference is part of any purely physical state. The self can exert the force of consciousness to some effect in the material world; such conscious states can have causal effect to bring about further states for the sake of values and purposes. Intents, values, and purposes are not reducible to a purely physical state unless one attributes consciousness to the constituent matter itself; consequently, they exist as properties of a consciousness which clearly entails a distinct ontological existence apart from its constituent material components.

SUMMARY
The reason that this concept has been so hotly debated for centuries is that it is it is a matter of our identity; it speaks to what and who we are as human beings. It is a matter of how you understand your own being in the world, and that world is clearly one in which we are engaged as involved agents with reasons and motivations behind the choices we are free to make.

Free will is self-evident because we are sentient beings, we are aware of, and interacting with our world, and these self-evident truths are not defeated by arbitrarily claiming “illusion” or simple denial, that just is not how logic works. All the scientific research Pro has referenced is a matter of inductive and abductive logic, which yield probabilistic conclusions, but Pro wants to present them as deductive arguments so he can represent his conjecture as conclusive.

I am certain that the proper response to all this is not to adopt a Procrustean technique of chopping down the range of human experience until it fits into a narrow intellectual bed, nor is it to abandon rational thinking altogether. No, instead we must release our thoughts from the poverty of its captivity by abstract intellectual constructs and arbitrary appeals to “illusion.” There is nothing logical or truthful about “reducing” human beings to “nothing but” a physical process without qualities, values, meaning, and purpose. Physicalism is about as defeatist as philosophy gets; nothing could be more pointless than using the mind to limit the mind.

Our rich inner life, our capacity to understand, appreciate, and act creatively, to plan the future, to act with moral responsibility, are not logically reducible to the functional properties of physical processes. Human consciousness must be described using nonphysical means to have any meaningful explanatory power at all. We do not just exist; we exist in external contexts in the world. We also exist in internal contexts, where our state of mind frames and changes everything else we perceive.

Nonphysical aspects of values, meaning, and purpose are the means whereby the thought forces are focused and directed; and this concentration, this giving them direction, is necessary before any outward or material manifestation of their power can become evident.

Truth is correspondence with reality, implicit in the term truth then, is a need for representation, truth then, is a matter of how we choose to represent reality to ourselves. We can choose to let things just happen to us, or we can choose to make things happen.

Determinism makes the case that our destiny is not of our choosing and that is nonsense. All of history has shown that Man's destiny is of his choosing, in fact, it has shown repeatedly that the world is what we make it.

It is not a time to think that our destiny is not of our choosing. It is a time when we must do what is hard, we must achieve what is great, we must reach for the stars to see what we can become.



Round 2
Pro
#3
Thx CON,  lets begin...




Since CON didn't debunk any of my arguments and ignored some of them I extend them all. He merely did not agree with my conclusions so we can safely accept all the evidence from my round 1 and discuss my conclusions. 

''The strongest argument for the existence of free will is that it is self-evident.''

Folks, if this baseless and biased presupposition is CONs best argument I might as well leave here and let you decide whos argument is faith based and unscientific...  I tried so hard in the beginning to clarify what I am not arguing for and that the philosophical concept that '' all things happen of necessity'' or that ''ALL things are determined'' is not my stance. My state is that all of OUR DECISIONS that we make are determined by external forces and factors. I stated that there could be things in microscopic level that are indeterministic which doesn't disprove my case.

''To deny Free Will by designating our experience of reality an illusion is necessarily a rejection of the very concept of empirical evidence''

This has to be one of the worst attempts to straw man an argument. No, sir, I did not claim that our experience of reality is an illusion. I claimed that our sense of having free will is an illusion.. which was my conclusion based multiple scientific researches and experiments. I have spend the whole first round presenting empirical evidence and to say that I reject "empirical evidence" is just laughable. I hope the voters don't fall for this kind of nonsense.

PRO continues to assert his ''self evident and default state free will' with absolutely no proof. To deny free will is not to ''deny the experiential reality''. Nowhere I implied that we don't experience reality... I actually stated the exact opposite.. We only experience reality as "passengers on the back seat" ,observing and experiencing, with no real control.

''challenge the validity of every moral and legal system found in every known time and place where humans have ever existed''

?????? Where did I challenge any legal system.. Where did I say people should not be held accountable? Where did I mentioned ''morality'' EVEN ONCE in my arguments. This is just absurd. So far CON has showed that he has vastly misunderstood every single word of my round 1.  None of my arguments even imply, for example, that we should not punish criminals. The pain they may inflict is real, and we may have to separate them from society until (or unless) they reform. I suggest, however, that their lack of free will suggests that we should be focusing more on rehabilitating rather than punishing criminals. But that discussion is a little off-task here. Nice try to change the topic again.


'' The denial of the self-evident truth of free will''

This just sounds like a presuppositional argument for God but replace ''God'' with ''free will''. Why does CON think free will exist? Well, because he feels like it exists. He knows that it exist.. I cannot take this seriously. Sorry voters.

After some false analogies about chemistry and life and the color green CON still cant get on topic. Show me a neuron system (or brain) whose generation of a behavior is independent of the sum of its biological past and then you have demonstrated free will. This is the whole point of the debate. Everything CONS says is arbitrary, abstract, philosophical mumbo jumbo. The definition of free will is very clearly defined: ''the ability of individuals to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or external forces'' . So again, show me a brain that made a decision independent of the sum of its past.


'' our responses are predetermined, and consequently, Pro’s conclusion undermines the very reasoning process he is using to justify it.''

