Truth is relative
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after 5 votes the winner is...
whatledge
Voting Style:  Open  Point System:  7 Point  
Started:  6/18/2010  Category:  Miscellaneous  
Updated:  6 years ago  Status:  Post Voting Period  
Viewed:  5,297 times  Debate No:  12368 
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (6)
Votes (5)
I would like to argue that truth is relative. As such, to win this debate my opponent will have to prove that some absolute truth exists absolutely.
Before my opponent proffers his initial argument, I would like to address the obvious and familiar question: "is the relativity of truth itself relative?" This seemingly quick refutation suggests that if the relativist position itself is nonrelative, then it is false. But this does not refute the relativist position. Rather, it suggests that it is unstable. And "unstable" does not necessarily mean impossible. I'd like to give my opponent a chance to choose his own direction for this debate, however, before pursuing the issue of stability visavis truth and relativity. I look forward to this debate....
I thank Mr. Dorb for starting this debate. First, I would like to present a few definitions for Truth. 3 .a verified or indisputable fact, proposition, principle, or the like: mathematical truths. 5. actuality or actual existence. 6. an obvious or accepted fact; truism; platitude. 10. accuracy, as of position or adjustment. Source: http://dictionary.reference.com.... :: Relativism and Truth are incompatible :: I would first like to contend that relativism and the truth are not compatible. It is universally accepted that the sky is blue, the sun is bright, and 1+1=2. These are objective truths that are not a matter of opinion. I will give a simple analogy to demonstrate my point: Tom: 1+1=2 Jack: No, 1+1=3 David: It is both 2 and 3. My opponent is making a claim that is the equivalent of David's. And since 1+1 obviously equals 2. My opponent's resolution is negated. 

