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Debate SonoftheSun vs Daaskapital: Does Free Will Exist In Modern Society?

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posted on Jan, 24 2013 @ 02:53 PM
Thank you ATS for hosting another debate on an interesting topic that has been discussed for centuries and centuries. Huge thanks as well to Daaskapital for suggesting it and agreeing to challenge it and, finally, special thanks to readers, moderators and judges for making it all possible.

Does free will exist in modern society?

Well, there’s a loaded question.

I will do my best to show that even though, at times, it really does seem like it doesn’t, we do have free will. My esteemed opponent will do his best to convince you that we don’t.

So to start it off, I think it would be a good idea to see what dictionaries say about it.

Webster’s gives us two meanings, first:

voluntary choice or decision

All nice and dandy so far. Our choices are voluntary (unless someone forces us to) and so are our decisions. We can go left, we can go right or we can decide to stay on the center course. Okay.


freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention

So the cause to effect is being raised in this second description and so is the divine intervention or what I would call Act of God. If someone hasn’t heard the term, well, just wait and see when your house is torn to shreds by a tornado or is flooded beyond repair, I am sure that your insurance company will gladly put you up to specs.

Philosophers have always debated this concept, and especially the cause to effect, much like Daas and I will do today and, for many of them still, to this day, free will is nothing but an illusion. But is it really?

Those conclusions are merely based on religious beliefs or scientific theories. Religions would have us believe that there is a “plan” to everything and that our fate is already sealed. Science on the other hand will state that all that we are, all that we think, all that we choose is caused by our environment, our education, our genes. The term coined being “determinism” or actions which are always pre determined by different causes.

As a collective, I would tend to agree that our choices are limited. We have laws and regulations. We must abide or face consequences. And this, in my humble opinion, is the core flaw of the determinism theory; consequences. As a society or as a citizen, one not excluding the other, there are consequences to our actions. Good or bad.

Free will is what differentiates us from the other animals on this planet. Out of everything that lives, be it animal, vegetal or marine, we are the only species that has the liberty to choose, willingly, deliberately and consciously. Other animals will mostly act out of instinct.

Finally, philosophers argue that the free will concept is based on pure randomness and this line of thought is also flawed. While pure luck or chance is awarded to a select few, most humans live out of their own resources, based on their previous choices, good or bad. Yes, winning the lottery is giving someone a whole lot of new choices but so does an Act of God. Both could be a gift or both could be a curse. That all depends on how one uses his free will in reaction to the gain or the loss.

So then what is exactly is free will?

Free will is taking action, making decisions based out of our own responsibility. We think, we choose and we make a decision. Good or bad, this decision is ours and ours only.

Determinism will state that the brain, through gathered experience will make the choice, much like a machine or a computer would. In vulgar terms, some mention the slogan “garbage in garbage out”. But isn’t free will what makes us different than a computer? Doesn’t our awareness make us different?

Divine intervention will state that our decisions are already traced. Much like a book, our life is on a destiny path. No matter what we choose, the line has already been drawn. So what’s the point of living if it’s already been all written?

Randomness will state that our choices are made out of luck or bad luck. Luck or bad luck will often influence our decisions, I agree but honestly, while chance does exist, who bases his entire life on it?

During the course of this debate, I will give you plenty of examples of free will being existent in our lives. Modern society seems to be run by our governments, the media, the public school system, the healthcare system but in the end, the final choice on anything and everything, is ours and ours only.

To swing the responsibility of our choices on anything else is immature, irresponsible and unethical.


Daaskapital, the floor is yours.

edit on 11-2-2013 by Skyfloating because: title edit

posted on Jan, 28 2013 @ 08:37 AM
reply to post by SonoftheSun

Does free will exist in modern society?

Firstly, i would like to thank all those who have made this possible; the moderators, the judges, the viewers and of course SonoftheSun. Furthermore, i would like to apologise for the delay of my opening statement, as my town and state has been affected by all sorts of weather disasters...ranging from tornadoes to floods and cyclone like winds.

