The Instigator
FunkeeMonk91
Con (against)
Losing
6 Points
The Contender
kvaughan
Pro (for)
Winning
15 Points

Universal Truth/Morality

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/17/2008 Category: Society
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 2,995 times Debate No: 1924
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (4)
Votes (7)

 

FunkeeMonk91

Con

Note: Please do not base your whole argument on religion, the Bible, the Church, etc. Also, for this debate, truth and morality can be interchangeable words.

I believe that truth is not universal, but relative and that it changes as a result of personal opinion. How can one person know that "one true answer." Who is to decide what is truth and what is untruth? The answer is no one. Because no one can know the answers to life's great questions, truth cannot be a universal, constant thing.

I think people blindly follow what they believe to be true. It is for this reason that people enjoy the notion of universal truth. It gives them a sense of security and purpose that they don't get when they approach things from a logical standpoint. Looking at things through reason may give us answers that we don't like or make us feel less significant. That is why people like the idea of a universal truth: it never let's them down.

Does not truth change with new scientific discoveries? For example, in the Middle Ages, everyone was told by teachers and priests alike, that the universe revolved around the Earth. However, with the dawn of the Enlightenment and Galileo, it was proven that the Earth actually revolves around the sun, and is nowhere near the center of the universe. But why did people assume that the Earth was the center? Because it gave this planet, and all of those on it, meaning. They thought God must have made the Earth at the center, because we are the most important things to him. This far fetched theory is an example a universal "truth" that not only changed, but gave millions false senses of belonging and purpose.

I don't see how a "lack of common good" takes meaning away from our lives. Again, I think that this is just another example of how the author and others like him use the idea of a "universal truth" to mask the things that seem to make our lives less significant. For example, if a loved one dies, many people conclude that everything happens for a reason or God thought it was their time to die. These notions are just euphemisms that make the difficult times in our lives easier.

This sense of blind acceptance of what no one knows about is what really makes our civilization decay. If more people would learn to put logic and reason first, instead of these so-called "universal truths," our society would be much better off.
kvaughan

Pro

I want to provide two forewarnings: first, it is necessary to be very specific and careful about what language means on this topic. I will lean heavily on the distinction between what we can know and what we do know. If my language is confusing, ask about it in the comments and I'll get back to you. Second, I am not religious, so I won't be using that as an argument.

Your thesis is plainly stated: "I believe that truth is not universal, but relative and that it changes as a result of personal opinion" I have a few arguments:

1. Does this argument apply to the claim that truth is relative? That is, is the claim that truth is relative also relative. If so, when I disagree and say that truth is not relative, what could your response be? You can't disagree with me, because truth is relative. How can I take anything you say seriously and how can you have a debate at all?

2. I will define truth roughly as "agreement with reality". So, proposition P is true IFF (if and only if) P is the case in the world.

Now, a basic principle of logic is the law of non-contradiction which states that two mutually exclusive claims cannot be simultaneously true at the same time. So, let's take the claim that I am typing and the claim that I am not typing. Both cannot be true and both cannot be false, because they contradict, so one must be true and one must be false. This fact is true for all people, in all places, at all times.

Now, this does not mean that I, or anyone, knows which is true and which isn't. I am highly sensitive to the claim that it is beyond our epistemological ability to know what the truth is in many situations. But, what I am arguing is that TRUTH itself is not relative, the problem only comes in our ability to approach truth.
Debate Round No. 1
FunkeeMonk91

Con

Good argument, but let me clarify what I mean by truth. Of course anyone could pick up a pen and say, "This is a pen," and it would be true without a doubt. But I don't mean truth in that literal sense. I mean philosophical truth. For example, I am debating whether things like morality are constant throughout the world. I don't think they are.

I think you might be taking the topic too literally. But, still, you make a very good point. In this debate I will use logic and reason to prove my stance and you must do the same. This way we can still debate on something seemingly undebatable. In other words, we have to ignore your 1st point and try to use evidence to support our sides. Does that make sense? If not, say so in the comment section, and I'll try to explain better.

Can you please elaborate on your second point? I kinda get what you mean, but I need some more explanation.

