Suppose there are two debaters A and B, and a proposition X. A thinks X is reasonable, and believes X. B does not think X is reasonable, and therefore lacks a belief in X. Thus, A and B are in disagreement about the reasonableness of X. Can disputes of this kind be resolved objectively in all cases? If so, what is the objective standard that must be followed to resolve the dispute? Where did that standard come from, and why is this specific standard the one that everyone should follow?

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    No. (just my opinion, feel free to disagree)
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 20:22
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    A basic strategy to dissolve the stalemate: Define your concepts, clarify your arguments, arrange with each other about a common test case for your positions.
    – Jo Wehler
    Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 21:27
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    Some can (scientists do that by staging experiments and reasoning from established facts), and some can't (especially about morality, religion or art). Standards vary depending on the nature of beliefs and their subject matter.
    – Conifold
    Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 23:47
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    OP: If what you ask were even remotely feasible one could dispense with courts lawyers armies and have logicians solve all problems. Here's just a random list of currently contentious topics.
    – Rushi
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 6:46
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    @prof_ghost all good - I removed my answer because I also felt I didn't have enough to say apart from the above comment, so that observation was warranted for sure.
    – Annika
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 13:56

5 Answers 5


It depends on what you mean by 'objectively'. If objectivity is taken to be the consensus of subjective agents, for instance, by subscribing to a convention, then there is, let's call it, a first-order capacity to resolve reasonableness by examining the principles of reason. For instance, in the analysis of argumentation, if the parties subscribe to classical logic, have similar views on terminology, have a system for structuring and evaluating proofs, then yes, there is some degree of objectivity. Typically, for instance, in a debating society, there is some shared notion of fallacy, rhetoric, and logic that participants submit to and that judges can invoke in evaluation.

But what happens when the parties in the debate object to their logics? What if one participant accepts non-classical logic as a way of arguing and another does not? What if there is a basic difference in the analysis of informal reasoning in regards to warrant, rebuttal, inference, and so on? Then the debate spills over from "objective claims" into the nature of objectivity and inference itself. This is a common occurrence in philosophy, and this is generally taken as a metaphysical dispute, that is, a dispute of first principles, in the language of Descartes.

Then, since metaphysical theories come into play, for instance, what constitutes an adequate theory of truth, what does it mean to have incommensurable language, what should be admitted to exist and what rejected (in other words meta-ethical, meta-ontological, and meta-epistemological disputes), one often finds oneself in yet another layer of disputes about fact and value that may make the original argument entirely unacceptable. In such a case, unless there are "objective rules" for meta-philosophical discussion accepted, it's hard to see how objectivity can resolve the matter.

In practice, generally such arguments often become polemical as a lack of common ground tends to frustrate both parties. Of course, quietism is another way to respond to these circumstances.

  • It seems like there should be a lowest common denominator 'Esperanto' version of Philosophy that everyone agrees on, and then they can go off in to the weeds with their pet ideas from there if they like. I guess this sounds dismissive, judgemental and clueless. I must be missing something.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 23:17
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    @ScottRowe There is, but it's in Interlingua.
    – J D
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 0:21
  • I'm going to watch "Arrival" again and see if I have new insights :-)
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 0:36
  • All I'll add is that you don't necessarily just keep going deeper. If done right, one would narrow a disagreement down to e.g. some irreconcilable value judgement about what's most important when it comes to what one believes, or judgements about specific pieces of evidence. As an aside, disagreements aren't also typically resolved in a day (whether by changing a mind or finding the root of disagreement), and it's often a good idea to take a break to give both parties some time to reflect on what's been said.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 8:03

It may be that the only way a claim can be objectively more or less reasonable is via empirical test, and every other belief is unjustified or subjective, varying from person to person in the same way preference for ice cream is. Or perhaps not. If you want to look for epistemic virtues for non scientific beliefs, then these include attentiveness, creativity, curiousity etc..

appropriate activation of epistemic virtues contributes a further element to the objectivity of the decision-making process. Their involvement in the process serves to ensure that the theoretical virtues are rigorously and cor- rectly applied.