During this debate, i will be arguing that free will does not exist in modern society. To strengthen this argument, i will utilise a number of sources, including but not limited to: world renowned psychologists and philosophers, Numerous theories (which are heavily supported through facts) and various other sources.

I will begin my argument by stating the definition of free will as per the Oxford Dictionary (arguably the most comprehensive and in depth dictionary in the world):

The power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one’s own discretion.

Everything we "decide" to do is forced, both directly and subtly, especially on a societal level. It may seem that the decisions we make are our own, but that is not true, simply because our decisions are both forced, and necessary for society to operate. For example, we "decide" to go to work because we need to. We fulfill our roles at work because we need to. We need to make these decisions in order for society to operate, both on a macro and micro level. On a macro level, it keeps society operational, and on a micro level, it keeps one's family afloat.

While there are consequences to the decisions we make, it doesn't change the fact that our decisions are forced. Why do criminals behave the way they do? Because they are forced to act in such a manner. Most come from unwelcome backgrounds. Why do a lot of criminals re-offend? Because they need to. They can't live in the "free world" after being released from jail, so they are forced to commit a crime just to get back behind bars, to live the life they are accustomed to. Repeating forced decisions makes each and every one of us a body to be controlled, a "docile body."

Instead of addressing the already stated scientific theories as presented by SonoftheSun, i will instead venture into the field of psychology and social control. For this opening statement, i will focus on Michel Foucault and his theory of docile bodies.

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Michel Foucault was:

French historian and philosopher, associated with the structuralist and post-structuralist movements. He has had wide influence not only (or even primarily) in philosophy but also in a wide range of humanistic and social scientific disciplines.

In the book Discipline and Punish, Foucault states that:

“A body is docile that can be subjected, used, transferred and improved”
Page 136.

Indeed, Foucault is correct with his assertion that docile bodies are humans who have been subjected to discipline, thus being the subjects of others (in this case, society). We are all docile bodies, following our personal paths of which we have been subjected to. We are the docile bodies of society. Society has subjected and used us, and it will improve and transfer us as it sees fit. We do not control our actions or our thoughts, as they are just the effects of society itself. While the docile bodies theory works well on a societal level, the same can be said on a personal one also.

Most of us have been instilled with beliefs, creeds, opinions and rules. We are the subjects of those who have taught us what we know. Our leaders (parents, teachers, relatives etc) conditioned us. They subjected us to rules, they improved us in different ways...they have made each and every one of us, a docile body (whether it be a positive one or a negative one).

Considering we are a product of society, both on a societal level and on an individual one, we cannot and do not have free will. We are only here to be controlled as society sees fit. In my following post, i will be introducing further methods and sources to prove why us humans do not have free will in modern society.

I must thank SonoftheSun, not only for a great debate (thus far) but also for his patience in waiting for this post. I now pass the debate over to him.

posted on Jan, 29 2013 @ 03:49 PM
Dear viewers,

My esteemed opponent has made a very interesting opening statement describing in substance what “determinism” really is. Foucault’s philosophy, although controversial, regarding determinism is also applied to sexuality and mental illness which, honestly, is highly speculative.

It does seem at times, as I said in my opening statement, that our environment, our cultures, our education, our upbringings or our genes sculpt us into what we are. I would say that it has an influence on who and what we are but our own future is always up to us. It is easy to claim that criminals are a fabrication of their surroundings. It is easy to generalize. It is easy to find an excuse for what they do or what they’ve done. But the reality is somewhat different. They are criminals because they chose to.

Why do criminals behave the way they do? Because they are forced to act in such a manner.

I had to read this one a couple of times to make sure I read it right. They are forced?

Ted Bundy was forced to murder thirty to thirty six women? Jim Jones was forced to have his flock drink his kool-aid?

Or were the victims forced into such nightmares? Did their upbringings bring them in the hands of a killer? Really? Those victims didn’t have a choice. And even then, in Jones’ case, some of them willingly decided to end their lives. Their own decisions out of their own free will.

This is the major flaw of determinism. It is not a universal concept as it does not necessarily apply to everyone, anywhere and all the time. People, no matter where they are from, who they hang with, what they live, good or bad, have the ultimate choice. It is in one’s own hands, no one else’s.

