Two Incompatible & Mutually Hostile Worldviews

"I’m not sure these researchers fully engage [the worldview concept] and the complexity that often arises.  For example, is morality based on a transcendent absolute or do we make it up for ourselves? OK, we can see that social conservatives believe the former, while social liberals believe the latter. But..." - Gene Veith

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Aaron Blumer's picture

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From Veith's post:

Still, I think the research connecting worldview and politics is on to something, but I’m not exactly sure what that is.  Any ideas?

My take: Worldview includes what you believe about human nature and the role of government: what human society is capable of and what it is not. So... anthropology (in the sense of theology of man).

There's another layer, though. Possibly even prior to that, worldview includes what you believe about the knowability of truth itself. (Nancy Pearcy's Finding Truth is a good resource for more on the history of that.)

Increasingly, the real division in American culture is not right vs. left, especially since the right has been taken over by a different worldview than the one that drove it for many decades. The division now is "nihilism/will to power/make-your-own-truth tribalism" on both the right and the left vs. reason and revelation (which has many in the middle but also some on both the right and the left).

In short, the divide is now mostly thoughtful people vs. reactive people. (Sadly, the reactive/tribalist crowd seems to be the vast majority.)

GregH's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

From Veith's post:

Still, I think the research connecting worldview and politics is on to something, but I’m not exactly sure what that is.  Any ideas?

My take: Worldview includes what you believe about human nature and the role of government: what human society is capable of and what it is not. So... anthropology (in the sense of theology of man).

There's another layer, though. Possibly even prior to that, worldview includes what you believe about the knowability of truth itself. (Nancy Pearcy's Finding Truth is a good resource for more on the history of that.)

Increasingly, the real division in American culture is not right vs. left, especially since the right has been taken over by a different worldview than the one that drove it for many decades. The division now is "nihilism/will to power/make-your-own-truth tribalism" on both the right and the left vs. reason and revelation (which has many in the middle but also some on both the right and the left).

In short, the divide is now mostly thoughtful people vs. reactive people. (Sadly, the reactive/tribalist crowd seems to be the vast majority.)

I have been studying Richard Rorty and other postmodernists lately. One of major ideas that Rorty taught was that foundationalism is dead because any argument to prove otherwise must include circular logic. That obviously includes all religions but also the ideas of modern-era foundationalists like Descartes.

In general, I think most of today's philosophers/thinkers would agree that foundationalism is indeed dead. However, they look for alternatives to the other extreme (nihilism). The middle of the road is simply different variations on pragmatism (referring to the philosophy) with the general idea that you need frameworks for doing life not because you can prove truth absolutely but rather because it is necessary to have such a framework for society to survive/thrive.

In my view, such pragmatic philosophy is affecting the right and left in pretty much the same way. In general, the left and right are just at different points on a sliding scale between political extremes. So I reject the notion that the left and right think all that differently when you step back and look at things from a high level. Certainly the left is just as capable of creating and propping up a Donald Trump as the right is. In fact, the scary thing is that both the left and the right can do worse (and probably will before it is all said and done).

GregH's picture

One other thing that Rorty taught that I think is important to the political question in the article:  Rorty believed that not only could you not know truth but it was not really important that you know truth. In other words, truth does not really matter. What matters is what "works." This of course is textbook pragmatism.

I suppose that is the biggest gripe many including me have with what is happening politically. It is obvious that politics is about what works rather than truth. At present, that is more obvious on the right in the Republican defense of Trump but I am well aware that the left would do exactly the same thing if the roles were reversed. That is a reason why I say that this kind of pragmatism is affecting the right and left pretty equally. 

That being said, it seems to me that things are getting worse in that truth is becoming more and more decoupled from the process. While in the past, it was somewhat important that the things politicians said at least sound credible and truthful, today, politicians can get away with telling lies that are easily proven to be lies. Again, while Trump is the obvious example of this, I am sure the left can/will manage to match or outdo him in that regard eventually.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Culturally, it does come down to how we view truth. And unfortunately, I think you're right about this...

In fact, the scary thing is that both the left and the right can do worse (and probably will before it is all said and done).

Part of what's tragic about it all is that there is a Christian view of truth, and a conservative view of truth. But "the right" has mostly abandoned both. The circularity of foundationalism is only a problem because, as an approach to truth, it begins with man. There was really nothing wrong the old reason + revelation paradigm that shaped Western Civilization. What killed it, as far as I can tell, is that it tipped more and more toward reason and pushed revelation more and more to the back rooms and eventually out of the building. In my view, this happened due to an overly strong belief in an inadequately-defined idea of "progress." Too much optimism about how much man can do to improve man.

But--common grace--even a sensible, big-picture pragmatism would be better than the kind we have now, where truth is nothing more than a handy stick to hit Them with, as a means to "winning." So the right can can say "there was no quid pro quo" yesterday and say "there was, but there's nothing wrong with that" today (literally, a 24 hour period in many cases) and think that's a perfectly normal way to interact with truth.

In the currently dominant view of truth, as combat tool to use today and abandon tomorrow, "winning" has absolutely no meaning. There is no reason to think winning is better than losing in such a world.

Edit to add. I feel like the West has become completely Pilatized...

Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”  (ESV, John 18:37–38)