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Determinism vs Free Will

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Two other honorable members, with the best of intentions, seem to suggest that reasoning cannot be debated and refuted. ... "You must identify a simple statement that the reasoning was designed to support. Then you must debate that simple statement," they seem to be saying.

If you believe that an argument is invalid, you should be able to identify the first step in that argument which is fallacious. I would suggest that that step should be the thesis of the thread.

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I'm a fan of foreplay, but this is getting ridiculous. Just make your opening statement as to why free will exists, and we'll debate it. You don't want to clarify your argument, and you're picking mine apart semantically without actually bringing up any reason for it to be essentially untrue.

This isn't some sort of assignment, this is a forum for recreational discussion. My grammar is unimportant. I'm saying, "Determinism is the way physics works. If I throw a ball, the ball can not choose where to go. If I stimulate a brain, it can not choose how to respond. You may feel like you have volition, but I watch the sun rotate around the Earth every day. Just because it's 'self evident' doesn't mean it's actually true."

Now tell me why I'm wrong in another thread with the appropriate title.

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If you believe that an argument is invalid, you should be able to identify the first step in that argument which is fallacious.

Yes, if the argument is clear and fixed. However, suppose that the argument in question is not completely clear. Suppose that critical analysis of the argument provokes revision, critical analysis of the revision provokes more revision, and so on, with no end in sight. Given that there is some actual pattern of reasoning that the person has in mind and will keep trying to formulate, isn't it possible that the best way to decisively deal with it is to explain the overall structure?

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Just make your opening statement as to why free will exists, and we'll debate it.

Given that the one and only debate I have proposed is a debate about whether or not one particular argument is valid, why would I make an opening statement as to why free will exists? I think that would be surplus to requirements. What do you think?

You don't want to clarify your argument [...]

My position is that there is at least one substantial flaw in a particular argument that you wrote. I have already identified (quoted and linked to) that argument that you wrote. I have not clarified my argument because I have not yet presented my argument. I have not yet presented my argument because the debate has not yet begun. When the debate begins, I will present an argument to support my position.

[...] and you're picking mine apart semantically without actually bringing up any reason for it to be essentially untrue.

What is it of yours that I am "picking apart"? Is it an argument or a statement?

This isn't some sort of assignment, this is a forum for recreational discussion.

When it is your turn to respond in a debate, will you consider the task you face to be some sort of assignment?

My grammar is unimportant.

I agree. Is there something I wrote that you took to be a comment on your grammar?

[...] this is getting ridiculous. [...]

I'm inclined to agree with that comment. We can both participate in debates, but perhaps we should not debate each other. What do you think?

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I would like to participate in this if I can. I have the belief that there is no distinction between free will and determinism. Meaning, that I don't think that either concepts explain the phenomen of action. I think that given the Objectivist epistemology, if there is a distinction among the two, then free-will would have to prevail.

Any way I would argue Nozick's stance that not only do the arguments fall short of "proof", but they have no practical significance. Since technically you can't be aware of determinism in any significant way, and if you think you have free will but don't, you wouldn't be able to change your course of action.

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I would like to participate in this if I can.

Thank you for being open about your interest. To me, that suggests that perhaps the proceedings so far in this thread have not been "ridiculous" (to borrow donnywithana's word). Also, I owe thanks to whoever created the listing, message, or advertisement that brought you to this message board in May of the year 2004 and to the Moderators who help keep this place civilized ... and organized ( :) thanks to whoever moved this pre-debate discussion to its own thread!)

I have the belief that there is no distinction between free will and determinism. [...] if there is a distinction among the two, then free-will would have to prevail.

Most premises of my opponent are likely to play no role in the debate, so I'm not particularly concerned about them. However, there is one very important exception. At the risk of boring the thorough and attentive readers, I repeat that I want all my opponents to be people who actually believe that the quoted argument (or some variation of that argument) is valid. In this debate, I don't want to debate a devil's advocate.

Any way I would argue [...] that [...] the arguments have no practical significance.

Okay, from your point of view, it would simply be a very friendly debate, with no practical philosophical issues at stake. Is that right? We all need to recharge our batteries from time to time. Do you have any questions for me?

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Joynewyeary, I don't even know what you want to debate anymore. If you want to tell me why one particular thing I said is not true, without debating whether or not free will exists, then you can feel free to explain to me what part of what I said is untrue. I concede in advance.

Nimble, do you believe that free will is absolutely free, or is linked irremovably to the physically deterministic nature of the brain? If you believe the former is true, then I will debate that with you.

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Gee! This can't be that hard, can it?

Donnywithana is saying that the brain controls the mind and, being a part of the physical universe, it is determined which makes the mind determined, too.

Joynewyeary says that this is not a valid argument, which is enough to start a debate.

If you both agree to this, just post a simple "yes".

So, would you please just start. Please. I'd really like to see this and this predefinition is driving me nuts by now. 30 posts, mind you!

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Donnywithana, are you permitting multiple people to participate against you? because your question regarding freewill was interesting to me enough to the point where I did a little research, and I feel that I could contribute to the debate. With your permission of course, because I understand others have expressed interest.

