Exploring Worldviews

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—Challenging our deeply embedded assumptions

Introduction[edit]

We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are.

Each of us holds a set of basic assumptions about how the world works. For example, is it more likely that[1]:

  • We live in a material world that can ultimately be described by scientific findings, or is there a spiritual and mystical world that exists outside the reach of science?
  • All humans are created as equals, or intrinsic differences among various castes, races, or genders require unequal treatment of humans?
  • Scientific methods provide the most reliable ways of knowing, or religious faith and divine revelation are the true paths toward knowing?
  • Evidence provided by relevant experts is more reliable that evidence provided by authorities, or the views expressed by authorities must be obeyed?
  • Man belongs to the world or the world belongs to man.[2] For example, do humans have an obligation to conserve earth’s natural resources, or was Earth put here for humans to exploit for our own needs?
  • God was created by man, or man was created by God?
  • Sexual activity among consenting adults is fun, or sexual activity is dirty, or shameful, or somehow sacred?
  • Meaning comes from what I do, or God gives life its meaning?
  • I am largely ignorant and approach the world from a position of curiosity, doubt, and humility, or I am expert, certain, and confident?
  • By nature, humans are morally good, or humans are morally evil?

Poet Anaïs Nin observed,[3] “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” What assumptions shape how we see the world? Are we aware of these assumptions, or are they so fundamental to who we are that they remain unknown even to us? Are these assumptions well founded and helpful? How might we see things differently if we presumed things differently? Are our assumptions good representations of reality? Are these assumptions helpful; do they contribute to our well-being?

Objectives[edit]

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The objectives of this course are to:

  • Discover the assumptions[4] we hold about how the world works,
  • Consider alternative assumptions,
  • Examine the factual basis for those assumptions,
  • Challenge our assumptions,
  • Dislodge our misconceptions,
  • Gain agility in adopting a variety of viewpoints,
  • Revise our worldview to better align with reality.

The course contains many hyperlinks to further information. Use your judgment and these link following guidelines to decide when to follow a link, and when to skip over it.

This course is part of the Applied Wisdom curriculum and of the Clear Thinking curriculum.

If you wish to contact the instructor, please click here to send me an email or leave a comment or question on the discussion page.

There are no prerequisites to this course and all students are welcome. Students may benefit from completing the courses on Facing Facts and Evaluating Evidence before beginning this course.

We hope that exploring your worldview through this course will be exciting, enlightening, transformative, and beneficial. However, challenging or disconfirming your deeply-held worldview can shake your world, upset your sense of reality, and literally be a world shattering experience.[5] Please consider your openness to exploring your worldview before proceeding further with this course.

Assignment[edit]

The purpose of this optional assignment is to demonstrate the concept of a worldview, and illustrate a method of exploring, assessing, and perhaps revising a deeply-held but overlooked worldview.

  1. Read the book Ishmael.[6]
  2. Does your worldview align more closely with that of the narrator/teacher or that of the student in this story?
  3. Did the book change your worldview?
  4. Students who have completed the Wikiversity course on Socratic Methods may wish to use Socratic Methods to explore the various questions posed throughout this course.

Worldviews[edit]

Available evidence is filtered through our confirmation biases and interpreted through our worldview.

Worldviews are sets of beliefs and assumptions that describe reality. A worldview is a way of describing the universe and life within it, both in terms of what is and what ought to be. Worldviews represent a person’s or a culture’s answers to fundamental existential questions.[7]

Each person holds some worldview as their fundamental cognitive orientation toward their entirety of knowledge and point of view. Each person’s worldview is a comprehensive set of opinions, seen as a coherent whole, about what the world is, how the world works, and the nature of human existence. Our worldview serves as a framework for generating various dimensions of human perception and experience like knowledge, politics, economics, religion, culture, science, and ethics. Our worldview may consist of assumptions so basic and unexamined that it may go unnoticed, even though it is frequently used as the basis for forming beliefs and making decisions. Our worldview may include assumptions regarding basic human nature, the creation of the earth, the origins of biodiversity, the relationships of cause and effect, the nature of good and evil, trustworthiness of government, the reliability of science, the role of religion, basic moral principles, basic scientific principles, and other foundational assumptions.

