02 June 2003

Is worldview a workable concept?

This past academic year the faculty of Redeemer University College read and discussed David Naugle's Worldview: The History of a Concept. My colleague Theodore Plantinga, who has had a longstanding argument with the notion of worldview, wrote a response to Naugle's book, "David Naugle and the Quest for a Theory of Everything," in his web journal (a blog in all but name), Myodicy. Now Naugle has written a response to Plantinga's response: "In Defense of the Concept of Worldview."

As I myself employ the term worldview in my own writings, it might be in order for me to answer at least some of Plantinga's objections. How, he asks, can one possibly see the whole world? And why reduce one's experience of the world to the visual? Perhaps there is something to these objections, but they seem to come from taking too literally the spatial and visual metaphors in the term worldview. Every metaphor has its limits, but that is hardly an argument for avoiding metaphors, which is altogether impossible. Thomas Hobbes famously fulminates against metaphors in his Leviathan, yet he himself employs them constantly, even in that same book. Should one avoid the term sunset, simply because we know scientifically that the earth actually rotates on its axis relative to the sun?

Furthermore, although Plantinga is correct to note that the relationship between worldview and one's experience of the world is a reciprocal one, he seems here to be knocking down a straw man. Only the most hardened ideologues exempt their first principles from the data of human experience. I am unaware of anyone -- at least in the christian community -- making an argument for the imperviousness of his or her own worldview to the world itself.

I look forward to reading Plantinga's rejoinder to Naugle.

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