A world view or worldview is the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing the whole of the individual's or society's knowledge and point of view. A world view can include natural philosophy; fundamental, existential, and normative postulates; or themes, values, emotions, and ethics.
World views are often taken to operate at a conscious level, directly accessible to articulation and discussion, as opposed to existing at a deeper, pre-conscious level, such as the idea of "ground" in Gestalt psychology and media analysis. However, core world view beliefs are often deeply rooted, and so are only rarely reflected on by individuals, and are brought to the surface only in moments of crises of faith.
The term worldview is a calque of the German word Weltanschauung [ˈvɛltʔanˌʃaʊ.ʊŋ] (
Types of world views
There are a number of main classes of world views that group similar types of world views together. These relate to various aspects of society and individuals' relationships with the world. Note that these distinctions are not always unequivocal: a religion may include economic aspects, a school of philosophy may embody a particular attitude, etc.
An attitude is an approach to life, a disposition towards certain types of thinking, a way of viewing the world. An attitudinal world view is a typical attitude that will tend to govern an individual's approach, understanding, thinking, and feelings about things. For instance, people with an optimismic world view will tend to approach things with a positive attitude, and assume the best. In a metaphor referring to a thirsty person looking at half a glass of water, the attitude is elicited by asking "Is the glass half empty or half full?".
A religion is a system of behaviors and practices, that relate to supernatural, transcendental, or spiritual elements, but the precise definition is debated. A religious world view is one grounded in a religion, either an organized religion or something less codified. So followers of an Abrahamic religion (e.g. Christianity, Islam, Judaism, etc.), will tend to have a set of beliefs and practices from their scriptures that they believe is given to their prophets from God, and their interpretation of those scriptures will define their world view.
Theories of world views
Assessment and comparison
One can think of a world view as comprising a number of basic beliefs which are philosophically equivalent to the axioms of the world view considered as a logical or consistent theory. These basic beliefs cannot, by definition, be proven (in the logical sense) within the world view - precisely because they are axioms, and are typically argued from rather than argued for. However their coherence can be explored philosophically and logically.
If two different world views have sufficient common beliefs it may be possible to have a constructive dialogue between them.
On the other hand, if different world views are held to be basically incommensurate and irreconcilable, then the situation is one of cultural relativism and would therefore incur the standard criticisms from philosophical realists. Additionally, religious believers might not wish to see their beliefs relativized into something that is only "true for them". Subjective logic is a belief-reasoning formalism where beliefs explicitly are subjectively held by individuals but where a consensus between different world views can be achieved.
A third alternative sees the world view approach as only a methodological relativism, as a suspension of judgment about the truth of various belief systems but not a declaration that there is no global truth. For instance, the religious philosopher Ninian Smart begins his Worldviews: Cross-cultural Explorations of Human Beliefs with "Exploring Religions and Analysing Worldviews" and argues for "the neutral, dispassionate study of different religious and secular systems—a process I call worldview analysis."
The comparison of religious, philosophical or scientific world views is a delicate endeavor, because such world views start from different presuppositions and cognitive values. Clément Vidal has proposed metaphilosophical criteria for the comparison of world views, classifying them in three broad categories:
- objective: objective consistency, scientificity, scope
- subjective: subjective consistency, personal utility, emotionality
- intersubjective: intersubjective consistency, collective utility, narrativity
David Bell has also raised questions on religious world views for the designers of superintelligences – machines much smarter than humans.
The Prussian philologist Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767–1835) originated the idea that language and world view are inextricable. Humboldt saw language as part of the creative adventure of mankind. Culture, language and linguistic communities developed simultaneously and could not do so without one another. In stark contrast to linguistic determinism, which invites us to consider language as a constraint, a framework or a prison house, Humboldt maintained that speech is inherently and implicitly creative. Human beings take their place in speech and continue to modify language and thought by their creative exchanges.
Edward Sapir (1884–1939) also gives an account of the relationship between thinking and speaking in English.
