The “That’s true for you, but not for me” argument.


One may suspect that many make this statement because they do not want to give the impression of being intolerant. In our culture it is often seen to be intolerant if one claims to possess a monopoly on truth. Therefore, for this person it would be best to deny exclusivity as it  would be the far easier option. But there are considerations to be had here.

One cannot deny the exclusive nature of religions and philosophies. For example, the Abrahamic religions are all profoundly exclusive. Christianity cannot concede that Buddhism is true just like Judaism cannot concede that Islam is true. They are all exclusive belief systems that cannot be squared with one another. Concerning Christianity one doesn’t have to look much further than the alleged Johannine sayings of Jesus claiming to be “the way, the truth, and the life, none comes to the Father but through me” (John 14:6). If Jesus claimed this he would outright reject other belief systems that are not focused on him. Jesus is clearly portrayed as an exclusivist much like Muhammad and Allah are in the Shahada, “There is no god but God [Allah] and Muhammad is his messenger.”

However, putting that aside, what are we to make of the “That’s true for you but not for me” argument?

On a first note this very statement is itself an exclusive statement.  It may, on appearance, seem to be an open claim that doesn’t wish to judge others by allowing them to believe what they wish. However, on inspection it is just as dogmatic as Jesus’ statement in John 14:6. This is because the New Ager (we shall for the sake of the argument believe that a New Ager is making this claim) makes a statement that is disagreeable with a great many other worldviews, religions and philosophies. This claim, for example, cannot be squared with atheism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, or Sikhism. Likewise the philosophies of nihilism and naturalism cannot be squared with the New Ager’s claim. For the nihilist either life is pointless or it is not. For the naturalist either nothing exists beyond the natural world or something does. In other words, the New Ager is saying that all these other worldviews get it wrong and that he gets it right. That is an attempt to possess a monopoly on truth.

Another point is the self-refuting nature of this claim. This is because the New Ager is arguing that “all truth is relative.” In other words, the Christian can have her truth by believing in Jesus’ resurrection, the Muslim can believe that the Prophet Muhammad was God’s messenger, and the nihilist can believe that life is a pointless exercise. However, the problem is that the New Ager makes an absolute truth claim on the face of exercising relativism. You cannot have both absolute truth and relative truth in the same basket for the simple reason that they contradict each other. To say that truth is relative is to make an absolute claim about truth that is binding on all people. For this very reason truth is absolute, and if we are to apply logic consistently we cannot escape this conclusion.

However, what if a naturalist, for example, responds to the New Ager by saying “what is true for me is that relativism is false”? The New Ager, in order to be consistent, would have to grant the naturalist that conclusion. Yet if the New Ager chooses to disagree with the naturalist then he is affirming that not everything is relative. So the New Ager clearly puts himself in a really tough spot that he is unable to explain his way out of.

One can understand why the New Ager tries to base his belief on such a claim. The world is full of religions, philosophies and worldviews that cannot be squared. And as a result conflict is bound to manifest between the proponents or apologists of these diverse worldviews. But we can’t, as the New Ager should note, base our beliefs on what we want to be true; instead we have to follow evidence where it leads even if it leads us to awkward, uncomfortable places.

22 responses to “The “That’s true for you, but not for me” argument.

  1. All good points. I think, though, the self-refuting nature of the position is perhaps the best counter-argument to it. People who maintain this belief seem to conflate perspective and reality, erroneously believing that all perspectives are equal (incorrect but not nearly as bad) or that reality is derived from perspective (which leads to that contradictory position).

    • ding an sich.

      you have a hidden premise that one’s perspective is separable from reality. that’s what’s erroneous, for certainly we all are not all assertions are equal, that all assertions are from PERSPECTIVES, not reality, and we deliberate what is true, deliberation is about justification, not reality, and that “truth” is merely a grade we give sentences we intersubjectivity agree have the best reasons to assert it than something else … but there’s no reason at all to conclude “agree to disagree” is a remark about subjective, personal relativism where one mistakes their perspective with reality.

      mistaking one’s perspective with reality is had by thinking correspondence theories of truth (ie positivism, realism, et. al.) do not entail perspectives and that truth is something about reality itself rather than something about sentences and justification.

