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Views of 'worldview'

Professor Richard Dewitt, Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Fairfield University, defines worldview as follows:

Although the term "worldview" has been used fairly widely for over 100 years, it is not a term that carries a standard definition. So it is worth taking a moment to clarify how I will be using the term. In the shortest of descriptions, I will use "worldview" to refer to a system of beliefs that are interconnected in something like the way the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle are interconnected. That is, a worldview is not merely a collection of separate, independent, unrelated beliefs, but is instead an intertwined, interrelated, interconnected system of beliefs.Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; invalid names, e.g. too many

Writing from the perspective of the history and philosophy of science, Professor Dewitt refers to systems of beliefs like those enunciated by, for example, Aristotle, Ptolemy, Copernicus, Galileo, Isaac Newton, quantum physicists and contemporary (early 21st century) cosmologists.

Philosopher Clément Vidal at the Center Leo Aopstel, Free University of Brussels, writing from the perspective that "...many of our profound age old philosophical questions can nowadays be tackled by scientific means", introduces the concept of worldview as follows:

Three general scientific approaches are proposed for this endeavour: systems theory as a universal language for science, a problem-solving approach and the general idea of evolution, broadly construed." [emphases in original]

With Rescher [gives citation: N. Rescher, Philosophical Reasoning: A Study in the Methodology of Philosophizing (Blackwell Publishers, 2001), 33.8], we can distinguish between the “procedural agenda”, which is what we call here the worldview questions; and the “substantive agenda”, which consists of the proposed answers to the questions, and are the worldview components. The components articulated together form a worldview, that we define as a coherent collection of concepts allowing us “to construct a global image of the world, and in this way to understand as many elements of our experience as possible."[gives citation: Apostel and Van der Veken, ‘’Wereldbeelden’’. ‘’Van fragmentering naar integratie’’, 17.9][1]

Complexity theorist, Professor Francis Heylighen at the Free University of Brussels, writing from the perspective of psychology, emphasizes a more human dimension of the concept:

One of the biggest problems of present society is the effect of overall change and acceleration on human psychology. Neither individual minds nor collective culture seem able to cope with the unpredictable change and growing complexity…What we need is a framework that ties everything together, that allows us to understand society, the world, and our place in it, and that could help us to make the critical decisions which will shape our future. It would synthesize the wisdom gathered in the different scientific disciplines, philosophies and religions. Rather than focusing on small sections of reality, it would provide us with a picture of the whole. In particular, it would help us to understand, and therefore cope with, complexity and change. Such a conceptual framework may be called a "world view”[2]


  1. Vidal C. (2008) Wat is een wereldbeeld? (What is a worldview?), in Van Belle, H. & Van der Veken, J., Editors, Nieuwheid denken. De wetenschappen en het creatieve aspect van de werkelijkheid, in press. Acco, Leuven.
  2. Franicis Heylighen. What is a world view? Principia Cybernetica Web.