The linguistic relativity hypothesis of Benjamin Lee Whorf (1897–1941) describes how the syntactic-semantic structure of a language becomes an underlying structure for the world view or Weltanschauung of a people through the organization of the causal perception of the world and the linguistic categorization of entities. As linguistic categorization emerges as a representation of world view and causality, it further modifies social perception and thereby leads to a continual interaction between language and perception.
Whorf's hypothesis became influential in the late 1940s, but declined in prominence after a decade. In the 1990s, new research gave further support for the linguistic relativity theory in the works of Stephen Levinson (1947–) and his team at the Max Planck institute for psycholinguistics at Nijmegen, Netherlands. The theory has also gained attention through the work of Lera Boroditsky at Stanford University.
If the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis is correct, the world view map of the world would be similar to the linguistic map of the world. However, it would also almost coincide with a map of the world drawn on the basis of music across people.
While Leo Apostel and his followers clearly hold that individuals can construct world views, other writers regard world views as operating at a community level, or in an unconscious way. For instance, if one's world view is fixed by one's language, as according to a strong version of the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis, one would have to learn or invent a new language in order to construct a new world view.
According to Apostel, a world view is an ontology, or a descriptive model of the world. It should comprise these six elements:
- An explanation of the world
- A futurology, answering the question "Where are we heading?"
- Values, answers to ethical questions: "What should we do?"
- A praxeology, or methodology, or theory of action: "How should we attain our goals?"
- An epistemology, or theory of knowledge: "What is true and false?"
- An etiology. A constructed world-view should contain an account of its own "building blocks", its origins and construction.
Weltanschauung and cognitive philosophy
Within cognitive philosophy and the cognitive sciences is the German concept of Weltanschauung. This expression is used to refer to the "wide worldview" or "wide world perception" of a people, family, or person. The Weltanschauung of a people originates from the unique world experience of a people, which they experience over several millennia. The language of a people reflects the Weltanschauung of that people in the form of its syntactic structures and untranslatable connotations and its denotations.
The term Weltanschauung is often wrongly attributed to Wilhelm von Humboldt, the founder of German ethnolinguistics. However, as Jürgen Trabant points out, and as James W. Underhill reminds us, Humboldt's key concept was Weltansicht. Weltansicht was used by Humboldt to refer to the overarching conceptual and sensorial apprehension of reality shared by a linguistic community (Nation). On the other hand, Weltanschauung, first used by Kant and later popularized by Hegel, was always used in German and later in English to refer more to philosophies, ideologies and cultural or religious perspectives, than to linguistic communities and their mode of apprehending reality.
In 1911, the German philosopher Wilhelm Dilthey published an essay entitled "The Types of Worldview (Weltanschauung) and their Development in Metaphysics" that became quite influential. Dilthey characterized world views as providing a perspective on life that encompasses the cognitive, evaluative, and volitional aspects of human experience. Although world views have always been expressed in literature and religion, philosophers have attempted to give them conceptual definition in their metaphysical systems. On that basis, Dilthey found it possible to distinguish three general recurring types of world view. The first of these he called naturalism because it gives priority to the perceptual and experimental determination of what is and allows contingency to influence how we evaluate and respond to reality. Naturalism can be found in Democritus, Hobbes, Hume and many other modern philosophers. The second type of world view is called the idealism of freedom and is represented by Plato, Descartes, Kant, and Bergson among others. It is dualistic and gives primacy to the freedom of the will. The organizational order of our world is structured by our mind and the will to know. The third type is called objective idealism and Dilthey sees it in Heraclitus, Parmenides, Spinoza, Leibniz and Hegel. In objective idealism the ideal does not hover above what is actual but inheres in it. This third type of world view is ultimately monistic and seeks to discern the inner coherence and harmony among all things. Dilthey thought it is impossible to come up with a universally valid metaphysical or systematic formulation of any of these world views, but regarded them as useful schema for his own more reflective kind of life philosophy. See Makkreel and Rodi, Wilhelm Dilthey, Selected Works, volume 6, 2019.
Anthropologically, world views can be expressed as the "fundamental cognitive, affective, and evaluative presuppositions a group of people make about the nature of things, and which they use to order their lives."
