Second-Hand Worldview

Explorer Sebastian Cabot with Globe

Most folks just buy into the consensus worldview of their time unquestioningly adopting it as they grow to maturity, but this means we have a second-hand worldview made by others. (Image: public domain.)

Human beings have an inborn need to make sense of their lives and the world around them. The drive is stronger in some (such as artists and philosophers) than in others, but generally, we all want to know what things signify. Knowing the meaning of something means knowing how things fit together. To make sense of our lives, to give them meaning, it is essential that we possess a comprehensive, consistent, unified worldview.

Worldview is defined (by COED) as “a particular philosophy of life or conception of the world.” At first glance, this suggests an objective view of things, something you could study in a book and learn, either by rote, or by understanding. Ideologues do just that, adopting viewpoints like the cultural Marxism currently so popular with the left. Religious people do the same, converting to one sect or another’s standard declared creed. Most folks just buy into the consensus worldview of their time unquestioningly adopting it as they grow to maturity.

Unfortunately, there is a huge problem with these approaches. Human beings are inherently subjective. Since no two people are exactly alike, no pre-packaged objective philosophy or consensus worldview – be it secular or religious – will accurately reflect who any particular individual truly is. This means anyone who adopts such a worldview is sailing under false colours. They are inadvertently misrepresenting themselves.

There is so much anxiety, boredom, dissatisfaction, and ill-defined longing in the world today precisely because most of us have no genuine worldview. Almost everyone has an inadequate second-hand worldview that came from outside; a philosophy of life assembled by others. Remarkably few have a worldview that was generated from within themselves. The situation often leaves us at odds with our own natural way of seeing the world. There is a constant aggravating inner conflict.

To acquire an authentic philosophy of life we must work things out for ourselves. We must bring out, make conscious, and build on the true worldview buried within the unconscious. Our actual worldview formed as our genes interacted with the world around us when we were small children. This worldview is therefore natural to who we are and takes into account the social milieu into which we were born. The process of revealing this authentic worldview can be a difficult and painful one. Filled with trials and tribulations, it can take a very long time. Yet with patience and persistence, we can win through. All we have to do is acquire the habit of suspending the set piece ideological argument or the knee-jerk consensus reality response and pay attention to what we are actually thinking or feeling.

As we learn what we truly believe and what our own genuine opinions are about many aspects of life and the world, we are learning about our true selves. Since it must contain a large amount of self-knowledge, the worldview we forge becomes central to our existence. It is our unique philosophy of life, our ethical compass, our moral guide, our solace of personal wisdom in any situation. Life is amazingly better when we know our own mind.

Author: Thomas Cotterill

I am a manic-depressive made philosophical by my long struggle with the disruptive mood disorder, during which I spent sixteen years living as a forest hermit. I write philosophical essays, fantasy, and science fiction. My attempt to integrate creativity, psychology, philosophy, and spirituality imbues everything I write. You will find hundreds of related essays and articles on my blog. I live quietly in British Columbia's scenic Fraser Valley, a beautiful place in which to wax philosophical.

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