Dr. Charles Mathewes’ Personal Page
One of the services Praxis Circle provides its viewers is doing the really tough, dirty, nasty, hard work for them. We get knee deep in all of this worldview content, so you don’t have to. Our viewers have the luxury of being able to recline in their lounge chairs on Saturday and Sunday mornings with a coffee, while they consider the best worldview material that quasi-normal people might want to understand.
To elaborate, in a recent post on April 22, 2020, about whether there might be life after death, we presented a chart at the bottom of that blog page that we’d researched for many years. Our document study typically involves our extensive organizational library, institutional libraries, and the Internet. The picture below shows a stack of books from the Praxis Circle library that focuses just on the worldview concept itself. It doesn’t include the hundreds of other books we have that elaborate on particular worldview subjects at every level. One of the reasons we like the subject is that it actually relates to every other subject there is, so that’s quite a lot of subjects.
As we’ve noted in the past, many though not all of the best writers about the worldview subject itself are Christians, though every writer is commenting on worldview in some way. “How could that be?” you say. “And the reason is?”
It’s simple. The West cares about reason and truth, and early on, probably when the first few thousands of Christians were first being persecuted, they determined they were playing a worldview game. Of course, that game is reality, and, as the philosophers like to say today, you can make up whatever rules you want, grasshopper, but “the game must be played.”
In sum on this point, if you’re interested, we can help you sift through these books to find one or several you might like in that pile or elsewhere without having to experience the same mental pain & suffering we get paid so well for. Like Christians of old, we would also enjoy getting recommendations from our pleasant viewers to make sure our library is complete and stays up-to-date. We work very hard on that, too, and several of the books in the picture here were recommended by Member-viewers.
Since the April 22 post just mentioned, our CrackerJack research group has refined the chart presented there and produced the one below. We will not comment much on it here, but we will be referring back to it over and over again in the future. In addition, we have a more detailed chart backing it up with more explanatory power that will be provided later this year.
The chart above continues to include The Praxis Circle Eight Pillars of Worldview, though the pillars have changed with Space and Time being consolidated into Space/Time and World being added. On that chart’s first near-final draft, we had included World in the Space category, but, by our time-to-publish deadline this time, we determined that animals and extreme environmentalists would call us out, and justifiably so. Therefore, we decided to make the change because, while not worried about the World or universe since they and animals know we love them to the maximum, our neighborhood’s extreme environmentalists do not.
With a big tent, therefore, in mind, we kept eight pillars because we believe that Athena, being the goddess of wisdom, courage, civilization, law and justice, strategic warfare, mathematics, strength, strategy, the arts, and skill, just to name a few, liked the Parthenon where her beautiful statue stood for hundreds of years. Of course, as we pointed out in our April 22 post, the Parthenon has eight pillars at its entrance. So, though we might get it wrong on occasion, at least we are consistent. In the end, we hope you would agree with the ancient Athenians that Athena is worth getting excited about.
As an aside, we also want to report that everyone who took the April 22 quiz passed, and each person received a distance learning graduation certificate. It’s not that hard. You take the test; you get the certificate. Interestingly, our social media people said the C-19 Crisis might have helped with the turnout.
Moving on, the other thing we added in the chart above relative to last time is the three columns that indicate the Three Basic Worldviews, hinting at how the Eight Pillars come together to create each worldview and how they relate. Often the books stacked in the picture above Athena mention seven or eight worldview categories, but we believe that’s too many for us and our audience to remember, unless they’re actually in high school or college. Besides, three is another good number that the ancients liked very much, too.
The chart divides worldviews into its columns based on “mind versus matter,” a duality that often goes by other names, such as spiritual versus material or supernatural versus natural. Assuming one believes in truth, what the substance(s) of reality are is the source of much disagreement in public debate. We picked mind versus matter because it’s easiest for the most people to understand, and it brings us all in the West closest together in meaning. That last thought needs explanation, but we’ll save it for another time.
Please note, also, right up front, though, that there is much disagreement over what mind or matter or those other phrases might mean or signify. Some see such categories as illusions and some as the same with different hues. Matter itself is often divided by materialists into matter, energy, mind, or “memes.” The point is that whole books get written about these “small” issues, and we just want you to know we are aware of them. We will not remind you again that we are incurring the pain of reading them for you. Our concluding thought here? We want all to finish their doughnuts in peace.
And just to take this off the table right now: We deliberately named the middle column Dualism to confound those who smugly like to say, “Little Johnny is dualist. Isn’t he silly-stupid?” Or, “That’s so Cartesian. Renes Descartes just didn’t get it.”
Whenever we hear things like that, we can be certain that all he or she is doing is revealing his or her own worldview and trying to force us to agree. Why? Because because whenever two people agree there might exist a Category A and B in the world, there is usually also another Category available in Nature, but at least in the Mind, called “A and B.”