If it were possible to draw a map of the world on the basis of Weltanschauung, it would probably be seen to cross political borders—Weltanschauung is the product of political borders and common experiences of a people from a geographical region, environmental-climatic conditions, the economic resources available, socio-cultural systems, and the language family. (The work of the population geneticist Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza aims to show the gene-linguistic co-evolution of people).
World view is used very differently by linguists and sociologists. It is for this reason that James W. Underhill suggests five subcategories: world-perceiving, world-conceiving, cultural mindset, personal world, and perspective.
Terror management theory
A world view, according to terror management theory (TMT), serves as a buffer against death anxiety. It is theorised that living up to the ideals of one's world view provides a sense of self-esteem which provides a sense of transcending the limits of human life (e.g. literally, as in religious belief in immortality, symbolically, as in art works or children to live on after one's death, or in contributions to one's culture). Evidence in support of terror management theory includes a series of experiments by Jeff Schimel and colleagues in which a group of Canadians found to score highly on a measure of patriotism were asked to read an essay attacking the dominant Canadian world view.
Using a test of death-thought accessibility (DTA), involving an ambiguous word completion test (e.g. "COFF__" could either be completed as either "COFFEE" or "COFFIN" or "COFFER"), participants who had read the essay attacking their world view were found to have a significantly higher level of DTA than the control group, who read a similar essay attacking Australian cultural values. Mood was also measured following the world view threat, to test whether the increase in death thoughts following world view threat were due to other causes, for example, anger at the attack on one's cultural world view. No significant changes on mood scales were found immediately following the worldview threat.
To test the generalisability of these findings to groups and world views other than those of nationalistic Canadians, Schimel et al conducted a similar experiment on a group of religious individuals whose world view included that of creationism. Participants were asked to read an essay which argued in support of the theory of evolution, following which the same measure of DTA was taken as for the Canadian group. Religious participants with a creationist world view were found to have a significantly higher level of death-thought accessibility than those of the control group.
Goldenberg et al found that highlighting the similarities between humans and other animals increases death-thought accessibility, as does attention to the physical rather than meaningful qualities of sex.
Organic unity, causality, impact, philosophical naturalism and materialism
The term World View denotes a comprehensive set of opinions, seen as an organic unity, about the world as the medium and exercise of human existence. World View serves as a framework for generating various dimensions of human perception and experience like knowledge, politics, economics, religion, culture, science and ethics. For example, world view of causality as uni-directional, cyclic, or spiral generates a framework of the world that reflects these systems of causality.
An unidirectional view of causality is present in some monotheistic views of the world with a beginning and an end and a single great force with a single end (e.g., Christianity and Islam), while a cyclic world view of causality is present in religious traditions which are cyclic and seasonal and wherein events and experiences recur in systematic patterns (e.g., Zoroastrianism, Mithraism and Hinduism). These world views of causality not only underlie religious traditions but also other aspects of thought like the purpose of history, political and economic theories, and systems like democracy, authoritarianism, anarchism, capitalism, socialism and communism.
With the development of science came a clockwork universe of regular operation according to principle, this idea was very popular among deists during the Enlightenment. But later developments in science put this deterministic picture in doubt.
Some forms of philosophical naturalism and materialism reject the validity of entities inaccessible to natural science. They view the scientific method as the most reliable model for building an understanding of the world.
Nishida Kitaro wrote extensively on "the Religious Worldview" in exploring the philosophical significance of Eastern religions.
According to Neo-Calvinist David Naugle's World view: The History of a Concept, "Conceiving of Christianity as a worldview has been one of the most significant developments in the recent history of the church."
The Christian thinker James W. Sire defines a world view as "a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true, or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic construction of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being." He suggests that "we should all think in terms of worldviews, that is, with a consciousness not only of our own way of thought but also that of other people, so that we can first understand and then genuinely communicate with others in our pluralistic society."
The commitment mentioned by James W. Sire can be extended further. The world view increases the commitment to serve the world. With the change of a person's view towards the world, he/she can be motivated to serve the world. This serving attitude has been illustrated by Tareq M Zayed as the 'Emancipatory Worldview' in his writing "History of emancipatory worldview of Muslim learners".