So CON asserts that without free will reasoning and justification can't exist. Wow ok bold assertion with no logic behind it. Another off topic distraction. Even in a deterministic universe where our actions are determined by prior causes, logic and reasoning remain valid tools for understanding and navigating the world. Logic allows us to predict outcomes based on premises and evidence, regardless of whether our choices are predetermined or not. We can still analyze situations, weigh options, and choose the most rational course of action. Reasoning enables us to solve complex problems and make informed decisions based on available information. We can evaluate consequences, anticipate outcomes, and adapt our behaviors accordingly. Even without free will, ethical frameworks can still guide our behavior by promoting principles such as fairness, justice, and well-being. All of those are tools the brain uses. Explained in Round 1.

'' A predetermined event is neither “true” nor “false” because for a person to know something to be true, it is necessary that they are free to choose to accept it as true''

Cool story, no evidence. Truth is a property of statements or propositions that corresponds to reality. Whether an event is predetermined or not does not affect its truth value. Predetermined events can still be objectively true or false based on their correspondence with reality. Truth does not depend on whether individuals have free will to accept it. People may recognize or accept truths regardless of their ability to choose freely. Knowing something to be true does not necessarily require freedom of choice. Knowledge is typically understood as justified true belief, which can be acquired through observation, reasoning, evidence, and experience.

''Justification requires some degree of cognitive freedom''

Cool story, no evidence. Even in a deterministic universe, individuals can engage in reasoning, gather evidence, and provide justifications for their beliefs. Determinism does not preclude the ability to offer reasons or evidence in support of a belief. Justification involves providing reasons or evidence to support a belief or claim. It does not necessarily require freedom of choice.

'' Pro’s is attempting to put forth a convincing argument while asserting that it is impossible to be convinced and maintaining that his conclusion cannot be rationally held.''

??? Where did I say that someone cant be convinced of something. All those assertions that someone can't be rational if they claim free will doesn't exist are baseless.


''Pro’s argument is irrational as it effectively denies the very basis of reason, logic, and truth.''

My argument denies free will BY using reasoning and logic.... AND truth. Everything I have shown is supporting that every behavior we exhibit can be explained by our past and is determined by factors outside of our control. CON still hasn't presented one evidence that we can do something without being constrained by external factors



''Pro began by arguing that Free Will is defeated by determinism''

I began by saying ''On its most elementary scale the universe exists in a state of fundamental indeterminacy.''  , ''but sadly this has nothing to do with our free will issues and current debate.''. I hope voters can see every straw man CON tries to pull.


''specifically macroscopic determinism''

No, again CON. I said MICROscopic indeterminacy can still maintain its probabilistic nature without affecting the MACROscopic cause and effect nature of reality.



''Pro presupposes determinism without establishing determinism ''

No , I didn't presuppose anything let alone the philosophical determinism that you try so hard to argue against. I do not care about that. I argued for neurobiological determinism in the brain and that wasn't presupposed it was backed up by many sources I provided.


''Although it is typically presented as such, determinism is not a conclusion of science,''

Try to get on track next round and stay on topic. Your arguments about philosophical determinism and reasoning are not only wrong but they dont help you with my points which are strictly neuroscientific. 


''abstracted thought experiment''
Voters can decide if my sources are what you described them as.


''Let us recognize what determinism really is to understand it conceptually''

CON still cant get on topic. I will state again - I am not arguing that everything in reality is deterministic. But when it comes to the brain, all we see is cause and effect. There is no evidence for consciousness outside of the brain.


''I mean evidence, evidence that it is something more than an abstracted thought experiment, and there has been none whatsoever, while the counterfactual evidence has grown exponentially during that time''

A lot of successful scientific theories (Evolution) and experiments follow cause and effect principles which is a concept of determinism.
While it's true that Heisenberg's uncertainty principle states that there are limits to what we can know about certain pairs of physical properties of a particle (such as position and momentum), it doesn't imply that macroscopic determinism is impossible. Quantum mechanics describes probabilities rather than certainties, but determinism can still be compatible with probabilistic outcomes. Explained in my introduction. 

Relativity theory does challenge the Newtonian view of absolute space and time, but it doesn't necessarily negate determinism. Einstein's theories provide a different framework for understanding the nature of space, time, and gravity, but they don't preclude the possibility of deterministic processes.

Determinism doesn't strictly require Newtonian physics with absolute space and time. Determinism is a philosophical concept that asserts that every event is determined by preceding events and natural laws, which can be applied within various physical frameworks. But, again... you are talking way more about vague  physics and philosophy ideas rather than the actual topic.

While modern physics has brought about profound changes to our understanding of reality, including the limitations of classical determinism, it hasn't conclusively disproven determinism itself. Lets just make it very clear that CON spends all his round trying to debunk universal determinism which is not the topic and stated that the "best evidence for free will is just the default position" .. Cant really take anything CONS says in this round seriously.


Comparing scientific theories about neural correlates to "God of the gaps" arguments is a false equivalence.  Scientific theories are based on empirical evidence and tested hypotheses, while "God of the gaps" arguments rely on supernatural explanations for gaps in knowledge. There is no gaps in my arguments. Everything is based on scientific researches.

CON misinterprets Libet's experiments. While it's obvious that Libet himself didn't conduct the experiment with the intentions to disprove free will, his experiments did raise questions about the timing of conscious decisions. The readiness potential indicates neural activity before conscious awareness, which challenges traditional notions of free will. CON also decided to comment on 1 out of MANY other experiments that I provided.

MULTIPLE SOURCES IN ROUND 1 



''In these sections, Pro is viewing scientific research about the brain with confirmation bias to draw his conclusions''

Will CON say anything at all based on something relevant or am I supposed to say "well ok if you say so". CON didn't debunk anything but only stated his opinions and said my conclusions are wrong.