I take your definitions for truth, and gladly. (As an aside, I would like to make it clear that by accepting them, I am not saying they are absolute. These definitions are clearly relative to this particular debate and to your particular source)
As I stated initially, my opponent must "prove that some absolute truth exists absolutely." Your analysis of these definitions does not show that (1) "relativism and the truth are not compatible," and (2) that these definitions lead to an absolute truth. Definition 3: for a "verified or indisputable fact, proposition, principle, or the like" to be an "absolute" truth, it would be necessary that the truth is either "verified" or "indisputable" ABSOLUTELY. As such, I contend that this definition is incompatible not with relativism but with absolutism. Any statement that is "verified" is necessarily relative to the authority and process by which it is verified. And any statement that is "indisputable" can only be "indisputable" relative to an authority or source that determines it as "indisputable." You have yet to prove that it is possible for a statement to be absolutely indisputable. I contend that a claim can be indisputable only in relation to some factor that, when varied, can make the same claim disputable. To take your example "that the sky is blue," this claim varies relative to many factors. You state that this is an "objective truth." The color "blue," to begin with, is the subjective interpretation of a wavelength, and therefore, this claim is not objective. Rather, your claim varies relative to how we determine the color "blue," as well as the levels of pollution in the atmosphere, to the time of day (at night it is often black, and in some places, orange) [1]. As for mathematical truths, they are also relative. You state that "1+1 obviously equals 2." If it is "obvious," prove that 1+1=2…. In different fields, addition and multiplication are different operators, they do different things. As such, 1+1 can equal anything, dependent on the field chosen by the mathematician [2]. Your example of David saying it is "both 2 and 3" is indeed correct, according to the current understanding of mathematics. The "axiom of choice" further demonstrates that mathematical truths are relative; mathematicians either accept or do not accept the axiom, and in both cases, the results are different yet nonetheless considered "mathematical truths" [3]. Therefore, mathematical truths are necessarily relative. I can provide further evidence if need be. Definition 5: you show no argument that suggests "actual existence" is not relative. I look forward to hearing one, if you believe that is the case. Definition 6: Same argument as Definition 3 Definition 10: Truth defined as "accuracy" is relative to the "position or adjustment." There are different degrees of accuracy, and they vary with the presence or absence of certain properties and factors. Therefore, truth defined as "accuracy" is relative. In conclusion, your entire argument rests on the notion that there exist "objective truths that are not a matter of opinion." The problem with this argument is that "objective truths" are not necessarily "absolute" truths. Rather, they are just as likely to be relative as opinions. An example to help make my point: it is an objective truth that light is a wave, but it is also an objective truth that light is a particle. Whether it operates as a wave or a particle is relative to an observer's frame of reference [4]. A final example: it is an objective truth that you are involved in this debate with me. But a hundred years ago, this would not have been objectively true because, in all probability, you and I would not have been born yet. As such, this truth is relative to the particular place in time that an observer occupies. Sources: 1. Feynman Lectures on Physics, vol. 1 2. Spivak's Calculus 3. http://en.wikipedia.org... 4. http://en.wikipedia.org...
::response to paragraph 3:: There are laws in this world that are indisputable. For the sake of simplicity, I will mention only one of them, The Law of Gravity. Gravity exists, you can empirically experience it. It is indisputable that it exists. You can make the claim that it is some magical glue that is making us stick to earth, but the truth is absolute, gravity exists. We are all bound by it, it is not a matter of opinion. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org... ::response to paragraph 4:: The wavelength of blue is not subjective to MY interpretation of wavelength. It is what is universally agreed upon to label the characteristics and wavelength of blue. The color blue is blue. I can claim that blue is red, but that does not change the fact that blue is, in fact, blue. The lower case of A is a. You can claim that the lower case of A is b, but in fact, the lower case of A is a. That is objective truth. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org... ::response to paragraph 5:: Fair enough, 1+1=3, if you like. If Josh has 1 apple, and I give him another one, he has two apples. Again, you can claim that Josh has 8 apples, but the fact of the matter is Josh has 2 apples. The number of apples Josh has is not relative. He has 2 apples. Not 3 or 4, but 2. P1: Josh has 1 apple P2: I give Josh another apple P3: Josh has 2 apples. :: Therefore josh has 2 apples. Not 3 or 4. The number of apples Josh has is not relative, it is a fact. ::response to paragraph 6:: So you are claiming that existence of something physical is relative too? I know my keyboard exists because I am empirically experiencing it, and using it to type. People can see my keyboard, people can touch my keyboard, and therefore it exists physically, as it appeals to the five senses. ::response to paragraph 8:: ::Objective Accuracy:: P1: On 9/11, two planes hit the twin towers. P2: There is an article on 9/11 that claims two planes crashed the twin towers. P3: The article was accurate. :: Therefore, the claim two planes hit the twin towers, is both accurate and true. ::Relative Accuracy:: P1: On 9/11, two planes hit the twin towers. P2: There is an article on 9/11 that claims Godzilla destroyed the twin towers. P3: The article was inaccurate. :: Therefore, the claim that Godzilla destroyed the twin towers is both inaccurate and false. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org... ::response to conclusion:: "An example to help make my point: it is an objective truth that light is a wave, but it is also an objective truth that light is a particle. Whether it operates as a wave or a particle is relative to an observer's frame of reference [4]." Hint: Light is both a wave and a particle. It is an objective and absolute truth. The observer's frame of reference does not negate the fact that light is indeed a wave and a particle. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org... "A final example: it is an objective truth that you are involved in this debate with me. But a hundred years ago, this would not have been objectively true because, in all probability, you and I would not have been born yet. As such, this truth is relative to the particular place in time that an observer occupies." This argument is utter nonsense. What does it matter if this debate was not an objective truth 100 years ago? Just because 1,000 years ago people thought the earth was flat, does not mean that the truth that the earth is spherical is not an absolute truth. In conclusion, my opponent is arguing that because people can be ignorant of the truth, it must be relative. This is nonsense. You can say gravity is nonexistent and that the law of gravitation is an opinion, but the fact and truth is that gravity exists and is absolute. Opinions are relative. Truth, laws, and facts are not. As my opponent is instigator claiming that the truth is relative, the burden of proof lies with him to prove that Gravity 