The question mentioned above - on whether the super-smart machines, that is, any superintelligences, as expected by some, could have world views - is interesting in this context and this would influence human worldviews.
The philosophical importance of world views became increasingly clear during the 20th century for a number of reasons, such as increasing contact between cultures, and the failure of some aspects of the Enlightenment project, such as the rationalist project of attaining all truth by reason alone. Mathematical logic showed that fundamental choices of axioms were essential in deductive reasoning and that, even having chosen axioms not everything that was true in a given logical system could be proven. Some philosophers believe the problems extend to "the inconsistencies and failures which plagued the Enlightenment attempt to identify universal moral and rational principles"; although Enlightenment principles such as universal suffrage and the universal declaration of human rights are accepted, if not taken for granted, by many.
The theory of relativity offers a Weltanschauung that is revolting to absolute space and time, yet provides a context for modern theories of electromagnetism and gravity. In a book review for a new undergraduate textbook on relativity by Wolfgang Rindler, Kenneth Jacobs noted that "during the post-Sputnik era, special relativity began to take its rightful place in the undergraduate curriculum". On the adoption of the Weltanschauung, he notes, "The historical impact of any world picture is ... partly attributable to the zeal of the promulgators and to the efficacy of their teachings."
Philosophers also distinguish the manifest image from the scientific image. These phrases are due to the American 20th century philosopher Wilfrid Sellars. This is one angle on the ancient philosophical distinction between appearance and reality which is particularly pertinent to everyday contemporary living. Indeed, many believe that the scientific image, with its reductionist methodology, will undermine our sense of individual freedom and responsibility. So, many worry that as science advances, particularly cognitive neuroscience, we will be dehumanized. This certainly has powerful Nietzschean undertones. When our immediately given, manifest (sc. obvious) self-conception is shaken, what is lost for the individual and society? And does it have to be that way? Some questions well worth working on, then, are those concerning the refinement of the manifest view of such centrally important concepts such as free will, the self and individuality, and the possibility of real or lived meaning.
Classification of cultural world views
From across the world across all of the cultures, Roland Muller has suggested that cultural world views can be broken down into three separate world views. It is not simple enough to say that each person is one of these three cultures. Instead, each individual is a mix of the three. For example, a person may be raised in a Power–Fear society, in an Honor–Shame family, and go to school under a Guilt–Innocence system.
In a Guilt–Innocence focused culture, schools focus on deductive reasoning, cause and effect, good questions, and process. Issues are often seen as black and white. Written contracts are paramount. Communication is direct, and can be blunt.
Societies with a predominantly Honor–Shame world views teach children to make honorable choices according to the situations they find themselves in. Communication, interpersonal interaction, and business dealings are very relationship-driven, with every interaction having an effect on the Honor–Shame status of the participants. In an Honor–Shame society the crucial objective is to avoid shame and to be viewed honorably by other people. The Honor–Shame paradigm is especially strong in most regions of Asia.
Some cultures can be seen very clearly in operating under a Power–Fear world view. In these cultures it is very important to assess the people around you and know where they fall in line according to their level of power. This can be used for good or for bad. A benevolent king rules with power and his citizens fully support him wielding that power. On the converse, a ruthless dictator can use his power to create a culture of fear where his citizens are oppressed.
Streams in contemporary American thought
According to Michael Lind, "a worldview is a more or less coherent understanding of the nature of reality, which permits its holders to interpret new information in light of their preconceptions. Clashes among worldviews cannot be ended by a simple appeal to facts. Even if rival sides agree on the facts, people may disagree on conclusions because of their different premises." This is why politicians often seem to talk past one another, or ascribe different meanings to the same events. Tribal or national wars are often the result of incompatible world views. Lind has organized American political world views into five categories:
- Green Malthusianism synthesizes mystical versions of environmentalism with alarm about population growth in the tradition of the Rev. Thomas Malthus
- Libertarian isolationism would abandon foreign alliances, dismantle most of its military, and return to a 19th-century pattern of decentralized government and an economy based on small businesses and small farms.