A recursive or positive feedback loop exists between our current beliefs and our confirmation biases that creates and sustains our worldview. In the absence of a worldview and confirmation bias, our current beliefs would be based heavily, if not entirely, on the most recent, relevant, and reliable evidence we have been exposed to. However our beliefs accumulate over time to form our worldview. At the same time our worldview is influencing how we interpret each new piece of evidence. Our beliefs and worldviews inform our confirmation bias, which selects, ignores, emphasizes, discounts, and interprets each new piece of evidence in ways that tend to confirm our existing beliefs.

Deeply Embedded[edit]

Our worldviews are deeply embedded within us. They are mental habits that form an important part of our identity. We are typically unaware of our worldviews, and they resist change.

A worldview is a habit of thinking.[8] A worldview, as with any habitual behavior, often goes unnoticed by the person holding it because we do not need to engage in self-analysis while undertaking routine perceptions, interpretations, and assessments. Habits are sometimes compulsory. Old habits are hard to break and new habits are hard to form because the behavioral patterns we repeat are imprinted in our neural pathways. Fortunately it is possible to form new habits through conscious choice and repetition.

A worldview can be thought of as comprising a number of basic beliefs which are philosophically equivalent to the axioms of the worldview considered as a logical theory. These basic beliefs cannot, by definition, be proven (in the logical sense) within the worldview precisely because they are axioms, and are typically argued from rather than argued for.[9] However the coherence of these beliefs can be explored philosophically and logically.

In the same way fish are unaware of the water they live in, we are unaware of the worldview we live in.

Your worldview is your life’s operating system. You carry forward within a set of design decisions—in this case basic beliefs about how the world works—that has been previously made and do not change going forward. In the same way fish are unaware of the water they live in, we are unaware of the worldview we live in. Often the myth you cannot name is the myth you are living.

Although we are typically unaware of our worldviews, they greatly influence our perceptions, our beliefs, our opinions, our decisions, and our behaviors. When evidence exists that is inconsistent with your worldview, that evidence is often simply unseen.[10] When we encounter people holding worldviews quite different from our own, we are quickly aware of those differences. We may become puzzled, wonder “what are they thinking?” become frustrated, and eventually agree to disagree. No doubt they have similar thoughts about us.

Your worldview is an important part of your identity. When people introduce themselves by saying “I am a scientist”, or “I am a capitalist” or “I am a Christian” they are identifying themselves by naming an important aspect of their worldview. Contrast a statement such as: “many of my beliefs align with Christian religious doctrine” with the statement: “I am a Christian”. The first statement describes beliefs, the second statement establishes an identity, not “I believe” but rather “I am”.

Because our worldviews are an important part of our identity, they are difficult to change.

It is likely that some worldviews are more beneficial than others. The more closely your worldview reflects the world as it actually is, the more accurately and objectively you can assess evidence as you encounter it. Worldviews that help to promote well-being of yourself and others are more useful than those that do not. It is wise to determine if your worldview helps you seek real good, and to reassess and realign it if it does not.

Consider the worldview of a person who is addicted to smoking. Because the dangers of smoking are well documented, an informed, rational, and objective cognitive evaluation of the behavior will assess it as irrational. However, because the behavior continues, it must be consistent in some way with the worldview. This illustrates that worldview beliefs are often so closely held that they are difficult to reach or change through rational analysis.[11]

Vocabulary[edit]

The English language provides several words that describe various degrees of certainty and attachment to a particular position, opinion, or belief. These words include: advocate, always thought, assert, assume, assumption, axiom, believe, claim, conjecture, consider, declare, deem, determine, doubt, estimate, fact, false, feel, guess, hint, hypothesis, infer, know, knowledge, law, opinion, posit, postulate, prefer, presume, presumption, proclaim, proffer, prove, propose, suggest, suppose, supposition, suspect, take for granted, theory, thesis, think, true, truth, venture, and others.

The various beliefs and assumptions that comprise your worldview are likely:

  1. Deeply embedded,
  2. Typically unstated,
  3. Defended more often than they are scrutinized,
  4. So automatic and habitual they often go unnoticed; you may not even be aware of them, and
  5. Relied upon so often for so long you have come to believe them strongly, perhaps without even questioning them or seeking evidence for or against each belief.

The question arises: What word best describes the level of awareness, commitment, and certainty of each belief comprising a worldview? It is not clear that any commonly used English language word accurately characterizes this particular combination of scrutiny and certainty.

The words "assume" and "presume" both mean to take something for granted as true. The difference is in the degree of certainty. A presumption is usually more authoritative than an assumption. To presume is to make an informed guess based on reasonable evidence, while to assume is to make a guess based on little or no evidence.[12] A presumption is based on your assessment of some probability the claim is true; an assumption is based on no evidence.[13]

Care is taken throughout this course to use these words accurately. The words “presume” and “presumption” will be used most often to characterize a worldview belief, despite its imperfect fit. No doubt errors have been made in choosing the best word.