Yes, Descartes did not get everything right in the minds of many philosophers and theologians today, some who are Praxis Circle Contributors, but he got quite a lot right, as well, and certainly did much to usher in “modern” – not a word favorite of ours – Western philosophy and theology. In sum, we’re labeling worldviews that include mind and matter in reality Dualism here, and that’s all we’re doing. Furthermore, as we will show in posts soon to come, every worldview is dualistic in many ways, particularly Mindism and Matterism.
Our final opening comment on the Three Basic Worldviews chart for now is that there inevitably will be disagreement about how we describe or categorize each worldview, and we would love to discuss with anyone why we put the puzzle pieces together in each case the way we did. As you will see again by the end of this post, ideas rarely fit neatly into boxes, especially once humans get going telling their often-outlandish stories.
It’s funny, elites today don’t believe in what they call cap T Truth most of the time, especially the postmodernists, so why do they labor on their Power Point presentations and books at all?
Well, we’ll have much more on postmodernism soon, being under the category of Matterism, when we’ll try to get the subject back on the worldview reservation. Having said that, we hope now that you nihilists will not feel the need to keep calling our land-line and leaving off-color messages.
In this post we’re finally at the point of introducing our newest Praxis Circle Expert Contributor, Dr. Charles Mathewes, a professor of Religious Studies at UVA. We were introduced to Dr. Mathewes through The Great Courses , specifically his fascinating series entitled Why Evil Exists and Books That Matter: The City of God. We highly recommend both of these lecture series, and his books listed on his Personal Page linked above. Dr. Mathewes is an Augustine scholar, which means he is a scholar of Western worldview, since all roads in Europe and the Americas one way or another up to the 21st century lead through him. As many of you know, other than St. Paul, St. Augustine did more to set the course of Western worldview in that Dualist column above than any other person.
The best way to describe Dr. Mathewes is that he is a terrific guy who has led a really fascinating life. He understands that it’s unfair that he gets paid for being able to teach Cavalier students and dwell in subjects he loves. You know, he’s the type of teacher that makes schools like UVA great, the type that stands out to students after graduation as having made a big impact on their lives. Anyone who has attended a top university has had this type of a teacher, thinker, and researcher-writer, and we remain grateful to them for the duration.
In our post on April 30, 2020 the point is made, however awkwardly by the author, that if you do want to believe there is evil in the world, you are probably going to have to start your investigation with Human Beings. Most certainly there’s a much bigger story than that, but that’s nonetheless where the investigation probably should begin.
The April 22 author went head-first into the subject of evil on his first post, as he told us, because it’s quite a central topic to any worldview, much like other big issues, such as truth. And, again, much like truth, some people don’t believe in evil at all, which we’ve already suggested, though most people do and define it to suit.
Our observation is that discussions about evil have increased gradually since about the 1990’s. The reason for this would be that “evil being real” might have been the primary takeaway from the 20th century. To cap it off, Americans received a tragic message on September 11, 2001, which, of course, was the 9/11 evil-doers’ intent. By the way, please see Dr. Hall’s comments about human intent and freedom at the bottom of this post. That clip is a PC Classic.
What Dr. Mathewes does so well concerning the topic is put it into its various contexts, so we can begin thinking about it if so desired. His Great Courses lectures do that, as does the clip above from our interview. In that video he introduces three ways to think about evil that go across all Three Basic Worldviews shown in our chart, covering the whole earth now filled with human beings. But we know there’s one more matter concerning our charted worldview scheme for those of you who’ve studied it.
“Alright, if evil’s so important,” you’re thinking, “why isn’t it on the worldview chart as a Pillar?” Isn’t it often a worldview pillar in other commonly recognized schemes?
Well, of course, it is and this is a great question.
However, we place it in the Morality category (like Ethics, though not the same word) because evil concerns good, too. Morality deals with how individuals and groups, often systematically, shape behavior to maximize good and minimize evil. Knowing that, evil becomes a “good” place to start when thinking about human beings and worldview because it’s got quite a lot of currency in feelings and emotion, which tends to define everything else. Some believe humans are born with, inherit, develop, or are given somehow such a moral sense, and these believers inhabit all three of the Basic Worldviews outlined above.
With that in mind and to end here, we would like to ask you this follow-up question, “To which of the Seven other Pillars does the topic of Evil relate?”
We want to be fair and good like Dr. Mathewes here, so in contrast to the quiz we administered at the bottom of the April 22 post, we’ll give you a can’t miss hint: It’s the same answer that won the degree in the April 22 post.
You can pretty quickly see that all eight of these Pillars and subtopics like evil are related, and that the task for those who believe Athena is special is to get your worldview story straight around, between, and among them. You can enter the Parthenon from any direction, but you’ll be challenged in every direction, once you’re there.
Finally, please enjoy Dr. Mathewes’ interview. You can skim over his interview clips on his Personal Page to find other videos that address evil or other topics, often related, such as the other big one we just mentioned, the topic of good. We’ll be coming back to Dr. Mathewes many times.
And as far as Q goes?
Trust us, based on long and rather difficult personal experience, if you can’t beat him, join him.