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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Worldview and Truth

This is sort of a continuation of my thoughts about worldview and the two types of virtue.

Let's look at intellectual virtue as a moral virtue again. I take it that worldview formation would be an intellectual virtue of this sort, a virtue the good of which is intrinsic to itself and not merely extrinsic to it. Assuming that is right, what is the relation between such an intellectual virtue and truth? Not that the virtue maximizes truth relative to error in a reliable way, since that would just be extrinsic. The merit of the virtue is self-authenticating in the sense that if the virtue has a character then it succeeds by fulfilling its own characteristic ends.

This seems to point to some kind of epistemic theory of truth for such a virtue: truth is the final form such thinking takes and insofar as the state of my thinking is similar to that final state (CS Pierce). This conclusion is unattractive for a realist and I would intuitively want to be a realist, one that thinks of truth as a correspondence at least between thought and reality. What to do? If I want to recommend worldview formation as an intellectual intrinsic virtue but be a realist at the same time, how is that possible?

One approach to worldviews and truth is to see a worldview in itself as a set of truth claims. A worldview is a set of defining beliefs such that one has to hold such beliefs in order to be a member in good standing of a certain community. As such these beliefs are truth valued and evaluable by tests such as confirmation by evidence, logical consistency, existential confirmation, and so on. It seems to be a necessary condition of a worldview that it would receive a positive evaluation on such an approach.

However, it clearly would not be sufficient if worldview formation is an intrinsic intellectual virtue. One could have the appropriate set of beliefs that pass the test above based on nothing else but extrinsic intellectual virtues (and moral ones -- with the possible exception of whatever 'existential confirmation' turns out to mean).

(In fact, if existential confirmation means an intrinsic satisfaction, that raises the question of whether it is truth indicative.)

So something could satisfy the account of truth evaluation of worldviews given and still not be a worldview.

What to say then? As I understand the idea of worldview formation as an intrinsic intellectual virtue, worldview formation makes an integrated agent possible. A person with a well formed worldview is able approach everything with a common identity. She is not one person in one set of circumstances and another person in another where what determines which she is is the circumstances and not her reasons. So worldview formation is an essential to soul-making and and character building, which is a form of coming into being. This suggests that the truth maker for worldview formation as an intellectual virtue is the soul being made, whether or not and to what extent that soul is actualized.