Thursday, August 4

Weltanshauung

What we believe will ultimately determine how we act. Every belief system will have palpable, demonstrable, and visible results. It is not possible to divorce root from fruit. There is therefore is nothing more practical than clearly comprehending the character and content of our own worldview. The word worldview is actually a rather awkward English attempt at translating the German word weltanshauung. It literally means “a life perspective” or “a way of seeing.” It is simply used to describe the way we look at the world. All of us have a worldview. It is our perspective. It is our frame of reference. It is the means by which we interpret the situations and circumstances around us. It forms our presuppositions—our basic outlook on all the different aspects of our faith, and life, and experience. It is what enables us to process the information that comes to us through our senses.

According to social theorist, Alvin Toffler, in his seminal work Future Shock, “Every person carries in his head a mental model of the world, a subjective representation of external reality.” This mental model is, he says, like a giant filing cabinet. It contains a slot for every item of information coming to us. It organizes our knowledge and gives us a grid from which to think. “When we think,” economic philosopher E.F. Schumacher asserted, “we can only do so because our mind is already filled with all sorts of ideas with which to think.” These more or less fixed ideas make up our mental model of the world, our frame of reference, our presuppositions—in other words, they make up our worldview.

The differences between the art of Rembrandt and the art of Picasso were not just matters of style; they were determined by the differences in their worldviews. Likewise, the differences between the music of Bach and the music of the Beatles, the differences between the architecture of Wren and the architecture of Wright, and the differences between the politics of Washington and the politics of Mao are all attributable to differences in worldview. When a writer writes, he does so by the light of and in accord with his worldview. When a painter paints, she does so by the light of and in accord with her worldview. When a singer sings, he does so by the light of and in accord with his worldview. When a legislator legislates, she does so by the light of and in accord with her worldview. When a teacher teaches, he does so by the light of and in accord with his worldview. It is not possible to separate what it is we do from how it is we think.

2 comments:

thebeepsociety said...

I followed a link to your page from the Guardian: http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/tv/2007/10/channel_4_and_black_history.html
because I was curious about this German word that I couldn't find in the dictionary (I am learning a little) - and I think it's actually spelt Weltanschauung with a C in the middle. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_view
Sorry to be a spoilsport! But thanks, an interesting concept and a new word for me :)

Julie said...

Thankyou. Most helpful post in relation to a brief blog discussion touching on world perspective.