Now, your third point about typing. Again, when I say truth, I'm referring to philosophical truth and morality. I'm sorry if I was not clear or specific enough.

You bring up some very good points, especially about our approach to truth. But I think that becuase our approach is flawed, that that in itself makes truth/morality subjective. Because I am a firm believer in the concept of "perception is reality." For example, my grandma is crazy religious. And she is always praying. I was in a car accident not too long ago, and I made it without any serious injuries. She truly believed that it was her prayers that saved me. That is her reality and nothing can change that. But for me, I think that I was just lucky. This is a great example of subjective truth; no one can know what really happened, so both of our theories are true. My grandma's theory is true for her, as mine is true for me. This is still keeping to the law of contradiction because in my mind, there is only one theory that is true and the same goes for my grandma.

Wow, this is getting complicated. Again, if you need clarification just ask.

Let me quickly mention morality. Morality, just like truth, is also relative. What is the moral norm in one culture is not true in another. Some cultures (for example, Sparta) train their children to kill ruthlessly. When they grow up, murder and death are second nature to them. Violence is embedded in their minds. This was not the case in somewhere like Athens, where humanism reigned superior. These two city-states show how customs can change our moral perspective, making it relative.
kvaughan

Pro

OK, so what I understand is that you agree with my argument more or less, but intended that I refute something other than the actual topic. I think that I could technically win this debate by simply complaining that if you wanted to discuss this new topic, you should have specified it. But, that's not very interesting.

Let me elaborate on point 2. If two claims directly contradict, it cannot be the case that both are true. I cannot be a man and not a man or kvaughan and not kvaughan. So, one must, by the very principles of logic, be true. This is supposed to be irrefutable proof that truth does in fact exist.

TO defend that truth is relative you say:

"I was in a car accident not too long ago, and I made it without any serious injuries. She truly believed that it was her prayers that saved me. That is her reality and nothing can change that. But for me, I think that I was just lucky. This is a great example of subjective truth; no one can know what really happened, so both of our theories are true. My grandma's theory is true for her, as mine is true for me. This is still keeping to the law of contradiction because in my mind, there is only one theory that is true and the same goes for my grandma."

Here, you're confusing the limits on our human knowledge with what is actually true. It is either the case that God saved you, or this is not the case, but we can know for sure, given the argument above, that God either saved you or God did not save you. Saying that it is true for your grandma that he saved you and it's true for you that he did not makes no sense. It is true that you each believe this, but only one event actually happened.

Now, you are correct in saying that we do not technically know what happened, but this does not mean that both people are right, it means that one person is right, one person is wrong, but we don't know which is which.

Morality: moral relativists love to point out that different people and cultures have different notions of morality. I'm inclined to think that this is totally irrelevant. For example, if a culture existed where rape was the accepted norm, it would be open to me to say that their morality is just confused -- rape is wrong and the fact that they don't realize this is irrelevant. This is true for all kinds of facts. If I don't know that 1+1=2, it doesn't make the statement any less true. So, at a minimum, this argument fails to demonstrate that morality is relative.

Second, all we need to defend that morality is not relative is a single agreement on something as objectively wrong. Let's take the Holocaust for example. If we can agree that the holocaust was objectively morally wrong, then we can figure out why it was wrong and from that we can create a set of objective standards that define why the holocaust was wrong and generalize this to everyone.
Debate Round No. 2
FunkeeMonk91

Con

Well, I guess I probably should have made the topic something more specific, but I'll still finish this one with the set parameters.

You claim that morality is not relative on the grounds that some morals are just confused. Who is to say what morals are correct? In response, you might say, just because no one can know, that doesn't mean there isn't one correct moral code. But again, I believe that perception is reality. To most of us, one plus one equals two. But to someone who doesn't know what numbers or addition is, they don't agree. In their minds, it is correct, and, for them that is true.

For example, let's take the movie, the Truman Show. Truman truly believed that his "friends" and "family" were real who they said they were. His reality turned out to be false his whole life. How do you know that the reality that you know to be true is really not? For all you know, your life could be a TV show. I know this is a totally ridiculous thing to say, but really, you don't know. That is why nothing can be universal.

