Why do worldviews clash?

Jeff Carreira Blog Posts, Philosophical Inquiry 44 Comments

I am fascinated by the discussion that has ensued based on my last post and I hope to tempt your considerable powers of inquiry in a direction that I have been contemplating in response to your comments. I have been thinking about how challenging philosophical discussion can be and I think that part of that difficulty comes about when we are not discussing ideas within a single worldview, but are actually clashing one worldview against another. As I see it a worldview is a belief in a complete philosophical system. Discussing within a given philosophical system is easy, discussing across one system into another gets challenging.

Philosophy is generally seen to be comprised of three main components; Metaphysics, which tells you what is real; Epistemology which tells you how you know what is real; and Ethics which tells you what you should value. To my understanding a philosophical system is complete in the sense that it fulfills all of these functions.

Let’s use the Christian Worldview as an example (and I know that I am making gross generalizations, but I am only doing it to keep this post short and with no intended offense to Christians). Christian metaphysics involves a creator (God) and his/her creations. It also includes a place called heaven and a place called hell and the belief that you will abide in one or the other after death based on the way you live and the state of some invisible part of you called a soul. Epistemologically the way Christians know what is real is that God has told human beings what is real through the Bible, so what is true is what is written in the Bible. Christian Ethics revolve around things like charity, loving thy neighbor, duty to family, etc. In a closed system like this you can always ask questions from within the system. Question: Should I steal? Answer: No. Justification: Because the Bible dictates that you don’t. But when you start to ask questions from outside of the system such as: Does God exist? Things get more challenging.

The question, “Does God exist?” Does not arise from within the Christian system – it is a given in that system. If the question is inserted into the system from the outside, a Christian could answer by saying, ‘yes, God exists because the Bible says so.’ But that argument only works if someone shares the epistemological presupposition that the Bible is the source of truth. So a complete philosophical system – a worldview – dictates what is real, how you know what is real and what to value about what is real. Without those agreements there is only flimsy basis for discussion.

If we think about the modernist worldview we have a different system. Metaphysically we have a universe that is composed of matter that has evolved to a complexity that gave rise to human beings and a mysterious property we call consciousness. Epistemologically we know what is true based on ‘logical positivism’ which means adhering to certain laws of logic applied to the evidence we gather through our senses. And the ethics of modernism revolves around the inherent goodness of progress. This is also a complete philosophical system.

When you hear debates between truly devoted Christians and truly devoted modernists – for instance in the debate between creation vs. evolution, it quickly becomes clear that there is no real ground for inquiry – the best you can do is agree to disagree, unless someone is willing to give up their worldview. Today we are not really modernists; we are post-modernists, although some would argue that this is really a later stage of modernism. As postmodernists we recognize that there are different worldviews and we value that diversity. We also recognize that we can’t impose one worldview on another because they rest on different fundamental beliefs and each person has a right to believe as they wish as long as they don’t hurt one another.

The Pragmatists, particularly William James,were part of the leading edge of post-modernism. James was recognizing that our worldview is based on a philosophical system that can prove the reality of all things within it, but that itself has to be taken on faith. The pragmatists were trying to find a way that takes us beyond the deadends of clashing worldviews when debating what is true. That is why they said that it was more useful to argue the truth of something by examining its effect. It isn’t that useful to debate, for instance, whether Behaviorism is true or not. A Christian might say no because that is not the view that the Bible tells us. A modernist might say yes because that is what the evidence proves. The question that is more useful to ask is what results from a belief in Behaviorism. Does it work? When does it work? Does it work in this instance and not in that? What results from materialism, what results from a belief in the soul, a belief in freewill, a belief in God? Everything can be examined based on Pragmatic grounds.

William James believed that humanity had evolved beyond the point of absolute truth. We don’t know the absolute truth; we only know part of the truth and what that truth is, is always changing. For that reason truth had to be seen as evolving; utilized for as long as it worked in those circumstances in which it worked. He, along with his Pragmatist colleagues imagined a complete revisioning of all of philosophy based on Pragmatic grounds.