      • So, reality necessarily precedes perspective if one is to maintain that other perspectives exist. The reason for this is that if one maintains that perspectives are not separable from reality, then you run into instances where a thing could be both true and false in the same way at the same time. This denies the law of non-contradiction, which is self-evident. Either you maintain the solipsistic position that your perspective is reality (and no other perspectives exist) or reality must necessarily be separable from perspective. Now, I’m inclined to agree with you that the features of reality cannot be fully distinguished by humans since we are limited by our perspectives, but it would be false equivocation to claim that this is reality unless you at least adhere to that solipsistic position.

        • LOL! perspectives require subjects. before, after, during has nothing to do with anything. however, you have a serious flaw in thinking. it is this:

          the LNC means that P cannot also be ~P at the same time. your mistake is that THINGS are not true or false! so OF COURSE perspectives will differ and some perspective will be post opposite of each other. that is only QED that truth is a grade granted through deliberation, not because some sentence has become the sentence to which all others aspire!

          SENTENCES are CALLED true or false; reality is whatever it is! WHY sentences are called true is because some seem to make the most sense in saying.

          and to date, there is no sentence we have uttered in any language which has been ultimate and final, which fans us to the obvious … the obvious being exactly the pragmatic epistemology i’ve laid out here for.

          • I am having difficulty in deciphering what you are saying. I’d like to begin with the point that I find most contentious. I believe you said that you believed that reality could not be separated from perspective. Particularly, you said I made a mistake in believing it could. When you say that reality is inseparable from perspective, what do you mean? We can address the rest later.

            • i mean that we are continuous with nature and that since we cannot remove ourselves from it, we cannot be objective about it; our ideas are all “perspectival” and perceptive.

              think of it this way: regardless of us, there is a reality and it is whatever it is. however, in order for us to say anything about it at all, we must experience it. when we do, we do not have some raw contact with reality. we perceive. from that perception, our perspectives form.

              if you want proof, take any episode of “brain games” and have a watch.

              for this most basic of philosophical topics, google “ding an sich”. the OEP and SEP are great resources as well.

              • So, I’ve not actually disagreed with that proposition. I misunderstood you and thought you were arguing that reality itself was subjective. Now that your position is clarified there, let us look at your criticism. You say that my problem is that I’ve incorrectly given “things” a truth-value when I should be giving “sentences” a truth-value. First, can you quote whatever it is that makes you think that I hold this position? Second, can you clarify what you mean by your criticism?

              • sure. a comment or two ago, a little way in:

                “then you run into instances where a thing could be both true and false in the same way at the same time. This denies the law of non-contradiction, which is self-evident.”

                you were making a case that such and such a view means that there could be instances where a “thing” could be true and false at the same time.

                so, the problem is that things are not true or false — they are what they are. assertions can be true or false, however, and it’s nothing but expected that we will have all sorts of issues with assertions, least of which is the LNC.

                but even the LNC isn’t a big issue. first, as aquinas made famous, the smallest of distinctions heals all offenses. second, we have scores of beliefs which entail to thinking P and ~P all the time. one category is named “doublethink”. an example would be that it is absolutely true any number multiplied by itself gives a positive result, and absolutely true that all numbers have square roots. but, there’s a problem in asking what the square root of a negative number is, eh. another example is the idea of the trinity itself, since it entails to the claim that three are ontologically one and yet, the one is ontologically three.

                so my criticism is that it would seem natural that SINCE truth is deliberated we ought to expect many contradictory truth candidates, but SINCE the object of the LNC here are propositions, NOT “things” (ie reality etc.), there is no purchase since each proposition itself cannot violate the LNC (not that several competing arguments form P ~P situations).

                given that you appeal to the LNC, and given your language itself, you could only have a point by the predicate idea that truth applies to reality, not sentences, and so there is only ever one “true” thing to say about some aspect of reality.

                but, that criticism doesn’t at all touch what i’ve said, since i assert that truth is NOT about reality and IS about sentences which are justified as assertable. and in the view i have given, i have explained it and exemplified it coherently without courting the LNC.

              • Ah, I see what you were referencing now. So, there is actually no disagreement. I was merely mentioning that if one were to maintain both that multiple perspectives existed and that reality was derived from perspectives, that the LNC would be violated. The context of the criticism was incorrectly attacking what I believed to be your position, which is that truth was subjective, but we’re actually in agreement. So, my position is actually yours: reality is whatever it is and propositions are either true or false (whereas to argue that reality is derived from perspective, where one asserts the existence of multiple perspectives, is to defy the LNC because things are synonymous with propositions at that point).