Con believes that I am arguing that all truth is an opinion, and therefore relative. I never stated this. It is a complete misrepresentation of my argument. I want to make it clear that I do not think "truth, laws, and facts" are opinions, I think they are objective. I claim that objective truth itself is relative.
In other words, Con claims that "facts" are absolute, but he does not ever prove this claim. I will show how facts can, and indeed are, relative. To begin, my opponent did not read his own source well, an article on "Gravitation," since the article clearly states that the "Law of Gravity" is not absolute. This same article states that the "law of universal gravitation provides an accurate approximation for most calculations," whereas "modern physics describes gravitation using the general theory of relativity." In other words, the "Law of Gravity," a law that Con claims is indisputable and absolute, was proven false nearly a hundred years ago. This same article also states that the general theory of relativity, the best theory we have to explain our experience of gravity, posits that space and time are relative. As such, for every statement x, there is a space s such that in space s x is not true. Likewise, for every statement x, there is a time t such that in time t x is not true. Unless my opponent can prove otherwise, truth, according to all scientific evidence, is relative to space and time. The article also states that gravity is incompatible with quantum mechanics. And because quantum theory is the closest approximation to truth that we currently have, my opponent's claim that "gravity exists" is not absolute. To summarize: all scientific evidence about the physical world suggests that truth is relative. Source: the same Wikipedia article on gravitation that my opponent cites, http://en.wikipedia.org...... http://en.wikipedia.org... http://en.wikipedia.org... That "blue is blue" is a semantic issue, and because language is socially constructed and arbitrary, this supposed "objective fact" is relative. My opponent's claim, "The wavelength of blue is not subjective to MY interpretation of wavelength," is wrong. Interpretation is subjective. For something to be objective, it has to be shown to be outside of the perception of an individual subject, usually through abstract reasoning or through scientific process. Mathematical truths, for example, are objective. Mathematics provides the best example of objective truths that are relative. In the previous round, I gave proof that 1+1 can equal anything. Con did not investigate, but rather, tried to prove 1+1=2 absolutely by giving one example in which that SEEMS to be the case. But my opponent does not show that giving Josh 1 apple leads to him having 2 apples. To prove that, my opponent must use mathematical proof. You believe your keyboard exists because you experience it, but that is a subjective truth. It is something you perceive, and as such is relative. My opponent proves my point about accuracy. There are different degrees of accuracy. To prove absolute truth, my opponent must show that there is a point at which something cannot be more accurate, a limit to the degree of accuracy possible. An example: there are more accurate articles on 9/11 than a Wikipedia article (what my opponent cites). Light is a wave and/or a particle relative to the presence or absence of many factors. It is a relative truth. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org...... Con attacks my final example by calling it nonsense (ad hominem), and then proceeds to give an example that, contrary to his purpose, proves my point. At some point in time and space, the earth was not, is not, or will not be, spherical. It is a truth relative to time and space. Again, look up general relativity. Con left his final request unfinished. Nonetheless, I have focused on Con's final word, gravity, with respect.
::Resolution:: "Con believes that I am arguing that all truth is an opinion, and therefore relative. I never stated this." "Truth is relative" is Pro's resolution. Nowhere does Pro state that only "some" truths are relative; therefore, Con must assume that Pro is claiming all truths are relative. ::Gravity:: "Relativity is only required when there is a need for extreme precision, or when dealing with gravitation for extremely massive and dense objects." Source: http://en.wikipedia.org... The above quote explains it rather well. Furthermore, you missed my point entirely. If I drop an apple from a roof, it WILL fall down. This isn't relative. It is not a matter of opinion that gravity pulled the apple down to the ground. ::Blue:: Language was invented so that humanity could communicate, we labeled blue as blue, so we would have something to describe the color blue. Similarly, there is a word to describe the color of an apple, red. Blue is not red. It is not a matter of opinion. "My opponent's claim, "The wavelength of blue is not subjective to MY interpretation of wavelength," is wrong. Interpretation is subjective." My interpretation of the color "blue" is not subjective. Blue is blue. That is fact. ::Math:: "Mathematical truths, for example, are objective" My opponent has just conceded that mathematical truths are objective, if something is objective; it is not subjective, hence not relative. If you have one apple, and I give you another one, you have three apples. That is your proof. Must I prove that I have two hands, as well? ::Existence:: Con claims that physical existence is relative. That would mean if I didn't believe my keyboard existed, it would cease to exist. As that is not the case, Con's resolution is negated. ::Contradiction:: Relativism is selfrefuting by definition. Since truth is relative, if I claim that relativism is false, does that not make it true? ::CircleSqaure:: P1: A square has four points. P2: A circle has no points. :: therefore, a square is not a circle. According to the theory of relativism a circle can be a square, as long as it is what I want to believe. Circles are not squares, therefore relativism is false. ::Etc:: Light is a particle and a wave. Waveparticle duality. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org......... "At some point in time and space, the earth was not, is not, or will not be, spherical. It is a truth relative to time and space. Again, look up general relativity." The earth is spherical at this moment; therefore, as of this moment, the present, the earth is spherical. The future is nonexistent, what has not yet happened does not qualify as truth or fact. I apologize for my previous round being cut short, it seems I ran out of characters. 