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Carl
11 years ago

In my view, philosophy became natural science once the experimental method was developed. There was no longer the need to have logical/conceptual arguments based on assumptions that could not be validated one way or the other. Instead, it became possible to make statements of what is known based on a systematic, fact-based analysis. I left a doctoral program in Philosophy because I observed professional philosophers spending their lives arguing tiny points based on assumptions, and I chose the natural science of behavior because it seemed that we would no longer have to be “making stuff up” about human behavior and… Read more »

Jeff Carreira
Jeff Carreira
11 years ago

I guess I had the opposite experience. I studied physics in college because I was convinced that if I understood physics I would understand how everything worked. What I found out is that there is always one more question that you can’t answer. You keep asking why? why? why? why? until eventually the answer is “No one knows.” That is when I turned to philosophy because I thought I better figure things out for myself. :)

I also think that from inside any worldview the inside looks like non-fiction and the outside looks like fiction.

Andy
Andy
11 years ago

“Natural Philosophy” died when the scientific method was accepted, and since then I don’t know that science has ever claimed to answer the questions of existence. It doesn’t claim to answer “why,” only “how,” and that only to the extent established to date. Belief systems claim much more; they conflate faith with a priori knowledge, and claim absolute and unchanging truth with on epistemological basis. A valid epistemology demands reason, logic and objectivity applied to perceptions; it’s not a field guide for cherry picking. And even adding metaphysics and ethics is still not a “complete philosophical system.”(Whither logic and aesthetics?)… Read more »

Carl
11 years ago

Andy, Your point about science as “how” vs. “why” is quite interesting and helpful. With respect to a natural science of behavior, what Skinner brought to the table is a methodology for uncovering what are called “functional relationships” among environmental and behavioral events. In other words, it is about describing “how it works” in a causal fashion within the field of observation in which behavior (both overt and covert) can be observed. Skinner’s perspective was that this is sufficient, and it certainly is for an effective technology of behavior, the ability to “predict and control” our own behavior. In fact… Read more »

Quynh-Hoa
Quynh-Hoa
11 years ago

Thank you for your knowledgeable blog which gives me a very broad view of American philosophy which is a brand new perpective to me. I cannot discuss on intellectual matters as my knowledge on this field is very narrow. I could only participate through my deepest self and feeling. Sorry if it can sound “no scientific” minded. “We don’t know the absolute truth; we only know part of the truth and what that truth is, is always changing. For that reason truth had to be seen as evolving”. And if Truth is Absolute, unmovable ,unreachable and bottomless , Whole and… Read more »

Brian
Brian
11 years ago

I’ve done some worldview clashing in these pages, when really our differences are slight. I feel some need to drive away magical thinking from Evolutionary Enlightenment. How should we believe and behave given unguided evolution in an ambivalent universe? I appreciate having this forum where I at least feel like I might be making some impact.

To Quynh-Hoa’s beautiful post, a friend of mine once said there are 3 versions of the truth: yours, mine, and what really happened!

Carl
11 years ago

Brian, I think the “direction” of evolution, which does not require a pre-planned trajectory or knowing-in-advance Mind to explain, is toward more complexity and toward survival and expansion. That’s the nature of it, if we just accept the idea that it started with a Bang and has been evolving ever since. So it is “unguided” by planning in advance, but perhaps guided through the mechanism of selection by consequences. That’s how non-humans learn to forage, not because they have a plan. And I think that’s how the universe has “learned” to evolve. Now that we, as very self-aware and more… Read more »

Brian
Brian
11 years ago

Carl, Exactly. Your post answers my question: “How should we believe and behave given [otherwise] unguided evolution in an [otherwise] ambivalent universe? And then to use these very broad ideas to somehow guide daily choices…

Catherine
Catherine
11 years ago

Hell to all, I have just been reading the two last blogs and the comments and … this has put myself in a turmoil of questions ( thanks to all for this !) . Here are a few questions that came to me. About believing: can we really believe in something that we don’t understand ? by “ don’t understand” I mean “ something that doesn’t make sense for us”. I would answer to this question by saying that if I believe in something that doesn’t make sense it is not really a “belief”, it is more some kind of… Read more »

Shizuka
Shizuka
11 years ago

Jeff First impression of your new post is “we are Ginny pig”(in positive sense).We are in the middle of “worldviews clash” site,which is not the theory in the book,it’s indeed happening as “Live” event on your blog!!!! Which is exiting,same time quite daunting.Indeed,as you wrote” from inside any worldview the inside looks like non-fiction and the outside looks like fiction.” and even “Pragmatic” approach”Everything can be examined by effect” sounds good and get inspired by Catherine’s suggestion of “Certitude” methods in order to prove the effect of the view like what Quynh-Hoa wrote “our mindly, emotionally and vital consciousness that… Read more »

