People have different mental concepts and different ways of looking at the world. A worldview is a person’s mental concept on all of the world and the whole of life or a system of philosophy relating to it. Worldview literally means “a general view of the world” or “philosophy of life.” Every human being has a worldview. Most people do not even know they have one. A worldview can be true about some things and not true about other things. Worldview is the framework of beliefs, values and images within which a person makes decisions and conducts the business of living. In other words our worldview not only describes reality, but it also prescribes how we act and respond to every aspect of life. The worldview is not only the content, but also the mode of thinking about reality. Worldviews develop over the course of a lifetime and are transmitted from generation to generation through such means as education, family tradition, religious belief, political orientation and the mass media. Worldview affects what one believe about God, marriage, politics, social structures, environmental concern, educational requirements, economics, the raising of children, food habits etc.
Scope of worldviews
Our worldviews help in determining our priorities in life. Worldviews helps to explain our relationship to God, fellow human beings and environment. Worldviews help oneself to assess the meaning of events. Worldviews also helps to justify one’s actions.
“The ideas and beliefs we use to guide our actions. We use them to explain cause and effect as we see them, and to give meaning to our experience.” -O’Connor, 1997.
The term ‘worldview’ is a mental framework through which individuals and groups view the nature of reality, the nature and purpose of human life, and the laws governing human relationships.
“A worldview constitutes an overall perspective on life that sums up what we know about the world, how we evaluate it emotionally, and how we respond to it volitionally” (Rudolf A. Makkreel 1999).
Phillips and Brown (1991) state that, “a worldview is, first of all, an explanation and interpretation of the world” and second, “an application of this view to life.”
The term ‘worldview’ or weltanschauung (German) was first used by Immanuel Kant in his Critique of judgement, first published in 1970. He combined two German words into one: welt which means “world” and Anschauung, which means, ‘conception’ ‘idea’, opinion’ or ‘view’.
Salient features of worldview
The worldview is the overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world. Most worldviews are learned early in life and are not easily changed. Worldview is intuitively developed and does not require individuals to have higher or university education. Worldview is not one’s point of view but it is much more than personal preference or opinion. Worldviews evolve in response to critical examination and reflection. Every religion reflects a worldview and every secular ideology reflects a worldview. Worldviews are often varying among individuals as a result of cultural traditions and experiences. Worldviews are ideal types. They are used for description rather than prescription; for analysis rather than evaluation. The worldviews are shaped by our life experiences which in turn reshape our approach to life. Religion, philosophy, ethics, morality, science, politics and all other belief systems shape our worldview. Worldviews can be resources for understanding and analysing conflicts when fundamental differences divide groups of people. Worldviews are important determinants of risk perception. Worldviews shape all that we think, do or consider to be normal or abnormal and acceptable or unacceptable and trustworthy or unreliable. Worldviews can lead to beliefs, behaviour and lifestyles that can work for or against environmental sustainability. The analysis of one’s worldviews is a powerful starting point for examining belief systems.
Characteristics of worldviews
- Worldview is the truth claims that explain the world and reality. It is the sum total of what we believe about the world. It helps people make sense of the world.
- Worldview should be rational. It should not be contradictory.
- It should be supported by evidence. It should be consistent with what we observe.
- It should give a satisfying comprehensive explanation of reality.
- It should provide a satisfying basis for living.
Types of worldviews
Formal worldview –is a major system of ideas that orders human hearts and mind.
Personal worldview – is one-to-one relationship with the established formal worldviews.
Environmental worldview – is collective beliefs and values that give people a sense of how the world works, their role in the environment and right or wrong behavior toward the environment.
Western worldview –sees human as dominant over nature and feels natural resources should be used for the benefit of humanity.
Key elements of worldviews
Views of human nature- basic beliefs about nature of people-e.g. people are naturally good or evil.
View of the good life – the goals to strive for living one’s life – e.g. personal accomplishment, peace of mind, love, adventure.
Equality with others – belief about the status of some individuals or groups in relation to others – e.g. social status and hierarchy.
Responsibilities to others – beliefs about the extent of obligations to others – e.g. self-centered or other- centered.
Relationship between individual and the state (govt) – beliefs about the balance between individual and collective rights – e.g. individual rights are more important than the rights of the society.
Relationship of humans with nature – beliefs about the way human beings should look on and act toward the environment – e.g. preserving nature is more important than using natural resources to support human activity.
Sources of ethical wisdom – beliefs about the ultimate authority for ethical principles – e.g. religion, God, science, natural rights.
Core areas of worldviews
- God and the immaterial
- The meaning and purpose of life
- Human nature
- What we trust in the primary source of spiritual truth.
Factors affecting worldviews
Ideas and knowledge – what a group knows e.g. scientific, intellectual, technological, artistic and spiritual knowledge.
Contact with other groups – interactions between societies and between different groups in a society.
Geography – where a group lives: the climate, plants and animals, bodies of water and natural resources.
Importance of worldviews
Worldviews serve as the necessary foundation and framework of our thoughts and actions. It is our belief about what is real and important –belief about the unseen –the spiritual, the philosophical and valuable. Our worldview will determine how we interpret our lives and the world around us. It shapes how we think about everything. Everyone constructs ‘a worldview story’ to make sense of our lives. Different cultural contexts lead to the formation of unique worldviews, beliefs, values, and assumptions, modes of social conduct, behavior and expectations among individuals. Worldviews keep our lives coherent, giving oneself a sense of meaning, purpose and connection. Worldviews create a context for everything we do. Worldviews provide some purpose to a given cultural system. It gives a paradigm of reality for a particular society. Worldviews stimulate people’s imagination. Worldviews have formative influence on the lives of individuals, communities, groups and especially those in positions of leadership. Worldviews have a significant influence on the overall health of an individual. Worldviews can influence student learning and development in academic settings. Worldviews contain something more than scientific information. Region is the cornerstone of worldviews.“Our worldview changes as our beliefs change. If you change your core beliefs in your worldviews,then your life will change drastically.”