What is a World View? • The term ‘World View’ is a shorthand way of summing up the collection of beliefs, concepts, methods, values, etc. within which an individual or a society functions – the basis upon which they act and interact with one another and with their environment. • To characterize a society or a culture in terms of its world view is not to claim that every member of that society accepts with equal conviction all aspects of that world view, nor does it rule out the existence of individuals or subsets of the culture that may adhere to views radically different from those of the majority. • Nevertheless, careful analysis of the artifacts of a society, the products of its science, religion, art, political and commercial institutions, etc. can indicate the beliefs, values, and methods of the majority members of that society or culture, in short, its world view.
Components of World Views • Traditionally the discussion of World Views involves examination of the following philosophical categories: • Metaphysics – concepts about the nature of being, the origin and structure of the world in a broad and absolute sense. • Epistemology – methods of knowing, what it means to know, and the limits of knowledge. • Ethics – standards of conduct and moral judgment • Aesthetics – standards of beauty • Natural Philosophy (sometimes subsumed under metaphysics) – the organization and explanation of particular natural phenomena. • Politics – the basis for social organization and interaction. • Religion (also often included within metaphysics) – beliefs about super natural forces or beings that have ultimate power and responsibility for the world
World Views: examples from Western Culture relevant to History of Science & Evolutionary Thought Aristotelian – Christian World View • Includes: Aristotelian Physics – earth centered cosmology & astronomy • Roman Catholic Doctrine – Mankind as focus of creation, • Biblical Literalism – species fixity, young earth • Platonic Idealism – essentialism, principle of plenitude, great chain of being • emphasis on authoritarianism (of Aristotle, Church Doctrine, Plato), & rationalism Anomalies: Protestant Reformation, discoveries of ancient civilizations, renaissance, astronomical predictions don’t fit, Aristotle’s physics doesn’t fit experience, consciousness of Time. Toward Newton
Aristotelian – Christian World View ~11th century - 16th & 17th century Newtonian – Mechanistic World View Includes: Newtonian Physics, laws of motion, sun-centered cosmology & astronomy Search for Natural Laws – emphasis on rationalism & empiricism Anomalies: newly discovered organisms, comparative morphology & development, fossils, patterns of distribution Towards Darwin 18th & 19th Century