I don't know of any equivalent standards for belief (in general, as opposed to e.g. explanatory power in science) itself, though consensus and consistency may be a good start.

If you're looking for guarantees of objectivity, these may not exist, perhaps even for scientific research (errors in data collection etc.). Anyway, in general there's no one answer

"Conceptions of objectivity are different for scientific work, for everyday concerns, and for social, moral and aesthetic questions and so there is not one simple definition of objectivity that can be applied to all.

I would suggest reading this

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    Concensus is not an objective standard, nor are attentiveness, creativity, curiousity.
    – armand
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 0:17
  • what do you mean by "objective". is an experiment "objective" @armand. obviously consensus is not metaphysically independent of ppl. it may ensure objectivity
    – user67675
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 0:20
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    Objective is what does not depend on the observer (and actually, what OP is asking about). Every experiment includes a part of interpretation and bias, but an experiment's result is objective. If 2 scientists agree on the protocol then they have to accept the result. Concensus as a criterion is important but faces the "heap problem": how many grains of sand to we need to gather to make a heap, how many specialists can disagree with the majority until we can't say there is a concensus (and who gets to decide who the "specialists" are?)
    – armand
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 0:26
  • and consensus can lead to a form of "objectivity" so, like always, i don't see your problem @armand
    – user67675
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 0:27
  • no. why do you feel put quotes around objectivity. It feels like you yourself don't believe in what you are saying. 'a form of "objectivy"' and 'objectivity' are not the same. Let's not be sloppy around terms.
    – armand
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 5:55

The sort of debate that you depict would descend into chaos unless there were an arbiter accepted by both sides. Any reasonable arbiter would employ all of the principles and tools of reason advanced over the ages. This would not be objective, in the sense that human agency is needed. Perhaps there might be an artificial intelligence arbiter one day? I am not aware of the development of any standard of what is reasonable. Imagine a debate about abortion. A states that human life begins at conception. Therefore, is unjustifiable in all cases. B states that bodily autonomy is paramount. Therefore, the state has no right to abridge the right to abortion. A might be asked for evidence to prove their contention. B might be asked to prove that bodily autonomy is paramount. A is being asked a question of fact. B is being asked a philosophical question. A relies on reason from faith. B relies on liberal thought impinging on politics. A can provide no scientific evidence. B cannot provide evidence that all philosophical thought concurs that bodily autonomy is paramount. A is behaving reasonably in the context of their faith. B is behaving reasonably within the context of liberal philosophy and politics. If the proposition is that the state has the right to abridge access to abortion in all cases, B can rely on the common law principle that human life begins at birth. B can also rely on documents like the UN Declaration of Human Rights, articles 3, 7, and 12. So, although philosophically the debate between A and B cannot be reasonably arbitrated, it can be in the context of law in the West. Unfortunately, in other jurisdictions it could be arbitrated in the other direction. Even in the West, however, it could be arbitrated in the other direction because of authoritarian ideology among the judiciary. So it is possible that a particular debate cannot be satisfactorily arbitrated philosophically or legally. The imagined AI arbiter would rely on human input, so would be no more successful than a human arbiter.


Reasonability is a characteristic of Mind.Mind is a phenomena. It arises , changes and vanishes. Mind can suffer from psychological diseases. People can go mad for various reasons like vanity , jealousy , love , hate , biases etc. In such a circumstances, reasonability can not be expected always. Therefore objectivity can not be expected always if the involved parties are not reasonable .

Therefore in case of disputes , if the involved parties have healthy mind and share a common ground of justice then objectivity can be reached in the dispute settlements. Objectivity itself is an impermanent phenomena as the mind is an impermanent phenomena.


The clear answer is no. Any disagreement between two people relies upon assumptions that cannot be proven. Perhaps one can use the number of these assumptions as a standard for deciding between two theories…but this very standard would be another assumption :)

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