Assignment[edit]

The purpose of this assignment is to bring elements of your worldview into your awareness, encourage you to think critically about each element of your worldview, consider a wide range of alternative positions, describe well-considered positions for each element of your worldview, and become more flexible, tolerant, and agile in considering a variety of worldviews.

Just as we have both good and bad habits, various elements of our worldviews may be helpful or harmful to us. Habits operate below our awareness, bad habits are notoriously difficult to break, and unhelpful worldviews are similarly difficult to bring into awareness, evaluate objectively, and change. Keeping these these challenges in mind, the purpose of this lengthy, demanding, and rewarding assignment is to consciously identify, challenge, and assess various dimensions of our worldview.

The structure of the dimensions addressed in this assignment is based on the Collated Model of Worldview, Grouped Dimensions and Options, appearing as Table 2 in the reference cited.[14] The model was created by studying a large number of worldview characterizations, and then collecting them into a single aggregate model. This approach favors completeness over parsimony; the model is large and contains many dimensions to consider. Your worldview may not be well represented even by this extensive model. Use this as a starting point to explore how your worldview was formed, how it works and how it evolves.

Because of the extent and depth of the Collated Model this assignment is based on, the assignment is very long. Many students will be challenged to complete the assignment fully and in depth. Please give careful thought to how you can best approach this assignment to gain the most value from it. One approach might be to read through the assignment quickly from start to finish, decide what worldview dimensions are most meaningful to you, and focus on those few dimensions to study in depth. Another approach might be to savor the assignment and work on it over an extended period of time. You might consider one dimension each day, or each week, or each month and spend ample time reflecting on the questions raised. You might even choose a particularly provocative question from in the assignment as the focus for meditation sessions or discussion topics. Consider the various elements of this assignment in any order that works well for you. Skip around to consider the elements that you are most interested in at any particular time. Start with the easy ones, or start with the difficult ones or start anywhere you find interesting or useful.

Socrates warned that “the unexamined life is not worth living”. This assignment provides ample opportunity to examine your life. Please make all of this opportunity that you can. If you do your best, regardless of how far you take the assignment, you will learn from it, and you can take comfort in knowing you have made a wise choice.

Black and white thinking excludes the most beautiful parts of our world.

Most dimensions in this assignment are starkly represented by naming the two poles at the extremes spanned by that dimension. For example, the dimension of “moral orientation” is represented by the two opposite poles of “good” and “evil”. While this characterization is effective in illustrating and differentiating the dimension, it can easily lead to the incorrect conclusion that only the extreme polar positions exist. Such simplistic polarized thinking is inaccurate and omits the middle ground and the many nuances that accurately represent our complex world. The world includes a full range of beautiful colors and many shades of gray in addition to black and white. Please carefully consider the fertile middle ground that exists between the poles named to characterize each dimension. Avoid false dilemmas, and polarized thinking as you explore your worldview.

Throughout the assignment the student is asked to support or challenge existing presumptions based on reliable evidence. Completing the Wikiversity courses on Facing Facts and Evaluating Evidence can help prepare you to interpret evidence reliably.

Human Nature[edit]

Please reflect on your beliefs about human nature. Consider the basic moral orientation or tendency of human beings.

  • What evidence supports the presumption that humans are morally good?
  • What evidence supports the presumption that humans are morally evil?
  • What evidence supports the presumption that humans are sometimes morally good, and sometimes, morally evil?
  • Consider completing the Wikiversity course on moral virtue.
  • What statement can you make about the moral virtue of humans that best reflects your current understanding of human nature?

Please also consider:

  • How did you arrive at this statement?
  • Considering the statement's correspondence with reality, how confident are you in the accuracy of this statement?
  • How do you know?
  • How attached are you to this statement?
  • What is the basis for that attachment?
  • What might cause you to revise this statement?

Although the six questions asked above will not be repeated for each of the dimensions explored in this assignment, students are encouraged to consider these questions for each element of this assignment.

Continuing to reflect on human nature, consider how easily or how difficult it is to change your own behavior, or to change the behavior of another person.