If this was the case, some rich and famous folks wouldn’t be jerks and some pretty average individuals wouldn’t be geniuses.

Another good example of a flaw in the determinism’s concept is the liberty of choice regarding religions. No matter where one is from, no matter his upbringing, his education, his genes, one can decide to become a Hinduism or a Buddhist or a Muslim or a Pagan or an Atheist.

It is a personal choice based on what we think has the best answer to our needs.

Talking of needs, we supply our different needs out of our free will. We’re hungry and we decide what we feel like eating. No one is forcing us to. Again, some people are vegetarians; others are meat lovers, others fast, all a matter of personal choice, no one else’s.

I’ll be eating pizza tonight because I love it. No one is forcing me to. I am fully aware that it’s not the very best food health wise but I decide to eat it anyway, out of my own free will. I don`t think pizza`s been passed into my genes from previous generations.

Do I exaggerate? I don’t think so. McDonalds is making a fortune out of people’s free will. If anyone has looked into their food, it’s just scary. Yet millions eat at McD’s everyday because they like it. No one is forcing them to. Most know that it’s just fat and salt. Most know that the quality of their meat is highly speculative. Yet, they choose to enjoy it. No one else is to blame but them. They enjoy a good greasy, funny taste, weird looking Big Mac because they can, and out of their own free will.

How many times have we found out something that shocked us about someone else. My God...he’s from such a good family, his co workers thought that he was an exemplary employee, his parents are shocked, his whole neighborhood is shocked...because he committed suicide.

How can that be??? Good background, good education, good relations, good worker, good genes, yet he did the unthinkable.

Free will.

Robert Nozick, in his book entitled “ Philosophical Explanations “ says it best:

Without free will, we seem diminished, merely the playthings of external forces. How, then, can we maintain an exalted view of ourselves? Determinism seems to undercut human dignity, it seems to undermine our value.

Determism has an influence but is not the causal attribute of all that we are and all that we freely choose. It doesn’t apply to everyone, in all circumstances. It doesn’t apply to other philosophical venues. Free will does.

Determinism versus Free Will ?



Daas, back to you.

posted on Feb, 2 2013 @ 09:46 PM
Before delving into my body statement, i must thank SonoftheSun for his.

While there are similarities between the subjects of Determinism and Foucault's theory of Docile Bodies, they are, in essence not the same. I will list the definition of both:


the doctrine that all events, including human action, are ultimately determined by causes regarded as external to the will.

Docile Bodies:

“A body is docile that can be subjected, used, transferred and improved”

Discipline And Punish, Page 136

While it is clear that determinism does play a role in the Docile Bodies theory, the definitions above also prove that the Docile Bodies theory is more complex than that of Determinism (i.e. They are different when compared with each other). While Determinism is said to be the effect of external forces controlling the will of others, Docile Bodies are bodies which have been altered through external factors, only to be subjected, used transferred and improved.

In this essence, Docile Bodies are bodies which have the ability to adapt as society sees fit. Furthermore, contrary to SonoftheSun's statement that Determinism does not apply to everyone, the Docile Bodies theory does apply to each and every one of us, at least to some extent (having a greater effect on those subjected to harsher discipline). Instead of focusing on the semantics behind the two theories of Determinism and Docile Bodies, i will now move on to prove just why both theories may very well be right in determining fact that us as humans do not have free will. Before proceeding however, i would like to answer SonoftheSun's question as to whether or not criminals are forced to commit crimes.

Yes, they are. Yes Jim Jones was forced to make his subjects commit suicide. Why? He was crazy. Jim Jones was not a down to Earth person. It was his history, and his surroundings which made him who he was, a Communist loving paranoid individual. He would have believed the words in which he was stating during the mass suicide (as was recorded by an audio recorder).

Again, a criminal's surroundings is what forces them to commit crimes. Life is too harsh for them. They would rather spend time in a structured world - in Jail, than live in an unstructured world. Their brains eventually give up or snap, and they commit crimes. It isn't their decision at all. Regardless, i will now move on to address just why the Docile Bodies and the Determinism theories are correct when applied to Free Will.