Ryan Diener
Ryan Diener
11 years ago

Ryan: Thanks for the great inquiry Jeff and to all of your comments as well. You mentioned toward the end of the blog, in response to the question of why worldviews clash: Jeff: “It isn’t that useful to debate, for instance, whether Behaviorism is true or not. A Christian might say no because that is not the view that the Bible tells us. A modernist might say yes because that is what the evidence proves. The question that is more useful to ask is what results from a belief in Behaviorism. Does it work? When does it work? Does it… Read more »

Carl
11 years ago

Behaviorism is essentially a philosophy of science or of knowing suggesting that we can apply natural science methods to understanding our own behavior, while behavior science is a scientific method. So the “world view” we would need to discuss is perhaps whether or not science can reveal useful information about nature, and whether our behavior is part of nature. I have tried to restrict my comments to the science rather than to the philosophy, but I suppose it’s important to question whether our behavior, evolution, or anything else in nature can be understood better by use of scientific method versus… Read more »

Jeff Carreira
Jeff Carreira
11 years ago

There are so many questions to raise in all this – in response to Catherine – the notion of certitude was an ongoing contemplation of the Pragmatists. Certitude is generally something that happens with a feeling of completion. We investigate until we “feel” like we have come to a final solution. But why do we feel that way? Part of the point of my post is to say that the reasons we feel that something “makes sense” is itself dictated by the worldview that we hold.

Catherine
Catherine
11 years ago

Jeff, I first thought I would agree with you, but then I thought the opposite! In my view it is not the Worldviews that we have which dictates what makes Sense to us, but rather what makes Sense to us which is building our World views. I want to say something very important ( to me !) here. There is the touch of the Absolute in “what makes Sense”. Understanding is a door to Absolute. If we say that our Worldview dictates what makes sense to us, we annihilate the Absolute radically hidden in “What Makes Sense” in the fundamental… Read more »

Jonathan Bricklin
Jonathan Bricklin
11 years ago

“That is why they said that it was more useful to argue the truth of something by examining its affect.”

“effect” here; not “affect”

Jeff Carreira
Jeff Carreira
11 years ago

Hello Jonathan,

What a pleasure to have your eyes on my blog. I recently bought your book “Sciousness” and look forward to reading it. It would be great to sometime on the phone about our mutual love.

Frank Luke
11 years ago

Carl , re: “So (evolution) is “unguided” by planning in advance, but perhaps guided through the mechanism of selection by consequences.” I like Ken Wilber’s asserting that evolution continues, is not static and that the Destiny of Humanity is to become enlightened. I like to believe it’s true and if we give it a few eons, I think it will come to pass. One strong reason would be for enlightened self-interest of self-preservation of the world and all it contains, being that on our self-destructive path of competition for natural resources and the development of weapons of mass destruction, we… Read more »

Frank Luke
10 years ago

I have this maybe crazy idea that if God created us all that (He, She, It?) then backed off to watch the fun. There’s also an obligation God left behind–that we on this spaceship have to figure out how to get along with all the other inhabitants or ask for trouble, even extinction, given the WMD we humans devised. Tell me I’m crazy, I believe this is how Things are spinning out. Any comments?

Frank Luke
10 years ago

Hi Andy, re: “But the spirit of Socratic dialog demands that we first know that we know nothing. ” With respect to Socrates’ great wisdom, I submit that we engage in a Socratic dialog not exactly knowing nothing but with the understanding that our knowing may be incomplete, even faulty. We engage in the questioning with the understanding that the other may have a better grasp of the issue and then be open to revising our thinking. I believe the attitude of knowing nothing is ingenuous, we may have limited knowledge but we begin with that information and impart it… Read more »

Frank Luke
10 years ago

Catherine, I wonder if you meant “Hell” or “Hello to everybody” in your above post?

I hope you meant “Hello”!

Frank Luke
10 years ago

HI Jeff, re: “That’s what philosophy always seems to do, unable to rest with the limits of our actual knowledge without inserting some kind of assumption, hypothetical construct, or other explanatory fiction to pretend that we know more than we do.” Though those folks serve the purpose of putting forth ideas most others wouldn’t have considered, putting ideas on the map so to speak, I being more of a pragmatist will usually give credence to empirical knowledge and first-hand accounts rather than second-hand knowledge. I can also be swayed by the sources of imparted knowledge depending on their reliability and… Read more »

Frank Luke
10 years ago

Hi Jeff, Though you didn’t encounter any problem when I mentioned it before, I just got that notice again to say I’d submitted a duplicate comment which was not the case. Not a big deal, just calling it to your attn and making me have to check what was going on. ??

