All our actions are determined in some way
Last updated: March 3, 2017
This debate entertains the idea that our actions are always determined, that is we do not choose what we do and consequently we do not have free will. We could be determined by evolution, the universe, God, 'The matrix theorem'.
Points for this motion will look at the impossibility of having free will and the reality of determinism.
Points against this motion will look at the moral, ethical, practical and the contradictory paradoxes that arise from the deterministic view.
You could focus on this thought experiment:
A man stands at a traffic light, it goes green and he crosses the road. Did he choose to do so, or did the green light determine his action of crossing the road, the man could say he could have not crossed the road, but he did! this means that he was still determined in some way to cross the road.
Ask yourself this...
Now ask yourself that if you were put into EXACTLY the same circumstances (same time, place, mood, etc.- just to stress, in response to the NO comment - exactly the same, so the same TIME and everything else - there is absolutely no difference whatsoever) would you choose the same? My intuition is that I would choose the same, because the circumstances are the same. I will always, when presented with EXACTLY the same situation, choose EXACTLY the same way. The times I have asked this question of other people I have got mixed reactions. Some say the same as me, some say that they could choose otherwise, some say that they simply cannot imagine what they would do in a situation that had absolutely no difference to one they had already made a choice in.
Our actions are determined, to some extent, by our bodies, the situation we occupy, our disposition to certain behaviour, etc. This is becoming a difficult position to oppose. What is still under some heavy debate is if that means we are free to act as we wish and so therefore are responsible for our actions, or if it means we are all on a ready-made path, with no 'agency' (capacity to make choices and impose those choices on the world[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agency_%28philosophy%29]]).
The position I take individually is that we are not 'free' in the sense that our actions are not determined, but we are 'free' in the sense that although I could not have chosen otherwise, I still made the choice and so I am still responsible for my actions. If I choose to kill, I could not have chosen otherwise, but it was still me who made the choice to kill and still me who made all of the choices that led me to that point. We must take responsibility for our choices, even if we feel that we are in some way determined to make those choices.
For further, more technical reading, see the Stanford Encylopedia of Philosophy, entries on Free Will[[http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/freewill/]], Causal Determinism[[http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/determinism-causal/]] and Moral Responsibility.[[http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-responsibility/]]
The author of the 'yes' point has signposted successfully, the major topics of such a debate on free will and determinism and for this the author should be highly rewarded.
However it should be noted and the author of the previous no point did so only abiguously, that because time progresses or it changes in some way then because of this the situation 'of choosing the cake' at one point can never be repeated. But also on the atomic or quantum scale, the molecular structure of such a space in which you chose the cake has changed i.e. your cells have changed, the particle energies of the cake hath changed. Thus in reality (by reality i merely that world in which we perceive that is not the thought experiment) we can never repeat a situtation and thus we can never prove that if it was repeated one will choose differently.
Correct me if my intepretation on your 'individual stance on the issue' is wrong, i feel that basically your argument can be stripped down to two fundamental propositions; 1) Our actions are either determined by our physical self, by external motion 2) after we are determined we could have chosen otherwise.
My argument will refute the first proposition, and my agument is such... Imagine the cake situation there are two cakes. The probality of choosing either is 50/50 , now what makes the choice occur i.e. what actual physical occurence or event determines such a choice between two cakes? If the universe does eveything that can happen then that person chooses both in alternate dimensions, therefore probality determined the choice thus the universe needed to fulfill every possibility. If anything but choice determines our actions then our actions essentially mean nothing if the other action is acted our simultaneously. This only occurs when the universe determines our actions. How do we avoid this problem ? we say that it is the mind that chooses. The mind chooses one of the cakes by any criterion, and thus if we assume the mind to be metaphysical then the universe will not have to simulate every possiblity. Thus we can choose otherwise.
Thus our actions are products of choice.
(this stance is not my stance on the case, i feel that it was an interesting stance to take)
Our actions are determined by external factors or by choice
This is a sort of synthesis of the previous discussion above.
One can be forced upon by nature or external factors to act e.g. a person pushing you imposed you to move forward which was an act in itself. This means external factors can sometimes determine our actions.
One can choose to act in a certain way, i.e. to act badly or to act rightly (things that nature cannot force people to do) , however by choosing to act you have determined yourself to act. (how ironic)
Thus all our actions are determined in some way either by choice or by external forces.
The argument from 'no, because' has assumed that external factors only determine our actions, i stated external factors or by choice. If choice is internal or external is irrelevant.
You can't choose what you don't want, and want always precedes choice in the chain of causality.
But suppose you choose the lemon pie over the apple pie, even though you wanted the apple pie, just to spite this rule. All that has happened is that you suddenly wanted to disprove the rule more than you wanted the apple pie. Another example: you see a man lying face down in the ditch. You want to hurry on your way, but you make a conscious choice to help him. Again, all that has happened is that one desire (to help your fellow man) has overridden another (to have a normal, hassle-free day). Desires often compete, and they can be chaotic and unpredictable, even to the mind hosting them.
Want always precedes choice in the chain of causality.
But can't you simply decide to like lemon pie instead of apple? Can't you simply choose to want to help your fellow man? Ask yourself this, however: why would you choose that? Why? Because you want to! Any attempt to show that choice occupies the role of ultimate cause only results in infinite regress.
Determined? Yes. Predetermined? No
But for an event to be predetermined is just silly. How can we say that in an event such as a courtroom in a murder trial be predetermined. Thats saying that everyone in the jurry will know how they will feel when they are informed of information that they have no idea what it possibly will be. Theres so many emotions and thoughts and beliefs and knowledge that all come boiling together from so many different people that predetermination is impossible. However, how they feel and their thought process creates the decision they make in the end.
So determined? Yes. Predetermined? No.
This implies falsely that man operates on pure instinct from which he cannot vary, placing him on the level of animals.
The example of a man being prompted to cross the street by a green light in order to prove that man acts as a robotic entity and not as a creature of free will is faulty. What about the person who encounters a red light at an intersection and chooses to ignore it and cross the street anyway? Or, what about the person who encounters the green light, understands that they can now cross the street because the green light says so, but does not do so because a speeding car approaches, which causes that person to decide that it would not be safe to cross the street, and they hold back because the car may not stop but proceed through the intersection instead? In either of these cases, these people had a range of choices. They could have chosen to jay-walk, for example!
The "green light" argument above, which attempts to prove that people are not creatures of free will because the person is "determined" to cross the street, is simply faulty. To be "determined" in something is itself an act of volition (free will), and we can choose our level of "determination". We can be somewhat determined or greatly determined to do (or not do) something.
One could argue that we do share in common some instincts with animals, such as the instinct towards self-preservation. However, even in this case, we know there are many examples of people who have deliberately ignored their own "instinct" towards self-preservation, and instead deliberately sacrifice themselves for a cause or a person or group of people. An example would be a soldier who deliberately throws himself over a grenade that is about to explode in order to save his comrades from a certain death.
Unlike animals, man has surpassed acting on purely instinct, is a creature of awareness, and because of his greatly superior intellect and the ability to choose between actions with understanding of what the possible outcomes could be, makes him a creature of free will.