Operant Conditioning

Operant Conditioning (also known as Skinner's Box) is the means of roughly changing behaviour through the use of reinforcement. While it was influenced by Edward Thorndike, Operant Conditioning was a method devised by none other than B. F. Skinner himself.

Operant Conditioning revolves around (what Skinner called) reinforcement. Reinforcement was the method of reinforcing behavior through repetitive actions. Skinner found that behaviour which was reinforced, was (as a result), strengthened (i.e. repeated). However, behaviour which was not reinforced tended to be weakened (i.e. extinguished).

Here are some examples of Skinner's tests, and results.

Skinner showed how positive reinforcement worked by placing a hungry rat in his Skinner box. The box contained a lever in the side and as the rat moved about the box it would accidentally knock the lever. Immediately it did so a food pellet would drop into a container next to the lever. The rats quickly learned to go straight to the lever after a few times of being put in the box. The consequence of receiving food if they pressed the lever ensured that they would repeat the action again and again.

Skinner showed how negative reinforcement worked by placing a rat in his Skinner box and then subjecting it to an unpleasant electric current which caused it some discomfort. As the rat moved about the box it would accidentally knock the lever. Immediately it did so the electric current would be switched off. The rats quickly learned to go straight to the lever after a few times of being put in the box. The consequence of escaping the electric current ensured that they would repeat the action again and again.

How does Operant Conditioning relate to us however?

Simple. We are docile bodies which have been subjected to and disciplined by society. We go about our daily lives, repeating our actions. Working, shopping and exercising among a myriad of other examples. Through repetitive acts, and reinforcement agents (money, happiness etc), we become docile and comply to society's rules. We are taught that going to work yields us money (it is positive reinforcement). Society is our Skinner's Box, and we are its rats.

I thank SonoftheSun for his post and patience. Back to you SotS

posted on Feb, 4 2013 @ 08:05 AM
Thank you, Daaskapital, for a fine debate.


Dear viewers,

As I reach the conclusion of my part of the debate, I wish to address some points made by my esteemed opponent, which to me, seem wrong.

Daaskapital claims that determinism and docile bodies are not the same. Foucault’s book Discipline and Punish is an estimation (his opinion)of the ways the penal system works. As far as docile bodies are concerned, he describes it as:

Foucault said constant supervision and forced discipline broke the will of the criminal and made him into a “docile body”. The “docile body” was easy to control by people in authority.

In this statement, it is obvious that external factors (supervision and discipline, much like conditioning) are molding the subject into submission. I do hope that viewers see this as a perfect example of determinism, as I see it. This technique is not from yesterday and reminds me of slaves under the cotton empire regimes. If we look into all of those that were submitted by force, who, in his right mind, ever thinks that their free will was buried? Hitler and the concentration camps also come to mind. They could break the bodies but they could never break the soul. Free Will.

My esteemed opponent also claims that Jim Jones was forced to make his subjects commit suicide. That is not the case. Yes, Jones was crazy, he was on hard drugs, he wasn’t working on all thrusters but he had free will and so did his subjects. He took the decision to commit genocide, some of his followers took the decision to comply, some others took the decision not to comply and were fatally shot, others took the decision to escape and succeeded. ALL of those decisions were made under free will.

What freewill tries to account for is our introspective conviction that we are in control of many of our choices, and thus our destiny - that we are free to think and decide.

Let me emphasize: that we are free to think and decide.

This is what it all breaks down to, our ability to do so. Free will is what makes us human. We have choice, on absolutely everything. As I mentioned in the opening statement:

I will do my best to show that even though, at times, it really does seem like it doesn’t, we do have free will.

Our governments rule, we are supervised, we are being brainwashed by the media, we are being subjected to laws...does any of this break our own free will?

Let me end this debate by giving you a few examples and I will let you decide...

We have to work but many choose not to.

We have to eat but some decide to fast.

We have to follow rules of conduct on the road but millions break them every day.

We have ethics and moral values but some commit murders every day.

