Worldviews as Problem-Solving Proposals

Can a worldview be true (or false)?  I have been thinking of a worldview as a set of basic assumptions that contitute a philosophy of life, or a logical structure that approximates a philosophy of life.  On this conception of a worldview, it seems that a worldview is the kind of thing that could be true (or false).

However, I have also been thinking, for many years, that worldviews can be understood in terms of problem solving, especially as analogous to problem solving for medical issues.  One can analyze a worldview in the following terms:

  • Symptoms of the human situation
  • Diagnosis of the “Disease” that represents the root cause (or causes) of the Symptoms
  • Therapy or Prescription proposed to cure or alleviate the “Disease”
  • Prognosis providing predictions of what is likely to happen concerning Symptoms and  the “Disease” if the proposed Therapy or Prescription is followed, and if it is NOT followed.

Often, there is more than one therapy or prescription that could be used in an attempt to cure or alleviate a disease.  In such cases, the proposed therapy is not something that could be evaluated as “true” or “false”, but rather as “better” or “worse”,  particularly in terms of effectiveness and risk of bad side effects.

One therapy might be very effective, but also carry a high risk of bad side effects, while another therapy is less effective but also carries a lower risk of bad side effects, or perhaps an equal risk of less serious side effects.  There are generally various pros and cons to weigh along these lines.  A therapy that is completely ineffective might be said to be a “false” cure, in that it is false that this therapy will cure the disease or that it is likely to cure the disease.  But generally, we have to decide between alternative therapies each of which has some degree of effectiveness and also some degree of risk of bad side-effects.

To what extent can a problem-solving proposal be evaluated as true or false?

SYPMTOMS of an actual disease are factual and empirical in nature.  A person’s temperature can be measured to determine whether or not he/she has a fever.  Blood and urine samples can be colleted and objective facts can be determined from them, such as blood sugar level, the number of white blood cells/cubic centimeter, the presence of bacteria in the urine, and so on.  Claims about symptoms of disease are typically factual and empirical in nature.

A DIAGNOSIS that disease X is causing symptoms 1, 2, and 3, is typically based on evidence plus beliefs about the existence and nature of various diseases.  The beliefs about the existence and nature of a disease can be well-grounded in scientific observations and investigations.  So, a diagnosis can be well-grounded in both facts about a patient (e.g. symptoms and test results) as well as in scientific hypotheses and theories that are themselves well-grounded in empirical facts.  DIAGNOSIS incorporates observations, facts, theories, and reasoning that makes use of such information.

A THERAPY or PRESCRIPTION is in turn based on the diagnosis, plus information about the patient’s current health status, and information about the usual course of a disease condition as well as information about the effectiveness and risks of various potential therapies or prescriptions that is based on both scientific observation and investigation and on the experiences of the physician in dealing with that disease and/or similar diseases.  The judgement that a THERAPY or PRESCRIPTION ought to be implemented in the case of a particular patient is based on factual information, but involves more evaluative reasoning, the weighing or pros and cons to determine what is best for this particular patient.

Although this aspect of medicine involves evaluative reasoning, and is not purely factual in nature, there is a large degree of objectivity here, since humans universally prefer to be healthy rather than to be sick or diseased.  We all want to be cured when we have a disease, unless the cure is worse than the disease.  And “bad side effects” are universally undesirable.  Nobody wants to experience headaches, nasea, vomitting, cramps, loss of consciousness, or death, at least very few people would find such side effects to be desirable.

Subjectivity comes in, primarily, in terms of how much weight to give to the risk of various potential bad side effects versus how much weight to give the potential to cure or alleviate the disease and/or the symptoms of the disease.  The judgment that a particular THERAPY or PRESCRIPTION is best for a particular patient often requires weighing several pros and cons together to arrive at an all-things-considered conclusion.

A PROGNOSIS is more factaul and objective than the evaluative judgement proposing a therapy or prescription.  A PROGNOSIS is more like a DIAGNOSIS and involves not only factual data about the particular patient, but general information about the diagnosed disease that comes from scientific observations and investigations as well as from the experiences of the physician in dealing with that disease or similar diseases.

In conclusion, in the case of problem solving related to medical issues, there is a great deal of factaul and empirical information that is used, and the conclusions (Symptoms, Diagnosis, Therapy/Prescription, and Prognosis) are generally also of a factual nature, with the exception that the recommendation of a THERAPY or PRESCRIPTION involves evaluative reasoning, and a degree of subjectivity in terms of the weighting of each consideration (pros and cons) that is used to arrive at the recommendation.

Thus, at least with problem solving related to literal medical issues, the concepts of “true” and “false” clearly apply, although medical recommendations of a particular THERAPY or PRESCRIPTION do involve a degree of subjectivity.  Nevertheless, if a THERAPY or PRESCRPTION is based on a false DIAGNOSIS or on false beliefs about SYMPTOMS or on a false theory about a disease, then that THERAPY or PRESCRIPTION is clearly defective.

Furthermore, even if the factual information used to formulate the recommendation of a THERAPY or PRESCRIPTION is true, there can be faulty reasoning on the part of the physician which would also make the recommendation clearly faulty.  So, there can be clear-cut cases of bad or faulty THERAPY or PRESCRIPTION recommendations, and there can be clear-cut cases of good or justified THERAPY or PRESCRIPTION recommendations, so something akin to truth and falsehood has application to this aspect of medical problem solving.

To the extent that medical problem solving is analogous to what is going on in religious and secular worldviews, then truth and falsehood have application to the assumptions and beliefs that make up a worldview.