''the fact that there are many influences does nothing to prove that all actions are determined''

It does actually. Especially when you can explain everything with those influences which leaves you with no room for free will. Does a person decide before he is born where to be born? What his family to be like? How to be raised, his environment, his upbringing, the random interactions and accidents that will shape him, his genetics, his anything? How come mostly everyone born in India becomes a Hindu? Out of free will I guess? Did a mentally unstable person decide to act that way out of his free will or because of chemical imbalance in his brain? Or did they freely choose to be born in a dysfunctional family with drug addict mother or abusive father (for example)? Do all of those things don't have an effect? Keep in mind that's only small portion and please don't straw man me again by picking just one thing out of all of those. For you to get the bigger picture read the Complex Systems Theory &
Emergent Behavior in Decision-Making again and actually understand it.


''The simple and self-evident fact is that consciousness is not merely a passive perception ''


AGAIN, the same baseless assertion. No CON it is not self-evident to a lot of people obviously. Those are not only my conclusions. I have provided sources to credible neurobiologists and other scientists that also hold the same opinions. Your assertion that free will or consciousness are just self evident facts is just ignorant, especially after you had admitted many times that this has been topic of a debate for centauries. If it was just a self evident fact it would have been a FACT not a debate. Both free will and consciousness and what their nature is are still topic of a debate. With recent advancement in science and our understanding of how the brain works we can explain more and more. And if you say "well yeah but we still don't know 100% therefore mystery" then you are the one commiting "god of the gaps".

Show me what consciousness is and give me something that consciousness can do that has nothing to do with the brain since they are separate.

''Consciousness is not coextensive with the brain, it exists independently of the material brain as a higher order structure ''

Great, cool story, no evidence again.


''A continuous conscious state includes desires or intentions, it includes the ability to envision a future state and establish a strategy for attaining that state.''
If this is your justification that consciousness supervenes the physical properties of the brain, then sorry.

Everything of that has been explained materialistically already. Desires, intentions, envisioning a future state, and establishing strategies for attaining that state involve complex cognitive processes that arise from the interactions of various brain regions.

  • Desires and Intentions:
Reward Processing: Desires stem from the brain's reward system, which involves areas such as the nucleus accumbens and the ventral tegmental area (VTA). These regions are involved in processing pleasurable stimuli and motivating behaviors.
Prefrontal Cortex: Intentions are closely linked to the prefrontal cortex, particularly the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). These regions are involved in decision-making, planning, and goal-directed behavior.
Dopamine Signaling: The neurotransmitter dopamine plays a crucial role in motivation and goal-directed behavior. Dopaminergic pathways originating from the VTA and projecting to areas like the prefrontal cortex are involved in reinforcing behavior related to desires and intentions.


  • Envisioning a Future State:

Prefrontal Cortex: The prefrontal cortex, especially the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (DMPFC) and orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), is involved in mentalizing, or imagining future scenarios and their potential outcomes.
Episodic Memory: The hippocampus and surrounding medial temporal lobe structures are crucial for retrieving past experiences and constructing mental simulations of future events.
Default Mode Network (DMN): The DMN, which includes regions like the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), is active during internally focused tasks such as mind-wandering and envisioning future events.

  • Establishing a Strategy:

Executive Functions: The prefrontal cortex, particularly the DLPFC, is crucial for executive functions such as planning, organizing, and decision-making.
Working Memory: The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and parietal cortex are involved in working memory, which allows individuals to hold and manipulate information in mind while establishing a strategy.
Inhibition and Control: The anterior cingulate cortex and areas of the prefrontal cortex are involved in inhibitory control, allowing individuals to override impulsive responses and choose the most appropriate strategy.

All of those functions can be explained in detail if you want more information in the next round.


''Free will is self-evident because we are sentient beings''

Sentience refers to the capacity to perceive and feel sensations, such as pleasure and pain, while free will refers to the ability to make choices and decisions unconstrained by external forces.
Just because we are sentient beings capable of experiencing the world does not necessarily imply that we have free will. Sentience alone does not guarantee free will; it's a separate philosophical concept.




''There is nothing logical or truthful about “reducing” human beings to “nothing but” a physical process without qualities, values, meaning, and purpose''

Another nonsensical statement that just shows that CON would not face the facts even if undeniable since he wont like the outcome/implications. For voters relief, accepting the non existence of free will does not mean that we are reduced to nothing or that we have no purpose, value or meaning. You still have meaning in your life its just that your decisions will be determined by many other factors that you cant control. If you are an astronaut and your meaning of life is exploring the cosmos, that wouldn't be your meaning if you were born in Africa in a tribal community living in tents trying to survive or in Tibet raised by monks. Your meaning would have been ''to survive'' . Or at least it would've been drastically more unlikely to have the same life and make the same decisions and have the same meaning as your life now which is the product of all the events that brought to to this point. . Nice appeal to emotions and feelings by CON. It might work on some people I can admit that. We still have value. Value to our family, to our society, species and to ourselves. CON presents a false dichotomy implying that with no free will nothing has meaning and everyone should be a nihilist or something similar. 


''Our rich inner life, our capacity to understand, appreciate, and act creatively, to plan the future, to act with moral responsibility, are not logically reducible to the functional properties of physical processes''

Every single of those processes is explained by physical processes.


''Human consciousness must be described using nonphysical means to have any meaningful explanatory power at all''

Says CON because that's how he feels. We must be something more special than just physical beings. We just must be. Its self evident. Nice logic.


''our state of mind frames and changes everything else we perceive''

First thing you said that I can agree with. Our minds (brains) do process everything and perceive it differently yes.


''Determinism makes the case that our destiny is not of our choosing and that is nonsense.''

Source: ''trust me bro, we have higher meaning and we are special. How can we exist meaningfully if we don't believe that we are in control of our own destiny ''


''It is a time when we must do what is hard, we must achieve what is great, we must reach for the stars to see what we can become.''

Second thing I agree with. We first must accept what we are and strive for greatness and achieve as much as possible because we are capable of a lot.








Con
#4
Judging by his response, Pro did not understand my argument, which is OK, I used big words, but what is even more surprising is that he does not understand his own argument either. I will do my best to try to explain Pro’s argument to him this round.  