  • Please read this essay on How can you change another person?
  • Please read this essay on What You Can Change and What You Cannot.
  • What evidence supports each of the various presumptions that humans are:
    • changeable?, resistant to change; their behavior follows permanent patterns?, sometimes changeable and sometimes resistant to change?
  • What statement about the how easily humans change their behavior best reflects your current understanding of human nature?

Continuing to reflect on human nature, consider the simplicity of human nature as compared to its complexity.

  • What evidence supports each of the various presumptions that human nature is:
    • simple?, complex?, sometimes simple and sometimes complex?
  • What statement best reflects your understanding of the complexity of human nature?

Human Will[edit]

Please reflect on the willfulness of human actions.

Begin by considering whether human beings have free will and choose between different possible courses of action, or alternatively humans live under the conditions of determinism, wherein all behavior is determined in one way or another by conditions that could cause no other event.

  • What evidence supports the presumption that humans act with volition and have free will?
  • What evidence supports the presumption that human actions are determined by preexisting conditions that could cause no other event?
  • What statement best reflects your understanding of the nature of human agency—the flexibility humans have in choosing courses of action?

Continuing to reflect on the willfulness of human actions, consider what factors determine human will. Is nature, or nurture (biologic or environmental factors) the primary determinant of human will?

  • What evidence supports the presumption that inhered traits, including genetic factors and other biological conditions determine human behavior?
  • What evidence supports the presumption that environmental factors, including social factors determine human behavior?
  • What statement best reflects your understanding of the role of biologic factors and environmental factors in determining human will?

Continuing to reflect on the willfulness of human actions, consider whether behavior is primarily chosen rationally and consciously or behavior usually has its roots in irrational or unconscious sources.

  • What evidence supports the presumption human behavior is chosen rationally and consciously?
  • What evidence supports the presumption human behavior has its roots in irrational sources operating below the level of consciousness and awareness?
  • What statement can you make that best reflects your understanding of the role of rational, conscious thought compared to irrational or unconscious sources in determining human behavior?

Human Cognition[edit]

Please reflect on human cognition—the way we acquire knowledge and understanding through experience, and the senses.

Consider completing the Wikiversity course on Knowing How You Know.

How do humans reliably acquire knowledge? Consider evidence pertaining to the reliability of each of the following methods for attaining and verifying knowledge:

  • Authority,
  • Tradition,
  • Senses,
  • Rationality—logical processes not including observation,
  • Science—systematic observation,
  • Intuition,
  • Divination,
  • Revelation,
  • There are no reliable sources of knowledge

Which of the methods listed above are reliable? Which are unreliable? Which are reliable only in some situations?

What statement can you make that best reflects your assessment of reliable methods for attaining and verifying knowledge?

Now consider the role of consciousness—awareness—regarding thoughts and the mind. Consider the possibility that the true essence of the human being is not contained within you, the personal ego. This “refers to the experience of a loss of sense of self while consciousness is nevertheless maintained. The loss of self is commonly experienced as an absorption into something greater than the mere empirical ego”.[15] Also, “Perception can be relatively ego-transcending, self-forgetful, egoless”.[16] In terms of a worldview, this becomes the mystical notion that the person is not defined by the self-actualized ego but is, in an ultimate sense, identified with a transcendent All.[17]

  • Study the module on Enlightenment in the Wikiversity course on What Matters.
  • Consider the evidence supporting the presumption that the highest state of human consciousness occurs within yourself (the context of cognition is within you, referred to as ego primacy) as you continue to be aware of yourself.
  • Consider the evidence supporting the presumption that the highest state of human consciousness transcends the ego and occurs outside you in what are described as peak experiences or mystical experiences.
  • What statement can you make that best reflects your understanding of the nature of the highest state of human consciousness?

Human Behavior[edit]

Please reflect on human behavior.

Consider how people focus on time and how they orient attention toward time. Consider the saliency of the past, present, and future.

  • What evidence supports the presumption that humans focus primarily on the past, where tradition and stability are valued?
  • What evidence supports the presumption that humans focus primarily on the present, while living in the moment?
  • What evidence supports the presumption that humans focus primarily on the future, where future rewards and planning are emphasized?
  • What statement can you make that best reflects your understanding of the time orientation of human behavior?

Continuing to reflect on human behavior, consider the direction in which people primarily focus their activities.

  • What evidence supports the presumption that the focus of human activities is primarily inward toward qualities such as affect, personality attributes, and spirituality?
  • What evidence supports the presumption that the focus of human activities is primarily outward toward qualities such as achievements and possessions?
  • What statement can you make that best reflects your understanding of the activity direction of human behavior?