S.Mohamed
S.Mohamed
10 years ago

Jeff… In your article you mentioned ethic ‘s as one of your three components of philosophy. I completely agree with this I feel like ethics really shape people into who they are. Which does in the end contribute to clashes in the world.

Simon Park
Simon Park
10 years ago

World views clash because of ignorance. It’s surprising that in the 21st century racism , sexism still exist and quite frankly its absolutely disgusting. How can people not mutually, at least try to come to a common understanding. I understand that people can potentially have radically different view points but, there should still be some kind of human decency to treat each other with respect. It blows my mind to read things on the internet where people rage and bitch fit about other people’s way of life. Honestly, suck it up the world doesn’t revolve around you.

Eric M.
Eric M.
10 years ago

World views clashes because of many different things such as education, the way that they were raised, and their mindset. People may be ignorant because they don’t want to acknowledge what is right or either that there are so many ways in seeing the situation.

Mandy Qian
Mandy Qian
10 years ago

I like how you linked metaphysics, Epistemology, and Ethics together to demonstrate your point. I never saw them being used that way, when people talked about Philosophy, they always used these terms separately so by reading this article I saw Philosophy in a whole new different light. However, I am a bit confused about the pragmatic view on the world. If everyone just accepted everyone else’s view, wouldn’t the world be without opinions?

N.P.
N.P.
10 years ago

I have to agree with Andy because in science we keep asking questions and we keep getting different answers and then when find an answer someone else always disproves the answer. And then when no one can find the answer people tend to look toward religion and based their answers on it. But when science gets involved again they disprove religion. So basically there is no answer.

Pee Jay
Pee Jay
10 years ago

Jeff your article is very complex; I think it describes a very intricate aspect to life. I will admit, for a college freshman I had no idea what you were talking about at first. However, at some it all connected. I like how you acknowledged that there is no “clear ground for inquiry” when it comes to debates between Christians and modernists. Like you said, someone can explain his or her actions through the Bible; however, the explanation would only be valid if someone believes in the Bible. In my opinion man, I think if everyone just stopped caring and… Read more »

Shefali Mehta
Shefali Mehta
10 years ago

I feel as if there is not enough knowledge in the world to sum up what philosophy really might be. Its a different opinion for practically everyone even if it might me the slightest insignificant change, which in turn blows up into a conflicting idea. There are always ways to interpret a certain subject such as Religion, a touchy subject. Many people are strong believers that there is nothing but the bible and the thoughts of anything else and there are people that believe that there is absolutely no god and everything is backed up by science. Regardless, I believe… Read more »

shanice
shanice
10 years ago

Jeff,
i strongly agree with what you said about Christians worldview. Being a christian myself i have found that we do believe that things are only 1 way and that is the way of the bible. i can also see why this would make world views clash.

Abdul sh.
Abdul sh.
10 years ago

After reading this article and the comments below it, I would have to agree with Andy. Science has always been about finding how and why things work! But, science can only go so far until we hit a dead end. What happens then? Do we abandon science and use religion to answer our undying questions? I think science and religion are part of a continuous loop. Both trying to disprove one another and, at the same time many, if not all of us, find ourselves going back to either for answers. Can a pragmatic approach really put an end to… Read more »

Daniela. S
Daniela. S
10 years ago

I agree with Eric and Simon. World view clashes stem from many different things, including ignorance. Many times people fail to acknowlede what defines a person’s culture and beliefs. Everyone was brought up in different environments, in different families, and learning “whats right and wrong” (although this might not necessarily be what you believe is right and wrong). People’s failure to respect that fact that everyone was brought up with different morals, subsequently leads to clashes. However, the question is, if people truly know about someones cultural and moral difference, but yet still feel negatively towards that race or culture,… Read more »

Elana S
Elana S
10 years ago

I agree with Carl about behaviorism and behavior science. The question is can science reveal useful information about nature, or whether our behavior is part of nature? To answer it I think science does answer a lot more than does philosophy, which is always very vague and leaves you thinking in the end. Whereas science, specifically evolution, answers how people came about and how animals evolved. But philosophy doesn’t answer how people came about and things evolved. So the scientific method makes more sense versus logic or faith disconnected from empirical findings.