THE CONSPIRACY 

Pro has employed the conceptual framework of conspiracy thinking rather than using a scientific or logical framework. His premise is that way too familiar refrain that “Things are not the way you think they are, you have been misled.” The contention is that Free Will is nothing but a vast conspiracy, perpetrated on us by our own minds, which trick us into thinking we are experiencing Free Will. For some hidden nefarious reason, our mind wants to trick us into believing we have the freedom to make choices, to make a difference, to think we are in control, but no, we are not really in control, that is just what they want you to believe.  

Sound familiar? Of course it does, it sounds like every other conspiracy out there, and like all conspiracy theories, it is impervious to contradictory evidence, facts, and logic. Any contradictory evidence, facts or logic is summarily dismissed as part of the “conspiracy” or “cover up,” in this instance he is simply replacing the words "conspiracy" and "cover up" with the word “Illusion.” 

This is what makes conspiracy thinking so popular and satisfying, this contrived formula is designed to give the impression the position is unassailable, and Pro gets to feel satisfyingly right, but it has nothing to do with science and logic, it only pretends to, but in the end, I doubt he will be able to gaslight the voters with this approach. 

THE COVER UP 

“My state is that all of OUR DECISIONS that we make are determined by external forces and factors 

Continuing his efforts to “define things out of existence”, he begins his response by trying to define his original argument out of existence, In the originating argument he says unequivocally “I will argue here that everything we think, say, and do is wholly and unequivocally determined”, that is determinism plain and simple, his argument is that free will is impossible because determinism is true for the human brain. 

He seems to think that because he asserts determinism is only true macroscopically, that it is a special type of determinism that is unassailable, and so I am wrong to refute it.  It’s unclear to me why he illogically thinks that because he accepts that quantum indeterminism exists and insists that determinism is a macroscopic fact, that this somehow means he is not invoking determinism to refute free will, and that I should therefore not be allowed to refute it, I don’t really know what that is, but I know what it isn’t, it isn’t logical.  His above quote from the first round asserting that as it relates to us, “everything is determined” and this round’s “all OUR DECISIONS are determined” couldn’t be any more explicit about the nature of his argument, I am at a loss as to how to make Pro understand his own argument and what it entails, but somebody has to do it, and I will give it a try.  

 “No, sir, I did not claim that our experience of reality is an illusion. I claimed that our sense of having free will is an illusion” 

Again, he wants to debate semantics rather than the actual subject of the debate, and he uses this distraction to define my argument out of existence, nevertheless, I will try to clarify this semantic dodge. I, along with everyone else, recognize that our experience of reality includes our sense of having free will, as I said, we all experience free will during every waking moment, the experience is such that we use our will to control our movement and actions, we use our will to direct our attention, our experience of reality entails the freedom to move and to speak at will, I’m not sure why Pro is struggling to comprehend what it says in a plain and simple manner. 

Throughout his response, Pro stays pretty bunged up about my contention that free will is a basic part of experience, the attitude seems to be “no fair, I already called illusion on that.”  Apparently, he lacks the ability to understand the concept, or he just does not want to understand the concept. Despite calling "illusion" (read “conspiracy”), the concept is an extremely simple one, not at all hard to understand. We experience free will, which is to say, we observe it, saying our observations do not count because they have been disappeared by the “illusion incantation” is not logical. Whether Pro can grasp it or not, we all do exercise our free will every waking moment, Free Will is therefore an undeniable aspect of our experiential reality, and “abracadabra ILLUSION” does not change that fact. 

“PRO continues to assert his ''self evident and default state free will' with absolutely no proof.” 
Pro says that I present free will as a "self-evident” truth without proof, which tells me he does not understand basic logic either, by definition self-evident truths do not require proof, which is why we call them “self-evident.”  

This is in line with his tactic of shifting the burden of proof, by making an assertion and then insisting the opponent must prove him wrong. But that is not how logic works, it is how conspiracy theories work. My contention stands unopposed.  

He strongly objects to my assertion that his wholesale rejection of all observations as “illusion” is a rejection of empiricism, which tells me he does not understand science either. You cannot simply declare all observations invalid by calling them an “illusion" and still be talking about science, as if the word illusion is a magical incantation that makes observational evidence “disappear.” Declaring all observational evidence to be invalid by calling  “illusion” is then, by definition, a rejection of empiricism, which undermines the validity of science.

 “?????? Where did I challenge any legal system.. Where did I say people should not be held accountable? Where did I mentioned ''morality'' EVEN ONCE in my arguments. This is just absurd.”  

Pro’s inability to understand his own argument becomes glaringly obvious when he throws something of a hissy fit over my claim that his argument ''challenged the validity of every moral and legal system,” enthusiastically proclaiming he never said that. It is his complete lack of understanding of his own position that is absurd.  
This debate has been going on for 2,500 years, anyone with even a cursory exposure to the subject matter knows that the denial of free will in favor of determinism entails a challenge to the validity of moral and legal responsibility. If we are not in control of our actions, then we care not responsible for our actions, there can be no moral or legal accountability, and no basis for praise or blame.

Legal and moral systems are based on a foundational principle that we are responsible for our actions, my assertion stands unopposed.

“So CON asserts that without free will reasoning and justification can't exist. Wow ok bold assertion with no logic behind it” 

I showed the logic behind the assertion when I made it in round 1, it was a simple and straightforward application of the facts to the subject matter, this appears to be nothing but an attempt to gaslight the voters, but hey, I’ll play along, if only out of morbid curiosity of what might be next. 

