We are always inevitably building our worldview, and we are always inevitably disagreeing with others around us. In the previous post I noted that it is very important that we disagree correctly. The prevailing context in our culture today seems to be the tendency to dismiss, to cut ourselves off and to pronounce the crazy radicals as not even being worthy of our consideration. And yet in this we are perhaps showing, more than anything else, our own radical pride and unwillingness to think and be challenged.
Another really important reason behind this divisiveness that we see was our lack of understanding how worldviews work. This too offers important food for thought. When we think about our perspective, we realize that it is not a scattered collection of random thoughts. Reason is what enables our minds to function. We put ideas together in a certain way, we see connections, logical causes, and convincing arguments. Every worldview has its core tenets or principles, which function as the foundation for everything else. Every conviction we reach or idea we embrace is only connected to a deeper, more foundational principle that makes everything else possible.
In this sense, worldviews are like buildings, whose structure depends on the solidity of the foundation. Another analogy is that of a tree. Every little leaf and branch exists only because it is connected to thicker, stronger ones. Eventually all are connected to the trunk which feeds life to all the rest of the tree.
For example, you meet a guy at the bus stop who states that he is creating his own new morality, and that he is gathering supporters. At first such a statement may seem totally absurd. But if you dig a little deeper you may discover that he is an atheist that is deeply committed to a secular evolutionary cosmology. As you listen, you learn that based on extensive research and reading he has done he is convinced that, based on the science, all of life is merely the product of slow and random biochemical change. This then leads him to conclude a number of other things, one of which is the fact that morality is largely subjective and arbitrary. This leaves only two options – either you submit to the prevailing morality of your time, or moving along with the evolutionary progress of our species, you can attempt to spearhead humanity into a higher and better moral system. At the end, nature itself will decide if this idea survives and dominates.
Although at first you thought you were talking to someone who may need psychiatric attention, as you listen, you realize that that there is much to his ideas that makes sense.
Now here’s the point – the further you climb up the worldview tree, the more extreme or ridiculous the ideas may sound. Yet you cannot measure the validity of a belief system on the basis of its peripheral conclusions. You have to look at the foundation on which the whole thing stands. You have to look at the underlying propositions that make that idea possible or plausible.
True disagreement happens when we have taken the time to understand the foundational tenets of someone’s thinking, and the reasons behind the things they say. Our tendency is to think that our own worldview is built on reason while everyone else’s is built on their biased desires, and is void of any validity. In reality, even the most opposing worldviews are often build on 99% good reasoning. Even when we disagree with their foundational beliefs, we will find that their thinking, searching and questioning will expand our own point of view. We will see that they ask questions we have not thought to ask, and have observed and noticed things in our view that we have failed to see.
Lastly, unless we learn to take people seriously and understand and respect their thinking, we will never be able to have an influence on them. People will take you seriously when you take them seriously. They will respect your thinking when you respect theirs.