Category Archives: Worldview

Mauna Kea Hawaii

Do you believe in the supernatural?

While there are many ways people arrive at the conclusions that form their worldview — many people determine what they believe to be true about the world based on how their life experience has led them to answer the question: “Do you believe in the supernatural?”  That is what I want to discuss today.

Mauna Kea Hawaii

For many, the word supernatural conjures up all sorts of uncomfortable, at times even embarrassing and confusing feelings.  It evokes fear and mystery in others.  Some dismiss its existence as irrational and superstitious.  Either way, most people associate the term with something mysterious — something they do not fully understand, and for those who do not believe in it at all, something silly.

But first, I want to bring the conversation down to its basic level.  Dictionary.com defines supernatural with eight definitions.  For the sake of time, we will go with the first one: of, pertaining to or being above or beyond what is natural.  This of course leads us to define what we mean by natural and nature.  Again, let’s go with the first definition listed for both.  By natural, I mean anything that exists inside nature, and by nature, I mean the material world.

Pinning down these definitions of supernatural, natural, nature, and material world, is necessary for the sake of this discussion due to their multiple meanings.  If, when we use the word supernatural, simply as “anything that is above or beyond what is natural (material)” then I believe the only logical explanation is that at least on some basic, very fundamental level, the supernatural must exist.

Painted Desert, ArizonaThe primary evidence rests in the fact that we have a consciousness — a non-corporeal element of our being that is not material, not tangible to our five senses, and is the source for our ability to exercise rationality — namely to think and to do so with reason.

Defining what comprises one’s consciousness in totality is for another blog entry.  The main point here is that this invisible element of our being that puts our thoughts and desires into material action, displays our character and personality, is not a natural (in this context more precisely defined as material) thing.  It, therefore, lies outside and beyond nature or what is natural, and therefore must be supernatural according to the definition mentioned above.

Strict materialists will disagree with me.  Materialismreferring to the second definition listed, is a philosophical theory that posits natural matter is the only “thing” which comprises the universe and its inhabitants and that it alone is responsible for actions and events.  A strict materialist would make no distinction between a person’s brain and his mind; in fact, he would deny the existence of the mind.  But I see this as illogical because to deny the existence of the mind, is to express a thought — something that is invisible, intangible, and lies outside the bounds of natural reality; it therefore must itself be supernatural.

I will conclude by taking a rather strong stand and saying it is illogical and irrational to deny the existence of the supernatural, at least on some level.  To argue otherwise is to implicitly give credibility to your opposing belief, or thought, and that thought itself is not material, lies outside the scope of the natural, and is therefore, supernatural.*  do you believe in the supernaturalIt would be like concluding: “Natural matter is all that exists , oh, except for the conclusion that ‘natural matter is all that exists, and the instruments I used to draw that conclusion (namely, my mind and reason).”’

Either way, I would say that although there are various different worldviews, most fall into two main camps — those who are strict materialists, who deny the existence of the supernatural, and those who believe in some type of supernatural element to our existence.  I will call these people supernaturalists from here on.

**This issue of the necessity of acknowledging the credibility of something not a part of nature, i.e. a person’s reasonable thoughts, as a requirement to make a reasonable claim about the universe, is explored in greater detail in chapters 3 and 4 the book Miracles by C.S. Lewis.

Note, all links above will open in a separate window.

Copyright © 2013 RationalWorldview.com

What is a Worldview? Part 2

The short answer

Not everyone has time for a phD in philosophy, but at some point most of us realize it is in our best interest to pursue the truth about life — ultimately a worldview.  I began the discussion in my last entry What is a Worldview? Part 1.  My short definition of ‘worldview’: a logically coherent set of rational beliefs based on reason about the world and our relation to it.