Let me once again attempt to explain to Pro the implications of his own argument and consequently, try to show him why it is a self-defeating and logically incoherent argument. If, as Pro argues, we do not have the cognitive freedom to have control over our deliberations, no choice in what arguments we do or do not accept, no freedom to determine what evidence we choose to accept, no ability to act on our judgements, then we cannot meaningfully bring reason to bear on a situation.  It we are simply passive observers watching it all happen, then it doesn’t matter what we think of the argument, what we think does not make a difference, what we think has no causal effect on reality.   Consequently, Pro's argument is incoherent because it is self-refuting.

A strictly physical process is not true or false, it just is, a flower is not right or wrong, it just is. In the end, applying Pro’s logic to his own argument, it is not true or false, it is not right or wrong, it is not even an argument, it just is. 

Pro votes for Con
They say that actions speak louder than words, and that is because we can learn what a person honestly believes by observing how they act, often more so than by what they say, for we often think we believe something when in fact we do not.  I will therefore contend that Pro’s own acts of deliberation betray a belief in Free Will. When Pro weighs the pros and cons of both possibilities, he manifests the conviction that he could genuinely opt for either one of these alternatives, and that it is up to him to decide which he will choose. He would not deliberate is this were not true. His “act” of deliberation reveals a deep-rooted conviction that he is free as he deliberates, and the same holds true for every deliberation anyone engages in. In the end, even Pro votes for Con.

“Nice try to change the topic again.” 

Pro repeatedly claims that I am changing the topic because we are not having the debate he wanted to have, he needs to get a grip as my arguments are sound, factual, and rational.

He wants to debate free will in his context of conspiracies and supernatural beings mysteriously controlling our brain, and I want to talk about it from the point of view of science and logic, which he sees as me changing the subject.

He seems to have fantasized a “predetermined” argument in his head and gets upset when I do not provide the correct imagined responses.  To define Pro’s free will argument as logically consistent, he appears to try to engage in a regress of changing “definitions” and straight up denial of the implications of previous assertions by retroactively changing the subject and then projecting on to me. 

I’m sorry, but you don’t get to be the world’s greatest archer by shooting arrows first and then drawing a bull’s eye around where they landed, and similarly, you don’t get to say you’ve logically solved the age-old problem of free will by just changing the problem and definitions until it suits your conclusion each time someone refutes your argument. 

No way the voters will fall for such an illogical and disingenuous tactic. 

“Show me a neuron system (or brain) whose generation of a behavior is independent of the sum of its biological past and then you have demonstrated free will.”  

The problem here is that Pro’s entire argument is simply a contrived dilemma designed to give the false appearance that it addresses the problem of free will when all it really does is put forth a false dichotomy logical fallacy.

He goes back again to his peculiar faith-based belief that free will requires a supernatural entity in control of the brain, and therefore all he must do is show the existence of physiological processes and physical influences to prove that his contrived supernatural agency has been vanquished by science. As proof, he proceeds to regurgitate as much scientific brain research he can Google, to which I will again respond with a resounding ‘Well DUH”.  Like I keep telling him, the fact that mental events have neural correlates is not in dispute, and the fact that there are a multitude of various influences that effect our actions is not in dispute, what is in dispute is whether these physical influences completely determine each and every possible choice that a person is faced with.

His argument is that our consciousness is causally inert, it only passively observes, when we think about raising our arm and then we raise our arm, we did not raise our arm, our brain did, we only think we did it because the brain is tricking us into false beliefs.

The problem is Pro has done nothing whatsoever to show how the existence of these physical functions and influences combine to eliminate our freedom to make reasoned choices. He needs to show how these various components interact to ensure that each choice we make can have one and only one, predetermined outcome that is independent of our thoughts. It is astoundingly naïve to think that Googling and listing a smorgasbord of various brain research programs in some way accomplishes this, it most certainly does not.

He wants to draw a distinction between his special determinism and “philosophical determinism,” i guess his special determinism is conspiracy world determinism, philosophical determinism is something thing that only applies to the real word, so it does not apply to his imagined debate. He has shifted the burden proof in the conspiracy manner with repeatedly saying “Prove me wrong,” which of course is a logical fallacy, but since it is all he has to offer, I will respond anyway. 

As I said, regurgitating brain research is irrelevant, it does not make his point unless he applies it to the free will debate, which entail actually understanding it which does not appear to be the case. I am familiar with the research, and I understand it well enough to apply it to the free will debate, and so I will provide a rough explanation of how our capacity for freewill is supported by brain function. 

EXPLANATION

First, we should recognize that the human brain is the most complex piece of matter known to science, it is preposterously naive to even think that we understand it well enough that we can physically rule out the possibility of freedom to make choices between distinct options, and in so doing banish freedom and responsibility from human consideration.  Our scientific understanding is not as comprehensive and complete as Pro would have us believe, in fact, we have barely scratched the surface in terms of understanding the brain’s capabilities. I can imagine few things that are as self-defeating as using the mind to limit the mind, especially when the reason for doing so is nothing but an illogical and unscientific semantics game based on a misguided faith-based agenda.

The associated neurological process of conscious decision making involves a symphony of complex interactions between various autonomous structures within the brain, but in humans, the cognitive processes Pro is denying are primarily coordinated by the prefrontal cortex which provide for the “Executive Functions”, probably the most complex and highest of all cognitive functions and providing unique abilities that could arguably represent the essence of what it means to be human. 

Primarily through MRI, PET and CT scan imaging techniques that identify the location of various brain activities and the study of resultant impairments when different areas of the brain are damaged, science has developed an extensive understanding of where and how these cognitive processes occur in the brain.  The executive functions do not exclusively occur in the prefrontal cortex, but they result from high level processing functions that are performed by the prefrontal cortex in conjunction with other brain structures. The prefrontal cortex coordinates and controls a distributed network of brain structures and regions by receiving and processing input from other cortical and subcortical areas like the parietal lobes and basil ganglia to provide the unified cognitive domain called “Executive Function.” 

