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truth is not arbitrary

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/23/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 654 times Debate No: 57031
Debate Rounds (3)
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people often argue between absolute and relative truth. well, relative is relative. it is better to say truth is not arbitrary. while most people may want to resort to believing in relative truth.... most people would also intuitively recoil at saying truth is arbitrary, and accept that it's not.

what about examples, like the fact that the Greeks viewed sex with boys as A okay? and we see it as reprehensible? this just shows that it is not always clear to humans what is truth.

in fact, it is probably clear to us much of natural law even if people have went against it in masses. men are not designed to have sex with boys. that is not the design of the body, or the system.

i would tend to keep the argument with the above, as my focal point. but, i am in fact soemone who espouses what many would consider "relative' truth. proportionalism... that sometimes, at least in certain extreme situations, the ends justifies the means. this doesn't mean truth is arbitrary. in some situations is it clear, at least to me, that the ends justifies the means. sometimes it's not so clear what the right answer is. this again only means the answer isn't clear, not that truth is arbitrary. if you want to call this 'relativistic' i may or may not accept it depending on the implacations. if it in any way says i think truth is arbitrary, i reject it.

to inject a bit of christian ideals, though not to hinge the debate on it. not believing in truth leads people to lies. untruths. in all the major episodes of humanity "eat of it, surely you shall not die" the snake said to eve. "what is truth?" Pilot said to Jesus. people have accepted a lie, an untruth, and we all suffered for it.


In your argumentation, you have disproven your own stance. You are arguing that truth is not arbitrary or, in order words truth can never be arbitrary. My goal is to prove to you that there are instances in which truth is arbitrary, and this would therefore disprove your thesis.

The example you have used to prove truth is insufficiwnt because it is a case of moral relativism rather than truth. It is based off the judgements and stigma of those involved in the society where it is practiced.

Empirical Truth

Empirical truth is the only kind of "truth" that can act as evidence for your argument. This is because it is based upon facts which anyone is able to replicate as many times as is necessary in order to observe them and verify these truths for themselves. There is no room for gray area when it comes to empirical truth; it is either black or white.

However, this does not mean that this 'black' cannot become 'white'. Things that are deemed to be verifiable truths are often later disproven through methodology that has not yet been discovered.

Disproving Truth

In the time of Tycho Brahe, everyone knew that there were only 6 planets. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Earth and Saturn. Everyone knew it, and there was no disagreement about this fact; until there was. Once Newton invented a telescope using mirrors instead of glass, the astronomy revolution began, and scientists were abke to discover that there were actually more planets in our solar system. Tyche Brahe and his predecessors were the arbitors of the 6-planet truth.

10 years ago, we had 9 planets in our solar system. Scientists had used satellites to map our the entirety of the area, and knew that it was limited to 9. Everyone was in agreement, anyone could see them with the appropriate equipment, our solar system having 9 planets was truth; until it wasn't. Scientists changed the prerequisites of what constitutes a planet, and Pluto was excluded. We now have 8 planets, something which anyone can document and research for themselves. The scientists decided our truth.

Truth as Parameters

As you can see from the above example, truth is simply a set of parameters that produce a certain result that can be recreated with the same results everytime. When the paramets change, or the paradigm of the idea in entirety changes, then the product (which is truth) changes as well. This means that whoever decides upon the parameters is the arbitor of truth, and therefore, truth can and is in many cases, arbitrary.
Debate Round No. 1


con is just playing a bunch of games, at best.

truth in those situations is: scientists define the parameters for what constitutions a planet, and they define how many planets there are based on best available observation. that is the only truth we can really establish. based on this, the number of planets may increase as we discover more of them, and what constitutions a planet may change based on best available practice information. truth hasn't changed, only the details involved in the processes described, due to changing facts and observations.
this is hardly establishing arbitrary truth.

con is missing the point and just playing word games.


There are no word games involved. Unfortunately, you haven't made any new points nor have you countered mine, so this makes it difficult to add to the debate. Therefore, I suppose for the sake of simplicity, I will reiterate my argument.