My opponent has misread my argument again, and unfortunately, I will have to assume he will do so in this round, too. As I stated in Round 3, I claim that all truths are relative. This is not limited to opinions, as Con continues to assume even after I have said otherwise.
A truth can be at once objective and relative. Gravity: According to the quote Con has provided, relativity has greater "precision" when describing the world. As such, it more accurately reflects the world. If you drop an apple from a roof, it is not absolutely true that it will fall down. If that is ALWAYS the case, prove it. According to quantum mechanics, there is a good probability that that apple will not fall. As I stated, gravity is incompatible with quantum mechanics, and therefore, does not exist absolutely. Con did not address a single one of my arguments. He has just stated the same thing that he did before without providing any support. Blue: Language is arbitrary. In Spanish, blue is signified by azul. The possible existence of an infinite number of languages demonstrates that signification is relative. "My interpretation of the color "blue" is not subjective. Blue is blue. That is fact." Interpretation is subjective. The wavelength that we designate blue is not always the same color as the "blue" we intend as the color. These are arbitrary significations. Blue varies according to many factors. Furthermore, this is a physical law and therefore subject to quantum theory. Mathematical Truths: "All mathematical truths are relative" – Charles Proteus Steinmetz, a mathematician My opponent believes: because something "is not subjective, hence not relative." Does this mean mathematical truth is not objective? If mathematical truth is subjective, prove it; and even so, it would still be relative. As I stated in Round 3: "for every statement x, there is a space s such that in space s x is not true. Likewise, for every statement x, there is a time t such that in time t x is not true." In the physical world, then, there is both a space and time when any truth is possible, according to quantum theory. As such, when apples are exchanged in the physical world, the numbers can vary radically from the obvious expectation. To explain: Because mathematical truths are abstract and metaphysical, it is more difficult to prove that they are objective yet relative. The reason that mathematical truths finally are relative, however, is because the operators of addition and multiplication vary. The axioms that make up a particular mathematical system vary. There exist multiple geometries, each as plausible as the next. Finally, G�del's Incompleteness theorem states that every mathematical system must vary relative to the presence or absence of some factor. This means that all mathematical truths are relative. Existence: According to Quantum Mechanics, if you truly believed your keyboard didn't exist, it would not exist. (Read the wikipedia article) Contradiction: I address this in Round 1. This means that relativism is unstable, but not impossible. CircleSquare: A circle can indeed be a square. You have shown no "absolute" evidence to the contrary, whereas I have argued that all mathematical truths are relative. Final claim: "The earth is spherical at this moment; therefore, as of this moment, the present, the earth is spherical." Again, "for every statement x, there is a time t such that in time t x is not true." – Einstein's General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. In other words, your claim varies relative to time. Throughout this debate, I have consistently and convincingly argued that truth is relative to both space and time, and that language is arbitrary, socially constructed, and relative. Therefore, vote Pro. Thank you. Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org... http://en.wikipedia.org... http://en.wikipedia.org...
Gravity: "If you drop an apple from a roof, it is not absolutely true that it will fall down. If that is ALWAYS the case, prove it." Note: prove to me that it always does not happen. Blue: "Language is arbitrary. In Spanish, blue is signified by azul. The possible existence of an infinite number of languages demonstrates that signification is relative." Azul still means blue. Perro still means Dog. Just because they can exist in different forms of language does not mean the definition of the word is relative. Azul does not mean dog, and Perro does not mean blue. Math: So if math is relative, for all we know, I actually have 5 hands and 6 feet. But why stop there? Octagons are actually cubes, and spheres are actually triangles. Existence: "According to Quantum Mechanics, if you truly believed your keyboard didn't exist, it would not exist. (Read the wikipedia article)" So if I believed that quantum mechanics didn't exist, it would not exist? What happens then? Contradiction: Am I a alive? The answer cannot be yes AND no. CircleSquare: If a circlesquare is possible, it is my opponent's burden to prove it. A square by definition has 4 points, a circle has none. Final claim: Our individual perception and experiences does not change the truth. Just because I can claim that you do not exist, does not mean you disappear into thin air and cease to exist. This is not the case. Just because we are ignorant of the truth, does not mean that truth is relative. Just because 1,000 years ago, people thought the earth was flat, does not mean the earth was flat. Opinions are relative. Facts, truths, and laws are not. I have demonstrated that some things in this world are absolute. My opponent can feel free to disagree that if I drop an apple, it will fall. I thank Mr. Dorb, for debating this topic with me. And leave the rest to the voters. Thank you. 
5 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Vote Placed by whatledge 6 years ago
Dorb  whatledge  Tied  

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Vote Placed by Dorb 6 years ago
Dorb  whatledge  Tied  

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Vote Placed by Valtarov 6 years ago
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Vote Placed by RoyLatham 6 years ago
Dorb  whatledge  Tied  

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Vote Placed by Yvette 6 years ago
Dorb  whatledge  Tied  

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'All truth is relative, with the exclusion of this one'?
Socrates: You mean that truth is mere subjective opinion?
Protagoras: Exactly. What is true for you is true for you, and what is true for me, is true for me. Truth is subjective.
Socrates: Do you really mean that? That my opinion is true by virtue of its being my opinion?
Protagoras: Indeed I do.
Scorates: My opinion is: Truth is absolute, not opinion, and that you, Mr. Protagoras, are absolutely in error. Since this is my opinion, then you must grant that it is true according to your philosophy.
Protagoras: You are quite correct, Socrates.