We have the choice to believe in God or not.

We have the choice to believe in the MSM or not.

We have the choice to think that we are enslaved or not.

We have the choice to love or hate.

We choose to have a personal favorite color.

We choose how to dress.

We have a choice to follow ATS’ T&C or not.

Moderators then have a choice to ban you or not.

We can choose to adopt pets or not.

We can choose to subscribe to different ideologies or not.

We can choose to have different beliefs or not.

We can decide to turn the TV off or not.

We can decide to stop reading newspapers or not.

We can decide to do volunteer work or not.

We can decide to help someone in need or not.

We can choose to be a vegetarian or not.

We can choose to eat at McD’s or not.

We can decide to buy a house or a car...or not.

We can decide to enjoy sports or not.

We think and decide.

No matter who we are, no matter the education, no matter the upbringing, no matter the neighborhood, no matter the family, no matter the friends, no matter the beliefs, no matter the work, no matter the life, we always think and we make decisions, good, bad or ugly.

Ultimately, no matter what, the choice is always ours and ours only.

Free Will.



Michel Foucault

The Nature of Free Will


Thank you for reading.


posted on Feb, 7 2013 @ 07:11 AM
Before concluding, i must thank SonoftheSun for everything. His acceptance of the debate, the great points he has raised during this debate, his extreme patience and for providing a challenge for me. It has been a great honour to debate with the esteemed SonoftheSun.

To address the first point as raised by SonoftheSun in regards to Docile Bodies, i will say that:

While it may appear that Determinism and Docile Bodies are one and the same, they are in fact, not. As was shown in my body statement, determinism does make up a crucial part of the Docile Bodies theory (as is evident in the external factors influencing the body), but a docile body can, and will change as society sees fit. Docile bodies aren't only molded by external factors (the subject covered by determinism), but they are also transferred and improved after they had been subjected and made "Docile" (something which Determinism does not cover). In this sense, both theories differ from one another. Furthermore, the argument of whether or not Docile Bodies and Determinism are the same is irrelevant in this debate. This is due to the fact that it was proven in my body statement that both, Docile Bodies and Determinism can fall under Operant Conditioning, which can be directly compared to modern society itself.

As for Jim Jones and his disciples; they didn't have a choice as to whether or not to take their own lives. They were going to take their own lives anyway because they were programmed to do so. Members of cult like groups are those who cannot think properly. What they see as free will are just the influences of their surroundings. Those who escaped or attempted to, were not doing so under free will, but under instinctive actions. Their instincts would have kicked in and they escaped (as humans are programmed to do so in a harsh and unwelcome scenario).

The human programming aspect raised in the above paragraph can be improved further. During this debate, i have covered free will on a societal level, both through Docile Bodies, Operant Conditioning and at times, Determinism. In closing this debate, i will raise the topic of Edward Bernays, his uncle Sigmund Freud, and the psychoanalytical theory of the Id, Ego and Super Ego. These theories and individuals will prove that humans do not have free will, both on an individual and societal basis.

Sigmund Freud's theory of the Id, Ego and Super Ego is a model which essentially proves that free will does not exist:

The id is the impulsive (and unconscious) part of our psyche which responds directly and immediately to the instincts.

The superego incorporates the values and morals of society which are learnt from one's parents and others.The superego's function is to control the id's impulses, especially those which society forbids...It also has the function of persuading the ego to turn to moralistic goals rather than simply realistic ones and to strive for perfection.

Initially the ego is “that part of the id which has been modified by the direct influence of the external world” (Freud 1923). The ego develops in order to mediate between the unrealistic id and the external real world.

In essence, the Ego is us, while the Id and Super-Ego are other parts of our psyche engaged in battle. We (our egos) do not make decisions based upon free will, but rather, makes the decisions as a result of the Id/Super-Ego battle. The Ego wants to please the Id, but at the same time, it does not want to upset the Super-Ego. As such, it will find socially acceptable actions to perform (thus pleasing both parts of our psyche). Essentially, on an individual level, we do not have free will. Why is Freud's theory relevant though? Edward Bernays.

