A worldview is meant to give a systematic explanation of those inescapable, unavoidable facts of experience accessible to all people, in all cultures, across all periods of history. In biblical terms, those facts constitute general revelation. Philosophers sometimes refer to them collectively as the life-world, or lived experience, or pre-theoretical experience. The whole point of building theoretical systems is to explain what humans know by pre-theoretical experience. That is the starting point for any philosophy. That is the data it seeks to explain. If it fails to explain the data of experience, then it has failed the test. It has been falsified.
Another way to get at what a worldview is is to see it as our essential, rock-bottom answers to the following seven questions:
- What is prime reality-the really real? To this we might answer God, or the gods, or the material cosmos.
- What is the nature of external reality, that is, the world around us?
Here our answers point to whether we see the world as created or autonomous, as chaotic or orderly, as matter or spirit, or whether we emphasize our subjective, personal relationship to the world or its objectivity apart from us.
- What is a human being? To this we might answer a highly complex machine, a sleeping god, a person made in the image of God, a “naked ape.”
- What happens to persons at death? Here we might reply personal extinction, or transformation to a higher state, or reincarnation, or departure to a shadowy existence on “the other side.”
- Why is it possible to know anything at all? Sample answers include the idea that we are made in the image of an all-knowing God or that consciousness and rationality developed under the contingencies of survival in a long process of evolution.
- How do we know what is right and wrong? Again, perhaps we are made in the image of a God whose character is good; or right and wrong are determined by human choice alone or what feels good; or the notions simply developed under an impetus toward cultural or physical survival.
- What is the meaning of human history? To this we might answer, to realize the purposes of God or the gods, to make a paradise on earth, to prepare a people for a life in community with a loving and holy God, and so forth.