The Executive Functions provide the ability to form concepts and think abstractly, make decisions about right and wrong, and process cause-effect relationships which allows us to recognize the significance of unexpected situations and to adapt to changing situations. It gives us the ability to connect past experiences with present actions to anticipate outcomes, select appropriate responses or behavior while inhibiting inappropriate responses and behaviors. It provides the cognitive ability for planning, organizing, and strategizing our actions as well as the capability to pay attention, remember details, manage time, and utilize space.  The prefrontal cortex interacts at an elevated level with the hippocampus, which is essential for memory, to develop and maintain a cognitive map that is an internal representation of the world which can be manipulated well beyond the binary stimulus/response capabilities of Pro's argument.

The mental manipulation of this internal representation allows us to creatively represent information that is not present, giving us the ability to compare and contrast the past and present with future possibilities, and creatively plan and select appropriate courses of action in a teleological manner, which is to say, in a purposeful and goal directed way.  This capability is combined with an internal self-representation model that is placed into this internal representation of the environment to recognize how probable future consequences of current actions will affect us to conceive of and choose between the complex alternatives available.

Consequently, the Executive functions support our ability to differentiate among conflicting thoughts, determine good and bad, better and best, same and different, and other value laden comparisons to develop and pursue well defined goals, and predict outcomes based on expected results of various actions, to freely select actions regarding expected future consequences.  This internal self-representation model is also replicated with modifications, then projected onto other individuals to allow us to predict the actions and possible responses of others in order to provide for social abilities and to allow us to recognize the consequences of our actions as they relate to other people, and then compare and contrast them to the inverted consequences of how such actions would affect us. 

This capability gives us the ability to evaluate the moral and ethical consequences of our actions and choose appropriately, to “do unto others as we would have them do unto us” so to speak. This is why we do not just possess free will to choose our own actions, but we have the cognitive ability to reflect on how those actions might affect others, which accounts for the fact that we can be held accountable for our actions as morally responsible causal agents.  

This is a brief review of the neuroscience supporting our decision-making ability which can be referred to with the term “free will,” it provides the reasoning behind the idea of free will and why it is related to the concept of moral responsibility and accountability for the actions we choose. 

Note that it involves no magic, there is no supernatural agency, no magical incantations, and no unicorns, it is just science and logic, and further note, this explanation does not “disappear” free will, just as the scientific explanation of the color green as a particular wavelength of light does not make the color green disappear, nor does it make the color green transform into an illusion.

SUMMARY

First, Pro's argument fails because of his unwarranted assumption as to what is “cause” and what is “effect”, the experience of mind clearly indicates that we are causal agents, mind is at times the cause of the neural correlates rather than the effect of them, which is to say, it is not determined. 

Second, conscious beings are causal agents which act in a purposeful and goal directed way, this entails desires or intentions, and the ability to envision a future state and establish a strategy for attaining that state. A conscious state can have causal effect to bring about further states for the sake of values and purposes, and intents. 

None of these features are reducible to the purely physical state of Pro’s argument, so his argument fails.


Round 3
Pro
#5
ILLUSION ≠ CONSPIRACY

"conspiracy" -a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful.

"illusion" (by the definition of the debate) - a false idea or belief

All I had to do is show that the sense of free will is a false belief and based on the definition of "free will" in this debate, I have. I wish we could have went more in detail about the science behind it but I had to rebut every philosophical straw man and non sequitur CON based his arguments on. 

"free will"- - refers to the ability of individuals to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or external forces

CON has failed to demonstrate an ability that we have that is not determined by prior causes or external forces. CON cannot present new evidence in final round. I have presented everything needed to show that every aspect of our decision making process happens in the brain and is guided by prior physical causes. Just as CON admits "no supernatural entities needed".

  • The brain's structure and function, influenced by genetics, environment, and neuroplasticity, dictate our decisions. None of this is in our control.

  • Genetic predispositions and environmental factors shape behavior beyond conscious control, influencing neural development and neurotransmitter systems.

  • Human behavior arises from the interaction of biological, psychological, and environmental factors, resulting in emergent behaviors.

  • Our sense of agency and conscious decision-making is an illusion, as unconscious processes and neural activity precede and influence our conscious choices.

Furthermore, I have admitted that the idea of free will is a fiction but a useful fiction so I don't know why CON still argues about irrelevant things such as why the brain "tricks us" to believe we have free will. I have no intentions in turning this debate into "Why the illusion of free will is useful" which is off topic. The belief that we are in control has evolutionary, social and psychological benefits. Sometimes our brains believe false things and benefit from them. No new news here from CON and no conspiracy in the brain needed.

"I will argue here that everything we think, say, and do is wholly and unequivocally determined" and I did.



"his argument is that free will is impossible because determinism is true for the human brain."
Yes, CON and I didn't merely assert determinism in the brain too, I showed it with scientific evidence.


"His above quote from the first round asserting that as it relates to us, “everything is determined” and this round’s “all OUR DECISIONS are determined” "

Yes, CON, "related to us" are the key words. I had to specify it again and make it more clear to you since you don't get it. All of our thinking, decisions etc are determined. Those are the things related to us that are the topic of matter. Everything happening in the brain is determined except what I have clarified in my introduction in the first round. Which is irrelevant because it doesn't give you free will, just randomness and cannot affect macroscopic things in a way that gives you libertarian free will. How many times do I have to explain that quantum physics and microscopic indeterminacy is not going to help you. I explained and gave you sources why. Debunking universal determinism is not going to help you. Explained why in first round. Refer to this again:


"...calculated 23 orders of magnitude that an indeterminist subatomic effect would have to scale up to influence the behavior of a single molecule. It gets decoherent. ....  classical behavior emerges from quantum mechanics at the macroscopic scale, leading to the appearance of determinism in our everyday experiences while preserving the probabilistic and seemingly random nature of quantum mechanics at the microscopic level."