Edward Bernays was the nephew of Freud, and as such was influenced by him. He was:

A pioneer American publicist who is generally considered to have been the first to develop the idea of the professional public relations counselor—i.e., one who draws on the social sciences in order to motivate and shape the response of a general or particular audience.

Edward Bernays used Freud's theory of the Id, Ego and Super-Ego in order to control the population. He utilised Freud's theories and turned them into propaganda, effectively making it socially acceptable for women to smoke in the 1920's. Indeed, the women were none the wiser and thought they were smoking under their own discretion. Bernays was involved with further PR operations. As such, Bernays is a great example to prove just why the Id, Ego and Super-Ego theory works (and as an extension) that humans do not have free will.

I thank everyone for reading.

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society." Bernays, Propaganda, 1928

posted on Feb, 10 2013 @ 02:18 PM

First of all, I would like to thank both debaters for providing such an interesting, well-mannered, and thought provoking debate. As I read through, I thought about all the angles of their arguments, first absorbing the discussion, then re-reading, keeping the topic strictly in mind. After a third reading I was still undecided. Both styles were fluent, both presented sound arguments, and both deserve a win. This particular debate is an exemplary example of how debates should be, light on pictures, balanced with sourcing, just enough quotes and external text to make a solid point, and the bulk being point presentation.

We know there can only be one winner. My difficult task is now at hand:


SonoftheSun laid the groundwork for the debate by defining the parameters of freewill. Solid, and concise.
daaskapital smoothly presents his postion, and remains strictly on the topic, with emphasis on "in modern society", and wins round one due to his focus.

Main bodies:

SonoftheSun, unfazed, returns the focus to the ability to choose, and presents information which undoubtedly was not forced by society, but rather fringe individuals within society. Backing up his claims with poor dietary habits furthers his position of being able to "choose" what you eat. Points well made.
daaskapital strays a bit offtopic by comparing definitions, and wanders a bit further by discussing experiments with rats to strengthen his postion, but rats don't really have much to do with modern society, save for a nicely placed analogy, and thus SonoftheSun gains round two.


SonoftheSun drives home his points about conditioning not removing free will, and that it still exists, regardless of how society influences us.
daaskapital, however, shines during his closing by clarifying his position remarkably well.
What they see as free will are just the influences of their surroundings.

Edward Bernays used Freud's control the population.

daaskapital makes a solid argument for human programming, and as thus, freewill would not exist. His position is clearly explained, and he overall is very convincing that modern society is actually a bunch of mindless zombies.

SonoftheSun, in contrast, started slow, made very logical assumptions, and gave examples of such. Consistency is definitely a strong point for him, and accordingly, wins round three and the debate.


Sonofthesun: Opens with a very well laid out intoduction, outlining his point of view very well, also explaining the basics of the debate.

Daaskapital: starts very strong, great job of defining his view of free will, provided good sources etc... then things start to go south..Daaskapital makes a statement regarding criminals being forced to act the way they do, this statement would work better if he had provided anything to back it up with.

Round 1: Sonofthesun

Round 2:
Sonofthesun zeros right in on the criminal comment, pushing the point that criminals still have a choice in what they do, no matter the environment of raising,

DaasKapital : continues along as if nothing was pointed out by Son that he felt needed until towards the very end of his post providing a few lines to counter Son.
Daas goes on to provide some great information on Operant Conditioning, but wish he would have provided a bit more on the points SonoftheSun brought up.

Round 2: Daaskapital, by a narrow margin.

Final round:

Sonofthesun: in his conclusion, he drives his points home in a simple but effective way, and also again working on the criminal aspect that daas brought up, but basicly left un countered, at the end son lists point after point, a bit long, but very effective.

Daaskapital: daas seems to lose focus a bit in this round, perhaps forgetting this was the final round, again not driving home any of the topics, but just touching on them and moving on to the next one, I do feel if there was one more round, Daas could have put it all together..

Final round and debate: SonoftheSun

Winner: SonOftheSun. Good debate you two

edit on 10-2-2013 by Skyfloating because: (no reason given)

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