World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Arbitrary

Article Id: WHEBN0021065145
Reproduction Date:

Title: Arbitrary  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Kruskal's algorithm, ARB
Collection:
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Publication
Date:
 

Arbitrary

Not to be confused with Arbitration.
For the concept in trademark law, see trademark distinctiveness.

Arbitrariness is a term given to choices and actions subject to individual will, judgment or preference, based solely upon an individual's opinion or discretion.[1][2]

Arbitrary decisions are not necessarily the same as random decisions. For example, during the 1973 oil crisis, Americans were allowed to purchase gasoline only on odd-numbered days if their license plate was odd, and on even-numbered days if their license plate was even. The system was well-defined and not random in its restrictions; however, since license plate numbers are completely unrelated to a person's fitness to purchase gasoline, it was still an arbitrary division of people. Similarly, schoolchildren are often organized by their surname in alphabetical order, a non-random yet still arbitrary method, at least in cases where surnames are irrelevant.

Law

Arbitrary comes from the Latin arbitrarius, the source of arbiter; someone who is tasked to judge some matter.[3] An arbitrary legal judgment is a decision made at the discretion of the judge, not one that is fixed by law.[4] In some countries, a prohibition of arbitrariness is enshrined into the constitution. Article 9 of the Swiss Federal Constitution theoretically overrides even democratic decisions in prohibiting arbitrary government action.[5] The US Supreme Court has overturned laws for having "no rational basis." A recent study of the U.S. asylum system suggests that arbitrariness in decision-making might be the cause of large disparities in outcomes between different adjudicators, a phenomenon described as refugee roulette.

Article 330 of the Russian penal code defines 'Arbitrariness' as a specific crime, but with a very broad definition encompassing any 'actions contrary to the order presented by a law'.[6]

Philosophy

Arbitrary actions are closely related to teleology, the study of purpose. Actions lacking a telos, a goal, are necessarily arbitrary. With no end to measure against, there can be no standard applied to choices, so all decisions are alike. Note that arbitrary or random methods in the standard sense of arbitrary may not qualify as arbitrary choices philosophically, if they were done in furtherance of a larger purpose; in the examples above, discipline in school and avoiding overcrowding at gas stations.

Nihilism is the philosophy that believes that there is no purpose in the universe, and that every choice is arbitrary.[7] According to nihilism, the universe contains no value and is essentially meaningless. Because the universe and all of its constituents contain no higher goal for us to make subgoals from, all aspects of human life and experiences are completely arbitrary. There is no right or wrong decision, thought or practice, and whatever choice a human being makes is just as meaningless and empty as any other choice he or she could have made.

Many brands of theism, the belief in a deity or deities, believe that everything has a purpose and that nothing is arbitrary. In these philosophies, God created the universe for a reason, and every event flows from that. Even seemingly random events cannot escape God's hand and purpose. This is somewhat related to the argument from design, the argument for God's existence because a purpose can be found in the universe.

Arbitrariness is also related to ethics, the philosophy of decision-making. Even if a person has a goal, they may choose to attempt to achieve it in ways that may be considered arbitrary. Rationalism holds that knowledge comes about through intellectual calculation and deduction; many rationalists (though not all) apply this to ethics as well. All decisions should be made through reason and logic, not via whim or how one "feels" what is right. Randomness may occasionally be acceptable as part of a subtask in furtherance of a larger goal, but not in general.

Mathematics

In mathematics, arbitrary normally means "any;" for instance, an arbitrary division of a set or an arbitrary permutation of a sequence. Its use implies generality and that a statement does not only apply to special cases – "you may select any choice possible, and this statement will still hold." A simple example would be "Given an arbitrary integer, multiplying it by two will result in an even number."

Even further, the implication is that generality will hold even if you have an opponent choose the item in question. In some ways arbitrary is here synonymous with worst-case.[8]

See also

References

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
 
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
 
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.
 


Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.