Miriam P
Miriam P
10 years ago

“William James believed that humanity had evolved beyond the point of absolute truth. We don’t know the absolute truth; we only know part of the truth and what the truth is, is always changing. For that reason truth had to be seen as evolving; “ I find this point really interesting and something I never even thought about. We will never know the absolute truth to anything. And yes truth is always shifting and evolving. Although it is important that every person tries to find out the truth, what is more important is that they respect everyone else’s opinion. if… Read more »

Melanie Meng
Melanie Meng
10 years ago

I believe that the way our mind thinks are very similar. How ironic since this piece of work was about different worldviews. I do not believe in “God” but, I do believe in a higher being. That is why I wonder where do these rules of no cursing or anything else relating to going to hell or heaven originate from. Curse words can be anything but why specifically the F word? I enjoyed reading your blog because it really makes someone stop and realize something that is part of our daily life. It made my head nod up and made… Read more »

D.R
D.R
10 years ago

I agree with andy saying that “We conflict because we are attached to our beliefs and afraid of our blind spots.”because we are brought up based on the religious backgrounds we have. Our parents tell us about the beliefs that we have and we pass it on to the next generation. Because of this we do not think about other religions or any other scientific method of explaining existence besides our own beliefs but when science has an answer to existence religion will always play a key role in opposing it.

KP
KP
10 years ago

I believe that different world views conflict with each other due to vast amount perspectives of that can be succumbed by different groups of people. The varieties of perspectives vary from different fundamental segments of one’s upbringing whether it be religion, culture, race, disability, wealth, connections, education, or talent. It stems from how each individual sees a certain way of life and brings forth their opinion to the rest of the world. There may be discordances with other people’s views, but that is what makes horse races. Otherwise, the world would be boring. The way a certain religious group sees… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
10 years ago

@ Jeff
on the part where you said in your reply : “I also think that from inside any worldview the inside looks like non-fiction and the outside looks like fiction.” I couldnt agree with you more. I think people are so engrossed in their own worldviews that they refuse to even consider peeking into another. I myself turned to philosophy when i got tired of listening to alot of crap other people were telling me and decided to go research it myself. I think your post on worldviews was great!! :)

Arif. R
Arif. R
10 years ago

(oops forgot to put my name lol)
@ Jeff
on the part where you said in your reply : “I also think that from inside any worldview the inside looks like non-fiction and the outside looks like fiction.” I couldnt agree with you more. I think people are so engrossed in their own worldviews that they refuse to even consider peeking into another. I myself turned to philosophy when i got tired of listening to alot of crap other people were telling me and decided to go research it myself. I think your post on worldviews was great!! :)

I. Singh
I. Singh
10 years ago

I have never taken any course or read an article about philosophy. This article does a great job of explaining some of the basics for beginners and encourages them to think about certain things. I like the part when you stated: “As postmodernists we recognize that there are different worldviews and we value that diversity. We also recognize that we can’t impose one worldview on another because they rest on different fundamental beliefs and each person has a right to believe as they wish as long as they don’t hurt one another.” I believe this is one of the first… Read more »

Sartaj S.
Sartaj S.
10 years ago

I’d like to start off by paying my respects to Mr. Carriera. The way you broke down the clashing of worldviews was admirable and very logical. Bold statement coming from a young teenager, but I must state that ethics should not be considered when talking of evolution or facts that have been proven scientifically. Because this world we live in asks for evidence and proof, thoughts and ideas made from assumptions and belief hold minimal value in true arguments. But I agree with William James, humans have become in a sense “over intelligent”, meaning we are never satisfied with what… Read more »

Prabhdeep Singh
Prabhdeep Singh
10 years ago

@ Jeff
I totally agree with you on how accepting we are towards other people’s worldview, compare to the modernists. As post-modernists we realize that people can have different worldviews depending on there personal experiences, culture, religion, environment and many other things which can affect one’s point of view. I guess post-modernists can be seen as a unity of minds and a better understanding between people.

Darryl
Darryl
10 years ago

Most people here seem to be mentioning “modernists” and “post modernists”. You forget to mention traditionalists.

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[…] her students have been reading and commenting on my two posts “Test Drive a Worldview” and “Why do Worldviews Clash?”  I decided to add an extra post to my blog this week so that I could respond collectively to all […]