"...he wants to debate semantics rather than the actual subject of the debate, "

I'm literally so straightforward with this debate. Read the definition of free will and read what I asked you to do. No semantics here. Read what "illusion" is and read what you try to twist it as. "Conspiracy"... lol

" I, along with everyone else, recognize that our experience of reality includes our sense of having free will..."

Please, again stop including everyone with yourself. For one you are currently talking to someone who is clearly not agreeing with the idea that for us to experience reality we need the "sense" of having free will. Or at least YouTube "free will debate" and just see numerous professors in expertise in biology, neurology, and neurosurgery, physics etc. and see that not everyone agrees as you claim, that experiencing reality and the sense of free will are connected. You cant just assert they are. You provided nothing to support your claims.  Even if we all think "we experience free will" this is no proof that our experiences are correct.



" free will is a basic part of experience,"

This is CONs whole argument. Sure, CON its basic and "everyone" might feel like they have it. Do you really think your biased, baseless claim that sorely relies on intuition and anecdotal nonsense alone will be convincing enough to show that this subjective feeling is not false? With absolutely no scientific backup on top of that too?


"We experience free will, which is to say, we observe it"

There we go, more of the same. Where do we observe it Mr. Observer? Did I not ask you to present any "will" (decision) that is "free" from its biological (etc..) past? Did you present any? No.



Self-Evident Truths

The concept of self-evident truths is indeed accepted in philosophy, but whether free will qualifies as a self-evident truth is highly debatable. Self-evident truths are typically axiomatic statements that are universally acknowledged (like "all bachelors are unmarried men"), which is not the case for free will. Just as CON admitted many times "this has been a topic of debate for thousands of years" so I state again: if it was self evident truth it would have been a mundane fact not a debate. The assertion that free will is self-evident is itself a contentious claim. Free will is not universally accepted as self-evident in philosophical or scientific discourse. Many scholars and scientists argue against its existence, suggesting that it cannot be considered self-evident in the same way as logical axioms.


Rejection of Empiricism

Rejecting free will as an illusion is not a rejection of empiricism but an interpretation of empirical evidence. Studies in neuroscience and psychology provide data suggesting that our sense of agency may be an illusion created by unconscious processes. Interpreting this evidence critically aligns with the scientific method, which involves questioning and reevaluating our understanding based on new findings. CON is wrong again.

CON suggests that calling our observations (which he hasn't shown, he mainly refers to intuition) an illusion undermines the scientific method. First of all I have never called "observation"-"illusions", I have called the sense of free will an illusion but he still cant understand what free will is. And even if I did call our observation illusions that is not necessarily wrong in all cases. Science often reveals that our initial perceptions are not accurate (e.g., the Earth seems flat but is round). Calling something an illusion based on evidence is part of scientific inquiry, not a rejection of it. Science has a long history of correcting our misconceptions and subjective observations about reality.



''challenged the validity of every moral and legal system,”  PART 2

The argument that rejecting free will eliminates responsibility is a false dichotomy. Legal and moral systems can and do often operate under deterministic frameworks. Responsibility can be based on the understanding that actions have consequences, and societal norms and laws function to regulate behavior for the common good.

Holding individuals accountable for their actions serves as a mechanism to influence future behavior. Legal systems act as deterrents and rehabilitation methods to reduce harm and encourage socially beneficial behavior. This approach is pragmatic and focuses on the outcomes of actions rather than the metaphysical nature of free will. Just because we might understand why a person does something evil does not mean we should not try to protect society from him. But again, I suggest we (alongside everything that we already do to criminals) try to rehabilitate them and change our views on certain things. Our legal systems already recognize lack of "free will" in many cases by considering mitigating factors like coercion, duress, and mental health issues. These considerations do not undermine the entire legal system but refine it to ensure fairness and justice. Similarly, acknowledging the influence of deterministic factors can lead to more humane and effective legal practices. 







Misunderstanding of Determinism and Rational Deliberation

Determinism doesn't imply that rational deliberation is meaningless. It means that our reasoning processes, shaped by our experiences, knowledge, and cognitive abilities, follow deterministic patterns. The fact that our deliberations are determined by prior causes does not negate their validity or the coherence of the arguments we present.

While determinism suggests that our thoughts and decisions are influenced by prior states, it doesn't mean they lack causal power. Our cognitive processes, though determined, influence our behavior and decisions. This is evident in the way learning, reasoning, and evidence shape our beliefs and actions.

Deliberation is a process where the brain evaluates different options and outcomes based on prior knowledge and experiences. This process can still be deterministic. The feeling of weighing pros and cons doesn't require free will; it simply reflects complex neural computations that determine the best course of action (that even CON was able to explain in his last argument)



''He wants to debate free will in his context of conspiracies and supernatural beings mysteriously controlling our brain''
CON wouldn't be himself if he didn't try straw manning me at least once in this round too. Voters can decide if I made any implications of such kind.


" changing definitions”

I have not changed a single definition in about 60,000 characters but ok.


FALSIFIABILITY

As every serious theory/proposition, the idea that "free will" doesn't exist needs to be falsifiable. By the definition of free will in this debate which is also the definition many scientists use (such as R. Sapolsky) , we can falsify all my claims by “showing neuron system (or a brain) whose generation of a behavior is independent of the sum of its biological past” . This is a way to falsify my claims , which CON failed to do and he had 40,000 characters to do so. It is not false dichotomy. It is the topic of the debate.




''He goes back again to his peculiar ?faith-based? belief that free will requires a supernatural entity in control of the brain, and therefore all he must do is show the existence of physiological processes and physical influences to prove that his contrived supernatural agency has been vanquished by science. ''

It seems that you think "free will" means just being able to make decisions. I have no such beliefs that "making decisions" would require supernatural forces. I did not ask for a "supernatural entity" I asked you for any evidence that neurons can act independently of their past/external factors. Too late now. I did present that our decisions are based on external forces and prior causes outside of our control. Based on the definition of free will it follows that we don't have such a thing. We might have will but its not free. You have failed to debunk a single argument of mine. In contrast everything you have said I have shown to be false and you have dropped multiple arguments. 