Still reflecting on human behavior, consider the direction in which people primarily derive satisfaction.

  • What evidence supports the each of the various presumptions that activities related to attaining human satisfaction are oriented toward:
    • movement resulting in improvements or changes?, stasis, preserving and enjoying the present situation?
  • What statement can you make that best reflects your understanding of the activity satisfaction of human behavior?

Still reflecting on human behavior, consider the source of moral guidelines.

  • Consider completing the Wikiversity course on Living the Golden Rule.
  • Consider reading the book The Moral Landscape, by Sam Harris
  • What evidence supports the each of the various presumptions that:
    • humans are the source of moral guidelines?, the source of moral guidelines transcends human society and originates with a divine being or source?
  • What statement can you make that best reflects your understanding of the sources of moral guidance?

Continuing to reflect on moral behavior, consider the standards of moral guidance.

  • What evidence supports each of the various presumptions that:
    • moral standards are absolute?, moral standards are relative and vary based on time, culture, or situation?
  • What statement can you make that best reflects your understanding of the standards of moral guidance?

Reflecting further on moral behavior, consider the personal relevance of society’s moral guidelines.

  • What evidence supports each of the various presumptions that society’s moral guidelines are:
    • personally relevant?, personally irrelevant?, sometimes personally relevant and sometimes personally irrelevant?
  • What statement can you make that best reflects your understanding of the personal relevance of society’s moral guidelines?

Reflect on the various factors that determine outcomes in your life.

Consider the evidence pertaining to the importance of each of the following sources have in controlling outcomes in your life:

  • Action—The actions you deliberately take such as your work and effort,
  • Personality—Your personal charm or style,
  • Luck—Some people are luckier than others,
  • Chance—Outcomes are random,
  • Fate—Personal destiny,
  • Society—bias, favoritism, prejudice, and
  • Divinity.

What statement can you make that best reflects your assessment of the location of the various factors that control outcomes in your life?

Reflect on the disposition, positive, negative, or neutral of the outcomes in your life.

Consider the evidence pertaining to the disposition of the various factors that are controlling your life outcomes:

  • What evidence supports the presumption that forces are acting to move your life in a positive direction?
  • What evidence supports the presumption that forces are acting to move your life in a negative direction?
  • What evidence supports the presumption that forces are sometimes acting to move your life in a positive direction and sometimes in a negative direction such that the outcome is approximately neutral?
  • What statement can you make that best reflects your understanding of the disposition (positive, negative, or neutral) of the various factors controlling your life outcomes?

Reflect on the types of actions that are effective in creating change in the world.

  • What evidence supports the presumption that direct personal or group action is effective in creating change?
  • What evidence supports the presumption that one can take effective action by means of a supernatural force such as through magic, ritual, sacrament, or prayer?
  • What evidence supports the presumption that there is no effective way to create change?
  • What statement best reflects your understanding of how effective change is created?

Interpersonal Relationships[edit]

Please reflect on your beliefs about the proper or natural characteristics of interpersonal relationships and collectivities—groups of people working together.

Consider people who are very different from you in some way. These others may hold a worldview or values, pursue a lifestyle, or believe things that are in some important way different from the norm in your culture.

  • Consider completing the module on Tolerance in the Wikiversity course on Virtues.
  • What evidence supports the presumption that people who are different from you are not to be tolerated, but should be punished, changed, or exterminated?
  • What evidence supports the presumption that people who are different from you are to be tolerated?
  • What statement best reflects your understanding regarding tolerance toward others?

Continuing to reflect on interpersonal relationships, please consider what forms of authority relations are best or natural.

  • What evidence supports the presumption that a linear relationship, with clearly defined leader and relatively fixed hierarchy wherein authority is exercised in a top down manner is the best or most natural.
  • What evidence supports the presumption that a lateral relationship forming an egalitarian group with rotating or fluid leadership is the best or most natural.
  • What statement best reflects your understanding of the best or most natural relationship to authority?

Continuing to reflect on interpersonal relationships, please consider the natural priority of your personal agenda compared to the agenda of your group, such as family, work group, or social group.

  • What evidence supports the presumption that individualism where the individual’s agenda has priority over the group’s needs is the best or most natural?
  • What evidence supports the presumption collectivism where the group’s agenda has priority over the individual’s personal plans and goals is the best or most natural?
  • What statement best reflects your understanding of the best or most natural relationship of an individual to the group?

