"Although a person may have no jurisdiction over the fact of their existence, they can hold command over the meaning of their existence."
In practice, the statement above is idealised, for while it is true that none of us had jurisdiction over our birth; in truth, few come to have full command over their existence, which is embodied in our worldview. Therefore, in this section, the discussion focuses on what factors have influenced the development of our worldview, not only as individuals, but also the collective worldview in which we live. On this basis, the section breaks the discussion down into the following subsections:
- Human Nature
- Historical Context
- Different Perspectives
- Selected Catalysts
- Human Delusion
- Summary of Worldviews
Initially, we might simply assume that our worldview aligns to our core beliefs, our sense of right and wrong, and the way we would like the world to be. Given this definition, it is often difficult for people to question the premise on which they have built their particular worldview. However, this is exactly what some of the questions in this section attempts to do; starting with the ones in the insets right. As a broad generalization, people who grow up in different cultures tend to have equally different worldviews, i.e. we all tend to conform to our surrounding social norms. However, a degree of divergence may be reflected in the worldviews held by successive generations, if cultural change is a significant factor in the timeframe under consideration. Therefore, one of the central questions we need to consider may be:
Is our own worldview a reflection of our education or indoctrination?
Typically, an initial assumption is that we, i.e. that is I myself, have arrived at my own particular worldview by a process of rationally evaluating the facts; but even so, doubts can still be raised concerning the validity of these 'facts' and the authority of the sources cited. To highlight the nature of the debate, in 1877, William Clifford published an essay entitled The Ethics of Belief in which he defended the following position:
"it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything on insufficient evidence"
At first sight, many may consider this statement to be too abstracted or possibly too simplistic for the real world, but Clifford defended this position based on 3 fundamental arguments associated with the inquiry, authority and inference of the information that leads us to any given worldview. The essence of Clifford's original arguments have been partly transposed as follows:
- The Duty of Inquiry:
It is wrong to believe, or accept, as fact anything based on insufficient evidence. As such, doubt and investigation should take precedence over acceptance and belief.
- The Weight of Authority:
We should only accept the statements of another when it is reasonable to assume that this person has adhered to the duty of inquiry and knowledgeably speaks the truth, so far as it may be known.
- The Limits of Inference:
We may infer beyond our experience only when what we do not know is like what we do know, while still accepting that this inference must be subject to verification.
In Clifford's opinion, these arguments underpin an `ethical belief' as opposed to 'unsubstantiated belief`, the implications of which are now considered in more detail throughout the rest of this section.