Posted by: gcarkner | August 15, 2012

Worldview Discussion that Connects

Some Lively Questions to Probe into the Personal Worldview Convictions of your Friends

The ability to think, dialogue and examine within the context of worldview gives tremendous latitude and creativity to any discussion or debate. It eliminates the defensive factor for both interlocutors. It liberates and opens up the field of discussion rather than getting it trapped in a corner, drawing a line in the sand, or becoming reduced to a tug-of-war contest between your opinion and mine. Apply emotional intelligence and humour. Key worldview revealing books: E.F. Schumacher, A Guide for the Perplexed. (reductionism) James Sire, Why Believe Anything at All? (epistemology); the literature of Dostoyevski, The Brothers Karamozov as a point of entry to one’s worldview or a provocative movie such as Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors (can we have ethics without God?); Walker Percy, Lost in the Cosmos is another intriguing transition author. Glenn Tinder The Political Meaning of Christianity: essay “Can we be good without God?”

Dr Dan Osmond, University of Toronto, School of Medicine: “Whether we realize it or not, all university people have some sort of a view according to which they select, organize and interpret knowledge. Similarly, their behaviour is governed by a moral code [or style] of their choosing. Such views and codes differ widely in their validity and content as well as the quality of the behaviour that they engender.” 

McGill Philosopher Charles Taylor (paraphrased): A worldview is a picture that holds us captive; it involves our overall take on human life and its cosmic surroundings. It is the background to our thinking, within whose terms it is carried on, but which is often largely unformulated, and to which we can frequently imagine no alternative. It includes aspects or features of the way experience and thought are shaped and cohere. It is something invisible which people inhabit and it gives shape to what they experience, feel, opine, and see.

At its very basic level, Apologetics is about a dialogue between worldviews, yours and that of your friend or colleague, and of course your professor. It is almost impossible to engage someone in serious dialogue if you do not understand their framework of thinking and assumptions. It is within your rights and academic duty to ask them to reveal their working presuppositions. This is the set of interpretive intellectual glasses with which they view everything, including you and your convictions. Ignore it to your mutual detriment. Knowledge of worldviews opens fun, productive discussions that really matter. Here are some questions to assist you, and be assured that you will get some good questions in return that will make you think hard about what you believe and why. Welcome to the marketplace of ideas!

  1. Could you identify and define for me the framework of your present philosophical stance? Your favorite thinker? Where do you position or locate yourself in the current plural world of convictions? What influences have shaped your thinking?
  2. Ask questions regarding its coherence, unity or consistency as a view of reality.
  3. Is your view open to the data of other people’s experience or do you have your mind made up? Closed or open stance?
  4. Use the three major worldview frames (Pantheism, Naturalism, Theism) to probe more deeply into the details; get all the facts and insights you can. Many perspectives are derivative from these three major views, so learn at least them. James Sire’s The Universe Next Door is a basic guide to worldviews; it has sold well and helped millions of students for 30 years.
  5. Look for the person’s specific interpretive paradigm, the intellectual grid through which they sift ideas and issues (philosophical glasses): e.g. Marxism, feminism, scientific materialism, environmentalism, nihilism, New Age, or some form of liberation. What does freedom mean to them? This reveals what Charles Taylor calls their hypergood or dominant valueIt is vital for you to understand this core dominating and controlling good in your friend–their ideological centre or anchor. Otherwise you will be speaking past each other, rather than seriously engaging one another.
  6. Ask the questions of the livability and relevance of their view: the social pragmatic life test. How does it improve human life or solve human problems, promote more justice or hope, feed the poor, heal racial relations, help one at the bedside of a dying child? Does it have power to promote the common good or is it elitist or self-interest driven? How far can the assumptions be taken without promoting evil or destructive consequences? It must answer the Big Life Questions. Could you raise a family or run a village on its principles?
  7. Is your friend happy with their present views or are they shopping around for something better? People have deep emotions around their cherished beliefs, so remember to be sensitive. If someone is experiencing a worldview crisis, they are most open to dialogue, and what else is on offer in the marketplace of worldviews.
  8. Here’s a whimsical response to get conversation lubricated: Could you define the God you do not believe in? Were you brought up an atheist or did you arrive at that logically over time; are you convinced of the hope that atheism offers the world? Are they a naïve or reflective atheist, Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, anarchist, philanthropist?
  • Key PostureWe want all the insight and knowledge available; why shut out the insights from the supernatural/transcendent automatically?  E.F. Schumacher, A Guide for the Perplexed. Alister McGrath, Intellectuals Don’t Need God?
 Gord Carkner
Kicking Horse Heights

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