The longer answer

IMG_0155When attempting to nail down a vast definition of a topic such as this, I like to use a list form for the sake of clarity and simplicity.  That said, I would say a worldview is an ideological framework an individual holds that includes, but is not limited to and not in any particular order:

  1. what a person believes to be true about nature, or more precisely the material world
  2. what a person believes to be true about knowledge and its various forms
  3. whether a person believes in God, or rather a Being that is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent (one’s religious/theistic point of view)
  4. how we, as human beings should relate to God if we conclude God’s existence to be probable
  5. that person’s set of moral beliefs

These five basic beliefs are directly connected with how we answer and approach such common philosophical questions as (again not a comprehensive list):

  1. What is the meaning of life?
  2. What is my purpose in life and how is it connected to my fellow human beings?
  3. Is there a God, and if so, how does that affect me?
  4. Is there any sort of life after death, and if so, does the chaos, cruelty, disease, and decay the present world includes exist in that one as well?
  5. What is the purpose of art and its various forms?
  6. Where do “natural gifts” and “talents” come from?
  7. Are emotions “real,” and what is the purpose of having them?
  8. Why must every single human being experience some sort of pain?
  9. Does reason exist?
  10. Do we have a free will to exercise?

Many times, it is these questions that nag most of us and are the source for what leads us to form our belief system involving the five philosophical categories in the definition I laid out in the beginning.

Forming a worldview, especially a coherent one, can take decades, because the experiences we all have at different stages of human development, add to our depth and breadth of knowledge.  This knowledge — including its many forms — causes us to shape and re-think the truth of reality, in many cases, over many years.  I mean, who hasn’t heard of cases of noted intellectuals having dramatic paradigm shifts — where their worldview by the end of their lives was diametrically opposed to one they held in their youth.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky (author of my favorite work of fiction – Crime and Punishment (Vintage Classics) – and The Idiot) is one noted literary figure whose worldview dramatically changed by the end of his life.  Another is C.S. Lewis, whose most famous works include both fiction such as his seven book series Chronicles of Narnia Box Set, the most popular of that series being The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and his non-fiction The Problem of Pain and his auto-biography Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life.

These two authors, both whose works I have read and re-read extensively, have been enough, at least for me, to constantly question my worldview and whether my belief system is a rationally coherent one.

Copyright © 2013 RationalWorldview.com

What is a worldview? Part 1

Note: All links below will open in a separate window.  Click on images to find their original url source.

nasa.freeuse.planet.earthThe purpose of my last blog post was to provide a starting point for the discussion. I claimed that a person’s worldview begins, more often than not, on what they believe to be true about nature, more specifically material matter e.g. the universe, planet, and its inhabitants — namely human beings.  A person either believes nature is all that there is, or that it is not.  (I will hold off on the discussion of agnosticism for now.)

If a person believes that nature is all that exists, he is a strict materialist.  If he believes in at least some element of existence to be beyond nature, I would classify his worldview as being a supernatural one.

A quick historical background

The main reason to explore a word’s historical background in further depth– particularly one that has its roots in another language — is to gain a better understanding of how to use the word in the English language and to prevent misunderstandings when discussing this unruly topic.

‘Worldview’ is a compound word that seems to lend itself to multiple meanings and/or a plethora of definitions.  This post could trail off into one exclusively about meaning in language or historical linguistics but to keep things simple I will stay close to the matter at hand — ultimately how the word ‘worldview’ is used in the English language, and how I will use it in this blog.

As mentioned in previous posts, the word ‘worldview’ has its roots in the German word ‘Weltanschauung’.  Because ‘worldview’ is a borrowed word that has been translated literally, it is called a calque.  For a list of common calques we use in everyday link, check out this partial list on wikipedia (not that I agree with everything on wikipedia, but I do think the list provided helps in this context).

Sigmund Freud used it in his lectures sometimes.  According to Fordham University’s Internet History Sourcebook Project – a collection of historical and academic documents — in 1918 Freud defined ‘weltanschauung’ as “an intellectual construction which gives a unified solution of all the problems of our existence in… a comprehensive hypothesis… in which no question is left open and in which everything in which we are interested finds a place.” To read the lecture in its entirety, click here.

Like any philosophical term, I believe it is a good idea to attempt to define it as comprehensive and precise as possible for the context and discussion in which it is being used.  This does not mean that the way I will define the term is by any means the best way, but clearly defining the term for the discussion prevents misunderstandings and provides a reference for the discussion.  I will do this in my next entry titled: What is a worldview? Part 2.

On a separate note, my goal is to eventually provide a more comprehensive glossary of terms for use on this site at a later time.

Copyright © 2013 RationalWorldview.com