I see you think that me showing you that every decision we make is based on physical processes is not a dispute for free will which just tells me you have no idea what this debate is about or what the word "free" means in "free will". You think that those physical processes don't determine our decisions which is fine but I have asked you numerous times to show me a decision the brain (or you) has taken that is completely independent of its biological, genetic, environmental, physiological or anatomical past. You have failed. Every decision we make is determined by those processes. Again, explained in round 1. None of those things is in our control. We do not control the environment we are born in and raised in, we do not control who or what our family is, we do not control the culture we are raised in, we do not control our genetics, we do not consciously control our hormones and physical processes that determine our mood etc, we do not control any of those things that I have mentioned in round 1 that shape our behavior and shape our personality/decision making.






OUR EXPLANATION

CON starts by doing exactly what I said he would do. Just because we don't know everything doesn't mean you can smuggle in free will when there's no evidence for it, Mr. God of the gaps. Just because we can make choices and evaluate options does not mean those choices are not predetermined. Our scientific knowledge is good enough for me to present my case and you didn't refute any of the scientific claims I made. But sure, throw another baseless and unrelated accusation my way (that I have an agenda?).

"the cognitive processes Pro is denying are primarily coordinated by the prefrontal cortex which provide for the “Executive Functions”"

Is CON serious lol this is literally my whole case how am I denying that? Then he goes to explain in detail how that works and makes my argument even better but CON thinks my argument is solely just "stimulus/response". This is just laughable, again. All I can say is "Thank you CON, for making my argument even stronger".

The end is the best part. Somehow CON explains mostly all of the physical processes in our brain that control our behavior (just like I did) but somehow comes to the wrong conclusion. This is where he clearly shows that he has no idea what the "free" in "free will" stands for. Executive functions and decision-making processes can be understood as sophisticated deterministic operations influenced by prior experiences and neural interactions. Explained by me also, thanks. The prefrontal cortex, along with other brain regions, forms complex neural networks that guide goal-directed behavior through processes such as working memory, inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility. These processes are shaped by prior experiences through synaptic plasticity, allowing our brain to predict outcomes and make decisions based on past rewards and consequences. Predictive coding and error minimization further illustrate how the brain evaluates potential actions in a deterministic manner. Neuroscientific evidence, such as the ones I showed, support the idea that our decisions are determined by unconscious neural processes before we become aware of them. Thus, the complexity of our cognitive functions can be fully explained within a deterministic framework, without invoking free will. I wont ask you again because you cant make new arguments in the last round , but for the voters: which one of those processes exactly isn't determined by prior causes again ? Our desires, strategies and visions of the future are based on our past which are shaped by external factors and prior causes outside of our control . For example does CON think just because he can choose if he wants to eat chocolate or vanilla ice cream this is free will ? This simple choice involves prior conditioning and input from external factors of all sorts ( prior experiences, biological factors, psychological state, social influences, and the immediate context. All these factors are processed by neural mechanisms in a deterministic manner, leading to the final decision. )

For example one biological factor that we have no control over is that some people may have a heightened sensitivity to sweetness due to genetic variations in taste receptors. This means they might naturally prefer sweeter desserts over others. Similarly, sensitivity to bitterness can affect preferences for foods like dark chocolate or bitter greens. Or they have developed an allergy to certain ingredients that will influence their decision in choosing their ice cream, simply put.

Another example for one of those factors (prior experiences) is that during childhood, exposure to different flavors and cultural influences shape our palate and preferences. These experiences can create associations between certain flavors and positive or negative feelings, influencing our future choices. I don't believe any of us think we had control over what culture to be born in and what our parents had to feed us while growing up.

Neural Processes : Neural imaging studies show that brain activity in regions associated with reward and decision-making is active when making such choices, indicating a complex, deterministic evaluation process.
Specific neural processes in your brain, particularly in the prefrontal cortex, evaluate all these factors to make a decision. Refer to Complex Systems Theory in R1.




"Note that it involves no magic"
Yes CON congratulations, you get it. But somehow you still don't get that every single one of those processes is determined by factors outside of our control and you have failed to show one example of anything that we can do without it being determined from prior causes.



"mind is at times the cause of the neural correlates rather than the effect of them, which is to say, it is not determined. "
I understand that this is your position but you have failed to present any evidence of that. "Everyone" knows that our brains operate by the function of neurons and I have asked you to present one neuron system that does act independently of its past, you failed.

While it's true that conscious beings act with purposes, intentions, and desires, these attributes can be understood within a deterministic framework. Desires and intentions arise from deterministic neural processes influenced by genetics, past experiences, and environmental factors. Conscious states have causal effects, but these effects are still governed by deterministic mechanisms. Therefore, the presence of conscious agency does not necessitate the existence of libertarian free will but can be compatible with a deterministic understanding of decision-making.

"Sure. Everybody thinks they're seeing free will when we choose something.
We're consciously aware of doing it, we know what the consequences are likely to be. Most importantly, we know there's alternatives available to us. And for most people that's necessary and sufficient, there's free will.
And my whole point is, that misses everything that's going on because you're not asking the only important question, which is: How did you become the sort of person who would have that intent at that point?
And the answer is because of the biology over which you had no control,
interacting with the environment over which you had no control, stretching from one second ago
to the moment you were an fertilized egg. And when you look at how that stuff works,
there's not a crack anywhere in there in which you can insert sort of the everyday intuitive notion of free will."  -  Stanford professor Robert Sapolsky


Thanks for the debate Sidewalker!







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