Continuing to reflect on interpersonal relationships, please consider the natural priority of the rights, privileges, and prerogatives of your ethnic, religious, or cultural group relative to the rights of other such groups.

  • Consider studying the Wikiversity course on Dignity.
  • What evidence supports the presumption that the rights and prerogatives of your own ethnic, religious, or cultural group are superior to and have priority over those of other human groups?
  • What evidence supports the egalitarian presumption that the rights and prerogatives of one’s own group are essentially equivalent to those of other groups?
  • What evidence supports the presumption that the rights and prerogatives of your own ethnic, religious, or cultural group are inferior to and have priority over those of other human groups?
  • What statement best reflects your understanding of the priority of your group to other such groups?

Continuing to reflect on interrelationships, please consider the relationship of the human species relative to other species that comprise the biosphere.

  • What evidence supports the anthropocentric presumption that the rights and privileges of human beings have priority over nonhuman species?
  • What evidence supports the vivicentric presumption that humans and nonhuman animals share equivalent rights?
  • What statement best reflects your understanding of the priority of human rights to nonhuman animal rights?

Continuing to reflect on interpersonal relationships, please consider the proper primary focus, aim, or purpose of interpersonal sexual activity. For each of the following, consider the evidence pertaining to primary focus, aim, or purpose of interpersonal sexual activity:

  • Procreation,
  • Pleasure,
  • Relationship—sex can be used to strengthen the emotional bond and improve the quality of the relationship between sexual partners,
  • Sacral—the primary purpose of sexual behavior can be to experience a spiritual dimension that transcends the mundane.

What statement can you make that best reflects your assessment of the primary focus, aim, or purpose of interpersonal sexual activity?

Continuing to reflect on interpersonal relationships, please consider the degree of dependence or independence that people naturally display or should display in relation to groups with which they are associated:

  • What evidence supports the presumption that humans are dependent and conform to group pressures?
  • What evidence supports the presumption that humans are independent and act relatively independently from group pressures?
  • What evidence supports the presumption that humans are interdependent and act from within a context of dynamic tension created by group pressures and individual needs?
  • What statement best reflects your understanding of the degree of connection—dependence, independence, or interdependence—that people naturally display or should display in relation to groups with which they are associated?

Continuing to reflect on interpersonal relationships, please consider the extent to which the outcomes of interactions in small groups, families, and couples are just.

  • What evidence supports each of the various presumptions that outcomes of interactions in small groups, families, and couples are:
    • just?, unjust?, random and are neither systematically just nor unjust?
  • What statement best reflects your understanding of the extent to which the outcomes of interactions in small groups, families, and couples are just.

Continuing to reflect on interpersonal relationships, please consider the extent to which the actions of social and political collectivities, operating on a larger scale than small groups, are just.

  • What evidence supports each of the various presumptions that outcomes of social and political collectivities are:
    • just?, unjust?, random and are neither systematically just nor unjust?
  • What statement best reflects your understanding of the extent to which the outcomes of social and political collectivities are just.

Continuing to reflect on interpersonal relationships, please consider the default orientation toward others that you should take in social situations.

  • What evidence supports each of the various presumptions that you should orient yourself toward others from a stance of:
    • competition?, cooperation?, disengagement?
  • What statement best reflects your understanding of the default orientation toward others that you should take in social situations?

Continuing to reflect on interpersonal relationships, please consider the proper attitude to take toward people (such as criminals) who have transgressed an important social standard.

  • What evidence supports the each of the various presumptions that correction should take the form of:
  • What statement best reflects your understanding of the proper approach to corrections?

The Nature of Truth[edit]

Please reflect on your beliefs about the nature of truth—the overarching bodies of doctrine such as a social or cultural beliefs, attitudes, and values, a school of philosophy, a body of religious teaching, a political dogma, or a professional orthodoxy.

Reflect on the degree to which “the Truth” is valid across situations.

  • Consider studying the Wikiversity course Facing Facts.
  • What evidence supports the presumption that truth is universal—“the Truth” is true always and everywhere?
  • What evidence supports the presumption that truth is relative—“the Truth” varies in its accuracy or applicability by situation?
  • What statement best reflects your understanding of the scope of truth?

Reflect on the degree to which you and your group possess an accurate account of the universe.

  • What evidence supports the presumption that you have full possession of the truth? You agree with the statement “We have all that is important to have.”
  • What evidence supports the presumption that you have partial possession of the truth? You agree with the statement “There is much important truth that we do not yet have.”
  • What statement best reflects your understanding of your possession of truth?