Because no one can prove that their is one answer, there can't be just one. However, you could prove that morality is relative because of the millions of different perspectives people have. To simply say, "I think everyone else's moral code is wrong, therefore there is only one universal truth and that truth is mine." Everyone will always think differently and no one can change that. That is why I think that truth/morality cannot be universal.

Now, the Holocaust. It is true that most people believe that the Holocaust was completely wrong. But there are many (Solerman1969) that think the Holocaust was justified. Although these people are racist bigots, their moral standards tell them that they are right in defending genocide. In other words, the Holocaust was really not objectively wrong, but subjectively, because some people still disagree. I'm not supporting the Holocaust or genocide or anything, I'm just stating the fact that if truth/morality really was universal, everyone would believe the exact same thing. We wouldn't have opinions or personal beliefs. You would have to be insane to believe otherwise.
kvaughan

Pro

Here's what this debate comes down to: you are confused on the distinction between what we THINK is true and what is actually true. This quote from you is particularly telling:

"To most of us, one plus one equals two. But to someone who doesn't know what numbers or addition is, they don't agree. In their minds, it is correct, and, for them that is true."

essentially, you are just denying that anyone can ever be wrong. Empirically, this seems false and it goes back to my first point in round 1. You do not actually believe this because you are debating with me over what's true. If you bought your own argument you should just say "the universality of truth is true for you, but it's not true for me".

Look, it's built into the concepts of 1, 2 and addition that 1+1=2. If you disagree, you have not understood the concepts. A priori knowledge (knowledge independent of experience) works this way, the fact that some people disagree is no argument against it. In fact, even if everyone agree, it would not change the truth of the statement. You are working off of a definition of truth that is inextricable from public opinion -- this definition does not work.

The Truman show example is also a poor one. When Truman thought his family really loved him, he was wrong -- no two ways about it. Now, your point is that I could be wrong in all of my assumptions and I grant this point, but the actual truth of the matter is independent of my beliefs and is universal. Our ability to approach it, however, may not be.

In fact, "I think therefore I am" is a good example of a statement that is true for everyone if you have understood the concepts of the syllogism.

This also links into the morality debate. Solarman's disagreement that the holocaust was wrong has absolutely no effect on its wrongness. Morality is universal, some people are just wrong.
Debate Round No. 3
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by sadolite 9 years ago
sadolite
Crap! never mind that last comment! I typed my comment in the wrong tab, I was looking at another debate. But what I said still stands. Even though It has nothing to do with the debate.
Posted by sadolite 9 years ago
sadolite
I don't believe there are any gay people. I am repulsed by the thought of engaging in any kind of sexual activity with the same sex. To call a person gay or a homosexual would infer that that person would be repulsed by engaging in any sexual activity with the opposite sex. I think people are all heterosexual, but some have bisexual tendencies and fantasies, but they are not truly homosexual if the can go either way. People who say they are gay that have had sexual encounters with the opposite sex are not homosexual they are bisexual.
Posted by happypancakeeater 9 years ago
happypancakeeater
Nietzsche? Simple! I want Hume, Kant and Heidegger! Whip out the crazy sh*t!
Posted by erkifish26 9 years ago
erkifish26
can somebody please whip out nietzsche or wittgenstein...
7 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Vote Placed by bipasha 9 years ago
bipasha
FunkeeMonk91kvaughanTied
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Vote Placed by Tatarize 9 years ago
Tatarize
FunkeeMonk91kvaughanTied
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Vote Placed by Bitz 9 years ago
Bitz
FunkeeMonk91kvaughanTied
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Vote Placed by karlynjane 9 years ago
karlynjane
FunkeeMonk91kvaughanTied
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Vote Placed by FunkeeMonk91 9 years ago
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FunkeeMonk91kvaughanTied
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Vote Placed by PreacherFred 9 years ago
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FunkeeMonk91kvaughanTied
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Vote Placed by kvaughan 9 years ago
kvaughan
FunkeeMonk91kvaughanTied
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