                Ultimately, I take the stance that truth is about how well propositions correspond to reality. Thus, while it is not necessarily a violation of the LNC for there to exist contradictory propositions (I.e. Truth candidates), it is violating the LNC for mutually contradictory propositions to be equally true. P and ~P cannot both be true. That is all.

              • hold up though, truth IS subjective. it happens to also be something we can call objective.

                again, reality is what it is. since we are continuous with nature, ALL ideas and experiences we have are subjective. objective is not the opposite of subjective and an objective truth merely means that there is intersubjective agreement about a sentence’s “warranted assertability” or “reason to assert”.

                if we’re clear on those particulars, then yes, we can agree so far.

                as for correspondence theory … precious few hold to that idea because it didn’t stand the scrutiny of experience, the continentals (linguists), the pragmatists, or the analytics.

                as rorty would say, there’s no test we can propose in order to determine what care of our human noise-making about it the universe has. that is, the universe doesn’t speak for itself and we are largely speaking only to our perceptions of reality. as kant said, the only correspondence there is is that we say something about the world from the thoughts that arise from contact with it. we verify those thoughts with more thoughts on the matter, all through more purchases of thought … and reality is hardly discovered or discussed at all.

                P and ~P can be true at the same time. violation of the LNC apply to REASON not REALITY. so not going back to the axiomatic example i have to begin with, here’s a real one:

                “it is absolutely true the sky is blue when the sky is blue and absolutely false that the sky is blue when the sky is blue”

                this merely drivers home the point about truth being an affair of language and meaning, not correspondence. it is true the sky is blue after all, despite the fact that color doesn’t exist at all.

              • I have to say that you’re using “truth” in a nonstandard way then. Truth, for you, is synonymous with mutual belief. There could not exist such a thing as the bandwagon fallacy within your definition. However, I don’t think there’s a good reason to define truth this way. Perspective, belief, and so on, would be better terms for what you mean. I get what you’re saying about reality being filtered through one’s subjective experience but it is nonstandard and confusing to define truth as the collective consensus on propositions or the collective beliefs rather than correlating it with reality. If what makes a proposition true is not the accuracy in which that proposition describes some aspect of reality, then the definition is nonstandard, confusing, and I’d furthermore argue that it’s useless.

              • no, i’m expressing truth in a very standard way. also, it isn’t from the basis THAT people agree that something is considered true. it is from the REASONS TO ASSERT that “any perfectly rational person” (a standard phrase in epistemology) would agree something a belief is justified (and such an evaluation isn’t even tied to said person actually holding the same belief; only that a person is entitled to a certain belief because it is justified).

                what is your basis for talking about standard and non standard terms. if you only mean that you, as a layman, don’t talk this way then i great that my remarks will seem alien. however if you were not a layman, we wouldn’t be having this conversation at all.

                consider the absurdity in your comment about accuracy:

                the arrow leaves the bow. the accuracy of the shot is in relation to the destination. meaning necessarily that one knows BEFOREHAND What the mark is so one can see how far the arrow flew from it.

                if we already knew however, the mark of inquiry, we would have no reason to shoot arrows at it to measure accuracy, since the whole point of the matter is about the truth, the mark on the target, not otherwise flying arrows for the hell of it.

                there is no sense in using the term accuracy when it comes to truth-telling. but if we were, again as rorty would say, indeed ask inquiry has as goal and our counting a sentence as true entails to goal-achievement, sure enough. those goals however, are about humans, not reality.

              • When you speak about truth being derived from the “reasons to assert,” it leads me to believe that you’re conflating truth with knowledge. Knowledge is that justified true belief that you appear to be referencing. This is different from truth, however, which is whether the proposition in question accurately reflects reality or not. You have characterized truth as being disconnected from reality and instead tied to subjectivity. This is the error.

                No need to throw out insults. I’m familiar with epistemology and many of its topics. I certainly don’t know everything about it but I’m not wholly new to it either. What sometimes makes your arguments difficult to understand is not their content but their style. Particularly, your grammar and spelling makes it somewhat difficult to work through, and so too is it the case for your sentence structure and phrasing. Is your native language English? In any case, when I say that you are using “truth” in a nonstandard way, I mean that it is contentious in epistemology to define truth in any way that disconnects it from reality. If this seems surprising to you, I can certainly cite you authoritative sources on the matter.