Reflect on the degree to which a valid approach to life and knowledge of the world is the exclusive possession of you and your group.

  • What evidence supports the presumption that your knowledge is exclusive and “Only we have the truth”?
  • What evidence supports the presumption that your knowledge is inclusive and “Other people who are very different from us have the truth, too”?
  • What statement best reflects your understanding of the availability of truth?

World and Life[edit]

Please reflect on your beliefs about life, the world, nature, reality, and the universe.

Reflect on what there is—the ontology of the universe.

  • What evidence supports the spiritual presumption that a spiritual dimension to reality exists?
  • What evidence supports the material presumption that nothing exists but ordinary matter and energy?
  • What statement best reflects your understanding what there is in the universe?

Reflect on the creation of the universe and the life within it.

  • Consider reading the book The Evolution of Everything: How Ideas Emerge, by Matt Ridley.
  • What evidence supports each of the various presumptions that the universe and life:
    • came about by chance, without purpose?, are the result of some transcendent plan or purpose?
  • What statement best reflects your understanding of the creation of the cosmos?

Reflect on the nature of reality, as being either a collection of many different and conflicting entities and concepts or a manifestation of an underlying singular reality in which paradoxes and conflicts are transcended.

  • Consider reading the book Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, by E. O. Wilson.
  • What evidence supports the presumption that reality is a collection many different and conflicting entities and concepts?
  • What evidence supports the presumption that all is a manifestation of an underlying singular reality in which paradoxes and conflicts are transcended?
  • What statement best reflects your understanding the unity of reality?

Reflect on the nature of a deity or Supreme Being.

  • Consider studying the Wikiversity course Beyond Theism.
  • What evidence supports the presumption of deism; “God” is an impersonal force.
  • What evidence supports the presumption of theism; “God,” “Gods“, or “Goddesses exist as a personal being or beings.
  • What evidence supports the presumption of agnosticism; we either do not, or in principle cannot, know about the existence of a deity.
  • What evidence supports the presumption of atheism; there is no deity.
  • What statement best reflects your understanding of the nature of a deity or Supreme Being?

Reflect on the possibility of the existence of consciousness within nonhuman “natural” phenomena such as rocks, trees, or the Earth itself.

  • What evidence supports each of the various presumptions that nonhuman “natural” phenomena are:
    • conscious?, not conscious?
  • What statement best reflects your understanding of nature-consciousness?

Reflect on the proper relationship between humanity and the natural world.

  • What evidence supports the presumption that people are at the mercy of nature? (subjugation)
  • What evidence supports the presumption that people are a part of nature and should “work with it”? (Harmony)
  • What evidence supports the presumption that it is humanity’s prerogative to subdue nature? (Mastery)
  • What statement best reflects your understanding of the proper relationship of humans to nature?

Reflect on whether the world as a whole (aside from its sociopolitical aspects) functions in a just manner.

  • What evidence supports each of the various presumptions that the world as a whole is:
    • just?, unjust?, random?
  • What statement best reflects your understanding of the just nature of the world?

Reflect on the sources of principles to follow to further your health and safety.

  • What evidence supports the presumption that your health and safety are best furthered through science-logic sources? In other words, well-being comes about through adherence to principles gleaned from empirical observation, scientific findings, and rational or linear logic.
  • What evidence supports the presumption that your health and safety are best furthered through transcendent sources? In other words well-being comes about through obedience to principles that derive from some source beyond human science or logic, e.g., “divine law” or “the Tao”.
  • What statement best reflects your understanding of the most effective sources of principles to follow to further your well-being?

Reflect on the various ways of explaining the causes behind events in the world.

  • What evidence supports the presumption of formism—explanations are based on class or category membership?
  • What evidence supports the presumption of mechanism—explanations are based on cause-and-effect chains?
  • What evidence supports the presumption organicism— explanations are based on organic processes?
  • What evidence supports the presumption of contextualism—explanations are based on context?
  • What statement best reflects your understanding of the causes behind events in the world?

Reflect on the value of life.

  • What evidence supports the presumption of optimism—that life is worthwhile; social progress and individual fulfillment are possible?
  • What evidence supports the presumption of resignation—that life is inevitably headed for deterioration?
  • What statement best reflects your understanding of the value of life?

Reflect on the purpose of life.

Consider studying the Wikiversity course on What Matters.