- Neoliberal globalism believes that at home governments should provide only basic public goods like infrastructure and security, and do so by market-friendly methods.
- Populist nationalism tends to favor restriction of legal as well as illegal immigration to protect the core stock of the tribe-state from dilution by different races, ethnic groups or religions. Populist nationalism also tends to favor protectionist policies that shield workers and businesses, particularly small businesses, from foreign competition.
- Social democracy claims an economic safety net, protecting citizens from unemployment, sickness, poverty in old age and other disasters, is necessary if democratic government is to retain popular support.
Lind argues that even though not all people will fit neatly into only one category or the other, their core world view shape how they frame their arguments.
Conventional wisdom is the body of ideas or explanations generally accepted as true by the general public, or by believers in a world view. It is the set of underlying assumptions that make up the base of a body of shared ideas, like a world view.
As natural language becomes manifestations of world perception, the literature of a people with common Weltanschauung emerges as holistic representations of the wide world perception of the people. Thus the extent and commonality between world folk-epics becomes a manifestation of the commonality and extent of a world view.
Epic poems are shared often by people across political borders and across generations. Examples of such epics include the Nibelungenlied of the Germanic people, the Iliad for the Ancient Greeks and Hellenized societies, the Silappadhikaram of the Tamil people, the Ramayana and Mahabharata of the Hindus, the Epic of Gilgamesh of the Mesopotamian-Sumerian civilization and the people of the Fertile Crescent at large, The Book of One Thousand and One Nights (Arabian nights) of the Arab world and the Sundiata epic of the Mandé people.
A geist is a German concept, similar to English "spirit", here referring to the spirit of a group or age. It is the common character or invisible force motivating a collection of people to act in certain ways. It is sometimes used in philosophy, but can also pragmatically refer to fads or fashions. The weltgeist is the geist of the world, a volksgeist is the geist of a nation or people, and a zeitgeist is the geist of an age. Geists are similar to world views in that they underlie the character of a people, but are more ineffable in their understanding.
Ideologies are sets of beliefs and values that a person or group has for normative reasons. These rely on basic assumptions about reality that may or may not have any factual basis. The term is especially used to describe systems of ideas and ideals which form the basis of economic or political theories and resultant policies. The term is often used in political science to refer to political world views.
A memeplex is a group of memes, within the theory of memetics. This is a way of approaching ideas and world views using the theory of Universal Darwinism. Like the gene complexes found in biology, memeplexes are groups of memes, or world views, that are often found present together. Memes were first suggested in Richard Dawkins' book The Selfish Gene.
A mindset is a set of assumptions, methods, or notations held by one or more people or groups of people. The idea is common to decision theory and general systems theory. A mindset is often seen to arise out of a person's world view, a mindset is a temporary attitude guided by a person's worldview.
Paradigms are outstandingly clear patterns or archetypes, the typifying example of a particular model or idea. Especially in science and philosophy, a paradigm is a distinct set of concepts or thought patterns, including theories, research methods, postulates, and standards for what constitutes legitimate contributions to a field.
A reality tunnel is a theoretical subconscious set of mental filters formed from beliefs and experiences, every individual interprets the same world differently, hence "Truth is in the eye of the beholder". The idea being that an individual's perceptions are influenced or determined by their world view. The idea does not necessarily imply that there is no objective truth; rather that our access to it is mediated through our senses, experience, conditioning, prior beliefs, and other non-objective factors. The term can also apply to groups of people united by beliefs: we can speak of the fundamentalist Christian reality tunnel or the ontological naturalist reality tunnel. A parallel can be seen in the psychological concept of confirmation bias—the human tendency to notice and assign significance to observations that confirm existing beliefs, while filtering out or rationalizing away observations that do not fit with prior beliefs and expectations.
Social norms are collective representations of acceptable behavior within a group, including values, customs, and traditions. These represent individuals' understanding, or world view, in regards what others in their group do, and what they think that they ought to do.
