Defining and Categorising a Worldview (陳容)

02017

A worldview is a “fundamental cognitive orientation” of society. Examining the worldview of society and our peers is largely seen as useless. Most young people would be embarrassed to be seen having the inclination to do so.


A worldview of a society only seems to adjust when a group of people (usually starts as a very small but obstinate group) continue to question the problems that they and others rub up against, and ultimately reason that these problems come down to some disequilibrium between the dominant “worldview” and their reality.  Throughout history, this process of socio-philosophical equilibration, if you please, has taken different forms: hellenistic philosophy, Taoism, Roman stoicism, the European Enlightenment, the Transcendentalists of New England, the Beat Generation, and more. But it’s not just philosophers and writers that engage in this. Anyone that comprehensively and fundamentally thinks for him or herself and acts on what he or she finds contributes to the process of socio-philosophical equilibration. This is true whether you’re a politician, a fry cook, a philosopher, a homeless person, or a Fortune 500 CEO.


Sometimes we find ourselves as outsiders but can’t put our finger on why. Do you ever feel like there is a certain overarching quality to the way that almost everyone around you thinks and behaves but find it impossible to put what this is into words? Possibly this is the observation an incongruence between reality and the worldview of one’s peers.


Right now, as in other times, it’s easy to see that a growing number of individuals are finding themselves agitated as they cope with what they feel is an incongruence between reality and this worldview. The goal of this piece is to begin to articulate what this worldview is. Given the subliminal nature of such fundamental assumptions, this is not easy. Nonetheless, this worldview is very easily identified once one stops taking it for granted and starts to internalize for him or herself what it is.



One way to begin to put this worldview into words is to characterize it as “externally-oriented”. This involves a certain assumption about all things being fatedly determined by their external conditions.

This fundamental orientation towards external conditions has its source in yet a deeper assumption about the world.  It comes from a fundamental confusion about the relationship of the concepts we use to describe nature and nature itself.  This is, in part, the failure to understand that anything and everything that occurs anywhere has never ever happened before. Period. This is a simple, and hard fact. We forget this, probably because we have so many very powerful concepts that do a very good job at helping us understand the world, manipulate our environment, predict things, etc. In contrast, the cogent approach would be to take any occurrence or phenomenon, accept it as the new event that it is, and use our vast body of human knowledge to understand it.  Then, the human concepts that we find relevant represent that situation.  This all sounds fair enough. But given our worldview, we tend to do something very different. We assume that these concepts are the phenomena themselves.  We subtly and involuntarily assume that the event is the human concept we’ve categorized it under, rather than a representation of it. This is, therefore, an assumption that everything that happens is understood merely by an act of categorization. We think that once we reasonably categorize it, we understand it.  This is false. But it is a part of the contemporary worldview of most, and thus is done automatically.  Make no mistake, we never “think” that we are doing any of these things.  We just do it.



One way to understand this phenomenon a little better is to look at examples of its effect on human behavior and in particular, decision making.  Because we involuntarily take our human concepts for reality in itself (rather than accepting the fact that it is a representation of reality), we look to these concepts directly to provide us with instructions and understanding. Let us be clear - Using the concepts for understanding and analyzing our world is not a problem at all. It’s assuming that the concept is reality itself - not a representation of reality, an abstraction of it.


It’s the phenomenon itself that matters and deserves our attention. However, because of our mindset, we look automatically to our human concepts because we think that once we’ve categorized the phenomenon, we understand it. Then, we think that we don’t have a choice but to follow what these boxes and categories prescribe. We think that our reality will conform to these boxes one way or another because we presume that’s “the way the world works” and that we can’t run away from “reality”.


It is important to reiterate that the act of examining our worldview is not something that is only fit for philosophers, writers, and sages. The most influential people in human history had some level of engagement with things on this level. If you want to have real influence in the world, you must engage with things on this level.  It is your right and privilege to do so.


If your own reasoning does not cause you to arrive at the conclusion that this is not a useless act for those in an ivory tower or a pretentious pot-smoker, consider this: people’s decision making and behavior are informed by their worldview. If their worldview is divorced from reality, and their actions are informed by that worldview, what will altering this worldview do?  What will rectifying this disequilibrium for the way our world looks do? Appreciate this fact alone, and you can begin to appreciate what a transformative development this would be for our civilization.  Indeed, we need only look at the simplest, most fundamental things to make improvements that at one point seemed beyond our wildest dreams.



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Comprehensophy • 02017

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