Consider the evidence pertaining to the importance of each of the following life purposes:

  • Nihilism—life has no purpose,
  • Survival—including reproduction for its own sake,
  • Pleasure,
  • Recognition (by others),
  • Power,
  • Achievement,
  • Self-Actualization, and
  • Self-transcendence (including service to others)

What statement can you make regarding the importance of various pursuits toward the purpose of life?


Congratulations! You have completed one detailed examination of your worldview. It is probably worthwhile to revisit this assignment and reexamine your thinking on various elements as you continue to go through life and live wisely. It may be helpful to continue to reflect on elements of your worldview that seem particularly important, perhaps because they form a key foundation for your worldview, or because examining them has uncovered provocative and intriguing questions you wish to explore. Savor doubt as you continue to question and explore. Indulge your curiosity, inquisitiveness, and skepticism.

Recognize that all of us perceive the world only though our own powerful cognitive biases. Perhaps every iteration through this assignment can help better align our worldviews with reality, but cognitive bias will continue to influence us each step of the way. Seek to become unfastened from your worldview and learn to flow among various worldviews that could each reasonably represent the full complexity and broad extent of reality as it actually is, not as we wish it to be.[18] Continue to seek real good as you explore various worldviews.

Assignment[edit]

In completing the previous assignment, you have written many statements expressing your understanding, beliefs, and assumptions on important topics. Collect these statements and meld them into a coherent written narrative expressing your worldview.

Read this expression of your worldview critically to identify elements of your worldview that may not accurately reflect reality, or that may not be contributing to a greater well-being. Revisit sections of the assignments in this course when you are ready to reconsider elements of your present worldview. Revise your worldview and your written worldview statement as you continue to become wiser, explore the world, continue to learn, reflect on important topics, and choose to live wisely.

Consider studying the Wikiversity course Knowing How You Know.

Consider studying the Wikiversity course Practicing Dialogue. When engaging in dialogue, notice when it becomes apparent that your worldview differs from that of your dialogue partner. Consider reevaluating the evidence for your worldview compared to the differing worldview of your dialogue partner.

Seek real good.

Further Reading[edit]

Students interested in learning more about exploring worldviews may be interested in the following materials:

References[edit]

  1. As phrased here most of these are presented as false dilemmas. A more nuanced view of the world considers the rich complexity that lies between the polarized views suggested here. Feel free to describe your thoughts on these topics in ways that capture all of the complexity and nuance with which you understand the world.
  2. Quinn, Daniel (May 1, 1995). Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit. Bantam. pp. 263. ISBN 978-0553375404. 
  3. The attribution of this is listed as disputed in the Wikiquote entry on Anaïs_Nin.
  4. See the notes on vocabulary, later in this course.
  5. The Psychology of Worldviews, Mark E. Koltko-Rivera, Review of General Psychology, 2004, Vol. 8, No. 1, 3–58
  6. Quinn, Daniel (May 1, 1995). Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit. Bantam. pp. 263. ISBN 978-0553375404. 
  7. The Psychology of Worldviews, Mark E. Koltko-Rivera, Review of General Psychology, 2004, Vol. 8, No. 1, 3–58
  8. See, for example Kennedy, Sheila (July 1, 2007). God and Country: America in Red and Blue. Baylor University Press. pp. 254. ISBN 978-1932792997.  Page 10.
  9. See e.g. Daniel Hill and Randal Rauser Christian Philosophy A–Z Edinburgh University Press (2006) ISBN 978-0-7486-2152-1 p200
  10. Kennedy, Sheila (July 1, 2007). God and Country: America in Red and Blue. Baylor University Press. pp. 254. ISBN 978-1932792997.  Page 204
  11. The techniques of Motivational Interviewing can be helpful in resolving ambivalence and changing behavior. Similar techniques may be helpful in consciously altering worldviews.
  12. Grammarist, entry on Assume v. presume.
  13. Grammerly, entry on presume vs assume.
  14. The Psychology of Worldviews, Mark E. Koltko-Rivera, Review of General Psychology, 2004, Vol. 8, No. 1, 3–58
  15. Hood, R. W., Jr. (1975). The construction and preliminary validation of a measure of reported mystical experience. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 14, 29–41. Quote from page 31.
  16. Maslow, A. H. (1968). Toward a psychology of being (2nd ed.). New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold. Quote from page 79.
  17. The Psychology of Worldviews, Mark E. Koltko-Rivera, Review of General Psychology, 2004, Vol. 8, No. 1, 3–58
  18. Many thanks to Psybertron for these helpful insights.