- Attitude polarization
- Basic beliefs
- Belief networks
- Christian worldview
- Cognitive bias
- Context (language use)
- Conventional wisdom
- Cultural bias
- Cultural identity
- Framing (social sciences)
- Life stance
- Mental model
- Mental representation
- Organizing principle
- Reality tunnel
- Schema (psychology)
- Scientific modeling
- Set (psychology)
- Social justice
- Social norm
- Social reality
- Socially constructed reality
- Subjective logic
- Value system
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- Not just in the obvious sense that you need axioms to prove anything, but the fact that for example the Axiom of choice and Axiom S5, although widely regarded as correct, were in some sense optional.
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- Dawkins, Richard (1989), The Selfish Gene (2 ed.), Oxford University Press, p. 192, ISBN 978-0-19-286092-7,
We need a name for the new replicator, a noun that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. 'Mimeme' comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like 'gene'. I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme. If it is any consolation, it could alternatively be thought of as being related to 'memory', or to the French word même. It should be pronounced to rhyme with 'cream'.
- "MINDSET - meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary". Retrieved 2019-12-10.
- "Definition of paradigm by Merriam-Webster". Retrieved 2019-12-04.
- "Introduction to Reality Tunnels: A Tool for Understanding the Postmodern World". 2017-01-21. Retrieved 2019-12-06.
- Lapinski, M. K.; Rimal, R. N. (2005). "An explication of social norms". Communication Theory. 15 (2): 127–147. doi:10.1093/ct/15.2.127.
- Sherif, M. (1936). The psychology of social norms. NewYork: Harper.
- Cialdini, R. D. (2003). "Crafting normative messages to protect the environment" (PDF). Current Directions in Psychological Science. 12 (4): 105–109. CiteSeerX 10.1.1.579.5154. doi:10.1111/1467-8721.01242.
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: World view|
|Wikiversity has learning resources about Exploring Worldviews|
- GLOGO - Global Governance System for Planet Earth at think tank Gold Mercury International
- Apostel, Leo and Van der Veken, Jan. (1991) Wereldbeelden, DNB/Pelckmans.
- Wikibook:The scientific world view
- Wiki Worldview Themes: A Structure for Characterizing and Analyzing Worldviews includes links to nearly 400 Wikipedia articles
- "You are what you speak" (PDF). Archived from the original on 2009-09-20.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link) (5.15 MB) – a 2002 essay on research in linguistic relativity (Lera Boroditsky)
- "Cobern, W. World View, Metaphysics, and Epistemology" (PDF). Archived from the original on 2016-03-03.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link) (50.3 KB)
- inTERRAgation.com—A documentary project. Collecting and evaluating answers to "the meaning of life" from around the world.
- The God Contention—Comparing various worldviews, faiths, and religions through the eyes of their advocates.
- Cole, Graham A., Do Christians have a Worldview? A paper examining the concept of worldview as it relates to and has been used by Christianity. Contains a helpful annotated bibliography.
- World View article on the Principia Cybernetica Project
- Pogorskiy, E. (2015). Using personalisation to improve the effectiveness of global educational projects. E-Learning and Digital Media, 12(1), 57–67.
- Worldviews – An Introduction from Project Worldview
- "Studies on World Views Related to Science" (list of suggested books and resources) from the American Scientific Affiliation (a Christian perspective)
- Eugene Webb, Worldview and Mind: Religious Thought and Psychological Development. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2009.
- Benjamin Gal-Or, “Cosmology, Physics and Philosophy”, Springer Verlag, 1981, 1983, 1987, ISBN 0-387-90581-2, ISBN 0-387-96526-2.
- Беляев И.А. Человек и его мироотношение. Сообщение 1. Мироотношение и мировоззрение / И.А. Беляев // Политематический сетевой электронный научный журнал Кубанского государственного аграрного университета (Научный журнал КубГАУ) [Электронный ресурс]. – Краснодар: КубГАУ, 2011. – №09(73). С. 310 – 319. – Режим доступа: http://ej.kubagro.ru/2011/09/pdf/29.pdf (https://elibrary.ru/item.asp?id=17087744).