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Nimble, do you believe that free will is absolutely free, or is linked irremovably to the physically deterministic nature of the brain? If you believe the former is true, then I will debate that with you.

I said that I don't believe that the concept you use to describe free will is absolutely correct. What do you mean by absolutely free? I am a materialist, in the sense that I am willing to leave supernaturalism out of any debate. I believe that there are laws that dictate the physical universe, and as being part of that universe we must abide by those laws. So in that light, I don't think free will is absolutely free. However, I don't think this debate is one of philosophy really. I don't think we have figured out all the physical laws of the universe and as such, I don't think we can say how consciousness interacts with causality.

I think any determinist is just spouting arbitrary assertions since their stance can not be proven, and its impact is irrelevant, since if everything is supposedly determined, you couldn't change your actions anyway.

Basically, I am anti-both sides, because I think neither has any real evidence or proof, and its impact on your life is irrelevant no matter what stance you hold.

If it could be proven to me that there is any significance in this debate, then I would have to say that the free-willers' seem to have more evidence than the determinists, however I don't think free will is axiomatic.

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I was reading my posts and realizing that I hadn't really made myself clear.

Okay, I believe that we make choices, so in a sense you could call that free will. However, I believe that the nature in which we learn, makes it impossible to provide any objective and meaningful proof for determinism.

If you have ever read Nozick's "Philosophical Explanations" you will know what I will be arguing. Nozick used to write very jibberish type stuff on free-will because he believed in it, but couldn't provide evidence for it. But he then wrote later that because of the nature in which we learn, we cannot prove that the future is determined. Thus determinism cannot be anything more than an arbitrary assertion. Also, because the past has already happened, it cannot be said that you could have done otherwise. Thus normal free will arguments are based on false premises.

So my argument is that we do make choices, if you have ever acted you will know what I mean. So my stance is that we have free will in the sense that we make choices in the face of alternatives.

Does that make sense?

Edited by nimble
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I am very tired, indescribably tired, of the senselessness occurring in this thread. The utter madness of demanding that free-will be "proved," that there is little evidence to back it up, blanking out the nature of proof altogether. Please read below (note: I'm not sure what the limits are for quoting texts, so if I've gone over them please someone delete my post). I post this directly rather than my own words because I think he makes the point very clear.

So far, I have been identifying the nature of man's power of choice, according to the Objectivist theory. But how is this theory validated? Can one prove that the choice to think is real, and not, as determinists would say, an illusion caused by our ignorance of the forces determining us? Can one prove that man's consciousness does not function automatically?

If man's consciousness were automatic, if it did react deterministically to outer or inner forces acting upon it, then, by definition, a man would have no choice in regard to his mental content; he would accept whatever he had to accept, whatever ideas the determining forces engendering in him. In such a case, one could not prescribe methods to guide a man’s thought or ask him to justify his ideas; the subject of epistemology would be inapplicable. One cannot ask a person to alter or justify the mentally inescapable, any more than, in physical terms, one can ask him to alter or justify his patellar reflex. In regard to the involuntary, there is no alternative but to submit--to do what one must, whatever it is.

The concept of "volition" is one of the roots of the concept "validation" (and of its subdivisions, such as "proof"). A validation of ideas is necessary and possible only because man's consciousness is volitional. This applies to any idea, including the advocacy of free will: to ask for its proof is to presuppose the reality of free will.

Once again, we have reached a principle at the foundation of human knowledge, a principle that antecedes all argument and proof. How, then, do we know that man has volition? It is self-evident fact, available to any act of introspection.

...

Like any rejection of a philosophic axiom, determinism is self-refuting. Just as one must accept existence or consciousness in order to deny it, so one must accept volition in order to deny it. A philosophic axiom cannot be proved, because it is one of the bases of proof. But for the same reason it cannot be escaped, either. By its nature, it is impregnable.

I pray that the relationship betwen proof and axiomatic concepts is clear now. So, please no more demands for "proof" of free-will. So, ask yourself how fully do you understand why one of the roots of validation is volition. Can one speak of validation outside of, without, in absence of volition? Can one speak of using a method of knowledge, that is, an epistemology, for discovering the nature of anything without presupposing that man has a choice with regard to method as such?

Edited by Felipe
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On that high-note, I think it is time to shut a thread that has turned into a debate about a coming debate that never seems to actually come. This has really turned into a satirical farce.

My suggestion is this: if some members are still keen on a debate related to Free Will, then please use the Messaging (PM) system to communicate and sort out the topic and the rules. Once the proposition is clear, and we have an Objectivist and non-Objectivist position, only then should one start a public thread.

From reading the threads above, I understand that 4 members have shown interest: JoyneWeary, DonnyWithAnA, TorturedOne and Nimble.

Here is what I have been able to glean:

  1. Joyneweary does not want to argue for or against free-will as such, but against particular argument that is made against free-will
  2. DonnyWithAnA wishes to argue against free will
  3. TorturedOne wishes to argue for free will
  4. Nimble thinks the terms are not quite appropriate

From this, I conclude that the debate that would be of most general interest would be between TorturedOne (for FreeWill) and DonnyWithAnA (against FreeWill); but that's based on my reading, which may be incorrect.

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