                You have mischaracterized my position of you believe that I was claiming to be able to discern reality perfectly or that the definition of the word “truth” relies upon the ability of humans to do the same. Truth is defined as such to connect propositions, beliefs, and knowledge on one hand to reality on the other. You may certainly take the softer approach and argue that a proposition is ‘accepted as being true,’ but this leaves room for that proposition to turn out as untrue. We can still define truth as being connected to reality without settling at the conclusion that reality can be known. If this seems contentious to you, then the word “reality” should seem equally contentious to you.

              • truth, again, is not a thing. it is a grade. gettier makes it clear there’s no sense in saying knowledge is JTB because the T is entirely a matter of J. i’m not conflating anything. simply, knowledge is a word, again, for the set: “justified beliefs”. those beliefs are held as “being the case” because they are justified such that “any perfectly rational person” would agree to said justification.

                perhaps you missed me talking about the absurdity of saying some sentence about the world is “accurate”? what on earth do you mean by that since the whole enterprise of in inquiry is to FIND where the bullseye is, and knowing where that bullseye is in order to say a sentence is “accurate” moots any need of sentences are all.

                and now we’re going to cross hairs. on what grounds do you determine that my terms have some novel meaning in the field of epistemology, which is my formal education? you intend you have familiarity. i don’t see you as being at all studied in it 1) because you make that claim, 2) because of the ideas you are expressing and how, and 3) that i am clearly and cleanly laying out peircean pragmatism and you think i’ve invented a epistemology outright though it is exactly the thrust of all major western universities even outside of philosophy departments.

                that’s not to be insulting to you. that’s me scratching my head because only someone who doesn’t know better would not understand what i’m saying (poor writing style and all) or take issue with what i’m saying in the ways you have.

                a huge “for instance” is that i used amazingly common parlance of “perfectly rational person” in relation to “reason to assert” and “warranted assertability” and none of the terms you are familiar with, none you have looked up, and now because you still are shooting from the hip, you conclude “this leaves no room for that proposition to turn out as untrue.”

                sorry, you need to do something in this conversation. i’m feeding you names, terms, ideas, and common examples. i’m pointing you in a direction where you can learn something new, to expand your knowledge, where you can grow. only, you’re doing nothing with it.

                i want to be clear, none of my remarks are meant as insults. they are blunt, however. i suppose that too is a deficiency in writing style too.

              • You know, I’m going to take a step back here, and I apologize for mischaracterizing your comments as insulting. Truth be told, I was having a bit of a bad day the other day and it influenced how I read things and responded. I do find it difficult to decipher your content sometimes, but that aside, I was a bit out of line with my former comment. You’re right though, my background in epistemology is not solid. I am a layman to the field and I ought to do more reading on it. Reading through your argument, I find it difficult to accept the proposition that truth is anything is a grade. It is unconvincing to me to suggest that truth is a matter of degree that relies upon perspective. It seems to me to be synonymous with reality and so, to whatever degree people believe that reality can be known, truth is necessarily correspondent to that. That is the position that I have largely found persuasive. It seems to me that to correlate truth with anything other than reality, whatever that reality may be, is to essentially make relative that which is defined by its lack of relativity. This position may lack nuance and perhaps I hold it because of my lack of a firm background in epistemology. On that basis though, is there anything that you recommend that I read to further my understanding so that your arguments may become more clear, or is there anything you’d wish to delineate to me (perhaps a baser set of epistemic principles which found your position)?

  2. first, god is a metaphysical proposition. so, our conclusions are not things which have proper truth-values. here, what we say about god is only meaningful or worthless.

    second, neither judaism nor is christianity inherently exclusive. in judaism, being MOT has nothing to do with beliefs. it’s all about behaviors, rituals, conduct and so on. and the new testament is horribly chalked full or universalism.

    it’s funny you pull from john. taking the greek etymology of logos, hodos, alethea, and zoe, you can NOT interpret jesus as a gatekeeper. I’m other words, from the beginning, god had in mind and intended and proposed man to be a certain way in the world. jesus was what god had in mind all along (logos), jesus is how we should be in the world (hodos), jesus is god’s intent for humanity revealed (alethea), and jesus is what this way of being in the world looks like (zoe).

    micha 6:8 and other scriptures of similar bluntness, do more than just chip away at the christian’s hopes that there is only one true scotsman … religion.

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