Truth is a set of results that can be reproduced ad infinitum without changing, and that follow a set of prescribed parameters. However, those parameters are established.

With the example you gave, involving pederasty in the Greek world, there is no truth involved in this. Whether or not is was a constructive or destructive relationship both in the ancient world and in the modern world depends completely on the individuals and how they relate and cope with the situation. What others think about this type of relationship is also not truth, because it varies from person to person and era to era.

I truly believe that you have confused moral relativism with establishing truth, and as such, I do not feel that you are able to effectively debate this topic.
Debate Round No. 2


con goes against the what philsophers have commonly called truth. eg morality etc. even beyond morality, sure there are other kinds of truth. but con hasn't gotten into other truth, just word games. con hasn't established anything new there, so i can't respond to much of anything. con has confused factual information and various scientific classifications are truth, and as such con is not able to effectively debate this topic.


You stated that I '[go] against (sic) the what philosophers have commonly called truth. eg morality etc.' This is not only false but it actually further asserts that by assuming morality has a place within truth, you are absolutely confusing truth with moral relativism.

Why Pro is a Moral Relativist and Doesn't Know It
I would like to correct you on this point; it is actually quite rare for philosophers to equate truth with morality. The only time this type of amalgamation is done is based upon believed religious truths stemming from external events and thus justified to confirm a belief in moral doctrine. Once again, you are mixing up moral relativism with truth. In order for you to better understand your own position, I will define moral relativism for you since you seem to keep making this common mistake.

Moral Relativism is the view that moral truths depend on the individual or group who hold them. There are no moral absolutes, no objective ethical right and wrong. Morals are subjective, like ice cream preferences.

Truth is something that is not subjective, but rather, something that is arbitrary. The difference between the two is crucial.

Subjective :
  1. Relating to or of the nature of an object as it is known in the mind as distinct from a thing in itself
  2. Relating to properties or specific conditions of the mind as distinguished from general or universal experience
  1. A matter under the direction and discretion of an arbiter: a person empowered to decide matters at issue.

It is important to notice the difference between these two. While both refer to a decision produced by an individual, the former is personalized while the latter is publicized. Therefore, for example, whether or not abortion is wrong is subjective and varies from person to person. Whether the fetus is a living entity is a fact, because it falls within the parameters of what scientists in the field have dubbed as necessary characteristics for a living entity. If, for example, scientists were to change the classifications of what constitutes a living entity by stating that the entity in question must be self-sustaining in order to be considered alive, than the fetus would therefore become excluded, and the standard of truth changes. That does bit, however, mean that the subjective opinion of whether abortion is right or wrong has changed, however. They are two very separate things.

No, Philosophers Don't Make Your Morality/Truth Error
The following are, for the sake of simplicity and and efficiency, boiled down to one sentence. While the theories are much more complex, all of these philosophers, in one way or another, still subscribed to a definition of truth which was separate from morality.

Aristotle - In order to determine truth, he utilized and crafted a scientific method which is still used today.

John Locke - The tabla rasa theory that we know nothing until we learn it

Bishop George Berkeley - If we cannot experience it with our senses, it does not exist.

David Hume - There is no such thing as absolute certainty.

Rene Descartes - Some things are universally true whether we ever encounter them or not.

Immanuel Kant - Truth is governed by experience, which is governed by universal truths such as space, time, mathematics, etc.

Bertrand Russell - Truth consists of that which is believed not to be false and is confirmed by external elements.

The above are only a few of the major names in philosophy, but philosophers have not made your crucial error in mistaking moral relativism for truth. Because truths are based on external events, the paradigms in our current knowledge are necessary to experience those truths. Those paradigms are determined by arbiters who make advancements to the current knowledge, and thus alter the experience of truth.
Debate Round No. 3
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by Malacoda 2 years ago
Dairygirl, I would honestly go to the yard to try out one of your strawberry-chocolate milkshakes.
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