In the clip above offering comments about worldview definition, Dr. Jim Hall (former head of the Philosophy Department and James Thomas Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus, at the University of Richmond) says that worldviews encompass or touch on everything, and that religious views can be more limited. Of course, there are religions that present comprehensive worldviews in and of themselves, though the two words worldview and religion are quite distinct. As mentioned in the last blog post, we will often be focusing on definitional discussions in our conversations about worldview and related issues.
We will also be repeating that our purpose at PC is to do some of the hard work for you, so that you can focus, to quote Dr. Evil, like a laser beam on your own point of view and do the high-level thinking with more efficiency. Also, we won’t “hide the ball” of any knowledge that we uncover, nor try to reinvent wheels when we see darn good ones out there that are moving us well down the worldview freeway.
With that in mind, in this second post concerning worldview definition, we believe it’s in our mutual best interests simply to quote verbatim an excellent and very direct presentation of an answer to the question, “What is a worldview?”
A worldview – or a “world-and-life view,” as some people call it – is the structure of understanding that we use to make sense of our world. Our worldview is what we presuppose. It is our way of looking at life, our interpretation of the universe, our orientation to reality. It is the “comprehensive framework of our basic belief about things,” or “the set of hinges on which all our everyday thinking and doing turns.” More complexly,
a worldview is 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 constitution of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being.
Ideally, a worldview is a well-reasoned framework of beliefs and convictions that help us see the big picture, giving a true and unified perspective on the meaning of human existence. Alternatively, we could say that our worldview is the story we tell to answer questions like these: Why is there anything at all? How can we know for sure? How did we get here, and what are we here for, anyway? Why have things gone so badly wrong? Is there any hope of fixing them? What should I do with my life? And where will it all end?
Not all worldviews are equally systematic or equally comprehensive. Often there is a difference between the worldview that we think we have and the one we actually live – our functional as opposed to our theoretical worldview. Worldviews can also change according to circumstance.
The quotation above is taken from Philip Graham Ryken’s Christian Worldview: A Student’s Guide (2013). In the excerpt above, Dr. Ryken quotes other leading thinkers on worldview, including Dr. James W. Sire’s often cited definition of worldview (indented beginning “a worldview is a commitment . . .”).
We provide this long quotation from Dr. Ryken’s short book because his words offer as full, yet concise, a description of worldview as we have found. Of course, as you might have gathered, these words do assume their own worldview (one obvious presupposition: truth exists and is knowable), which is arguably unavoidable give that Dr. Ryken is a human being. (Please see our posts to come touching on who has worldviews.)
In any case, these words are extremely valuable, and they’re applicable to most worldviews and human circumstances with which we’re familiar.
And while these words deserve their own breakdown, comment, or, as they say in university-speak, “unpacking,” we’ll put them mostly aside for now, as we did with the two much shorter definitions presented in the first post of this three-part series, with the exception of Dr. Sire’s (as quoted by Dr. Ryken) one passing comment on the phrase describing worldview as an “orientation of the heart.”
Contrary to popular belief (to the extent worldview thinking is popular at all), worldviews are not the products of reason alone. Nowhere close. In fact, we will be hotly debating this chicken or egg with the rest of the armchair and certified philosophers out there in our own regular people’s space of everyday life, Analytical “La La Land.” (Go Sebastian and Mia!)
Worldviews are very much functions of emotion, feeling, desire, “romance,” and personal experiences themselves from our earliest moments in life. In fact, one authority has suggested the metaphor that worldview is more than the “conceptual lens” through which we see ourselves and our world, but instead, our eyeballs themselves.
We’ll elaborate extensively on this important “lens versus eyeballs” issue in coming months, and we hope even years. It suggests several battlegrounds that philosophers and theologians have ruminated and quarreled over for centuries.
In our next Circling post, we will return to the two simpler definitions introduced in the Part I post (9/12/18) to make some important final introductory points and also to augment the more extensive definitional treatment just presented.