Praxis Circle interviews cover a range of worldview topics ranging from politics, philosophy, religion, and beyond. Below are some featured clips and the transcript from our interview with Contributor James Hall, former head of the Philosophy Department at the University of Richmond. As a disclaimer, the opinions in these clips do not necessary reflect the opinions of Praxis Circle and should simply be considered food for thought.
You can watch his full interview by clicking here.
How do we acquire a worldview?
Everybody’s got some kind of worldview. Everybody. You’re born with it. Well, you’re probably not born with it, but you acquire it with your language. You acquire it with your childhood environment. You acquire it by mimicry, from how the people around you communicate with one another and what they do and how they do it and why they say they do it. It’s just part of the atmosphere. In that sense, everybody’s got one way or another of sort of taking it in. This is how I see things.
That is not always pursued reflectively. People often will live out, I think, a life with that inherited worldview, lowercase w, without ever really coming to grips with whether it has any gaps or whether it leaves anything out or whether it’s misleading or anything of the sort. It’s just, that’s the way we do things in Richmond. As they say, it takes 11 people to change a light bulb in Richmond, one to actually turn the bulb and 10 others to talk about how much better the old one was. You can get stuck at that level.
But on the other hand, you don’t have to. And that’s a kind of… And I’m not going to grace it with saying that’s philosophy, that would be pretentious, but that’s reflection. That’s using your mind. That’s observing. That’s taking what you observe into account. We talked about my grandfather earlier on, the doctor. He said something to me a hundred times, “Jim, if you don’t observe, you will never learn anything.” And that stuck. He also said a lot of other things that didn’t stick, but that’s neither here nor there.
What is a worldview versus a religion?
Let me start with worldview. I think the distinguishing thing about a real worldview, and I hope we will come back to the notion that I want to say, and I don’t want to pursue it right now, but I think we can deal with the notion of a worldview at two levels, the level I want to deal with it right now, a real worldview would be all-encompassing. A real worldview would have something to say about every facet and dimension of whatever world it is we’re dealing with. So, I think a worldview is much less specialized than religion. That’s one difference between the two. I think religion focuses typically on a rather narrower set of questions.
Usually, religion’s going to focus very heavily on morality values, mores, many different ways to call it. But let me put it this way a little bit harshly, religion typically, priestly tradition and all of that focuses very heavily on maintaining and keeping traditions, whatever those traditions may be. And one of the ways they do that is by elevating those traditions and the symbolic presentations of those traditions into objects of veneration and indeed even worship. And as someone once said sometimes called God and sometimes not. Religion does not necessarily involve calling anything “god” at all… witness Buddhists.
What is a paradigm versus a worldview?
Now, it’s come to be with the passage of time that people talk about paradigm shifts and they talk about various different things. And they’re pretty much using these days, I think, the word paradigm and the capital W, Worldview all-encompassing picture of the world, as sort of interchangeable labels and that’s okay. But I think it’s very useful to have that tighter sense that Kuhn had, of a paradigm as being a very precise kind of prism through which we’re looking when we do our work, that makes it much easier to answer questions that are constantly being put, in questions that I deal with at length in practically profound about how paradigms change.
Because a paradigm, say for science, that has a set of givens, they’re just given. If something comes down, so to speak, out of the sky and it just doesn’t fit, it won’t work, then you change. You just have to, and it may be a bloody process, but moving from the earth as a center of the universe to a heliocentric view of our particular neighborhood of the universe was, pardon in the bad pun, it was earth shaking and it was disruptive, but it was possible. Of course, it was possible, it happened and things that are impossible don’t happen. So paradigm shifts do occur usually at some cost.
To read more Praxis Circle content with Contributor James Hall:
What is a Worldview? Part II of III
The Road to Reason Series (I of VI) – The Scarecrow and Reason’s Tools