From the earliest childhood experiences, each person starts to form a perception of the world around. The process of learning is called inductive learning, and is largely subconscious. The perceptions build up as the person grows up, becoming reinforced or substituted with time. In due course, the person attains a more or less comprehensive paradigm of the world. This paradigm serves as a stereotype upon through each new experience is filtered. Hence the broader the individual experiences, the more objectively the person can perceive the world around. The sum up of the person’s view of the world and the ensuing expectations is his or her worldview- a platform upon which the person’s very personality is built (Dwight 2004).
Worldviews are simultaneously individual and group phenomena. The society at large renders certain traits to its members. These traits could be from the society’s unique history, present circumstances, and the general physical environment and so on. Secondary contributing factors within the society include the language, cultural beliefs and practices, and so on. The individual also adds a dimension to the worldview out of his or her unique interpretation of the environment and circumstances. And from this worldview, the individual slowly develops a personality- a unique personal attributes that no two people can share in its entirety (Strategy Leader N.D.).
Due to its wide-encompassing nature, a worldview can never be directly linked to a single external or internal personal attribute. There is no cut and dry way of extrapolating the kind of a worldview a certain person somewhere will have. Generalities exist, of course. For example, people from a strict catholic background do share a few behavioural traits. So do people from any tightly-knit society, or a society just fresh from a harrowing experience. But within this very superficial grouping, each individual profile is unique, and should be respected in this uniqueness. Expecting a person to behave or react in a certain way just because of some ethnic, geographical or historical background is not realistic. Such expectations would basically be ignoring the person’s liberty to decision making.
Paradigms and worldviews
The broad application of worldview carries along other concepts worth clarifying. As already implied, there’s a close comparison between worldviews and paradigms. Now paradigms are model of thoughts- conceptual frameworks built up from experience and future expectations. While worldviews basically dictate how an individual perceives and interprets events, paradigms refer to preconceptions- a case scenario of the past being used as a mirror for the future. Where the past has brought fortune and joy, the future is anticipated with optimism. But where the past has wrought injustice and woe, the future is waited upon with apprehension.
And where the past has left a feeling of hopelessness, the future is viewed with resignation. And so on. The close connection between the past and the future is evident where paradigms are concerned. But for worldview, the present and the immediate environment tends to play a more deterministic role, one way or the other.
The fact that worldviews can pivot upon a brief occurrence render them a fragile dimension. It adds upon the fact of a human being’s ultimate unpredictability. Actually, the only way to draw conclusive predictions upon an individual’s worldview is to assume a static culture. A static culture refers to a hypothetical state whereby the individual’s environment doesn’t significantly change. The emphasis is on significant- for change is inevitable in any social system. However, if all the dynamics in a culture are so neutral as to have no effect on the individual’s worldview, then the culture can be said to be static.
Individual and group cultures
It is important to note that there is both an individual and a group culture in existence. The individual culture relates to the individual’s beliefs, practices and general standards of living. Where these parameters approach the wider society’s ideal, then the individual is said to be cultured. An uncultured person hence is one who falls short of the society’s expectations. Since societies differ from place to place and from one time period to another, being cultured or not is very subjective. Whoever passes for very cultured in a certain society may be regarded as a barbarian in another. All this taps into the wider society’s system, called the group culture. The group culture hence dictates how the individual should respond and conform to the dictates of the wider society, in order to belong (Sean 2000).
Two main categories of culture heavily determine a culture’s worldview. These are the cognitive culture and the social culture. The cognitive culture is the intellectual realm of the social system. It is the part that changes with changing environmental demands. It is the part that objectively responds to perceived challenges in the social system. It anticipates, prepares and deals with these challenges as they occur. The social culture, on the other hand, determines how the people in a certain place interact and relate to one another. It hence spells out such concepts as social etiquette. It helps in the social hierarchy system- determining who are the leaders, and the followers. And from all these dynamics, a culture develops a unique, dynamic system that efficiently sustains itself (Knowledge Today N.D).
Western, Eastern and African cultures
On the global scale, there exists a major distinction in the way cultures have been constructed, and hence the prevailing worldviews. The distinction lies between the western cultures on one side, and the Eastern and African cultures on the other. In the west, the individual as a complete, independent entity is a valid concept. The society there exists because the individual does. The Eastern and African cultures turn this concept around: the individual exists because the society does. This means that an individual in these cultures is judged upon his or her cultural background. The reliance on this background is so strong and pervading that the individual would be an invalid concept if marooned. In other words, the individual would lose identity without the culture.
There are merits and demerits to these cultural constructs. The western construct gives the individual an independent mind- hence his or her actions are not based on a wider conformation platform, but on individually-perceived necessity. This gives the western individual the leeway to act upon and maximize on personal potential and aspirations. From an entirely materialistic point of view, this cultural construct is most supportive of success. However, it totally robs the individual of a social conscience. The person never quite binds with other members of the society. Hence goals and aspirations tend to be self-serving. Every phenomenon is interpreted from an individualistic point of view. Where social dynamics don’t affect individual comforts, they are ignored. It’s the classic case of “live and let live”.
The African and Eastern cultures on the other hand tend to bind the people together. The sense of loosing an identity outside a particular culture is highly developed. The advantage here is that people then tend to work better and synergistically as a team. Individual interests are surpassed on the priority list by the wider society’s interests. There’s an obvious advantage in case scenarios where individual interests would be retrogressive.
The disadvantage though is that individual potential may never be maximized in such a system. There are no tangible incentives to foster an above-average output from an individual. People coming from such tightly bound cultures also tend to suffer from culture shocks more upon interacting with other cultures. Their worldviews also tend to be narrow- minded, residing within certain parameters set by the wider culture.
The significance of this distinction between Western and Eastern cultures has been observed in the way the two cultures have progressed over time. The Eastern and African cultures have tended to stick to traditional worldviews. Their reception to new ideas is low. They have tended to maintain their historical identities – artefacts, rituals, beliefs etc. Their interaction with other cultures has also been low-key. On the other hand, the Western civilization can’t really be held down to any particular way of life. Each individual really is cultural system by himself or herself. The western capability to assimilate new ideas is also high, and they tend to utilize this for material gain. Their interaction with other cultures is also observably high- the highest number of tourists and emigrants come from there.
Language and worldview
Another major contributor to worldview is language. Language in this context is referring to the spoken word. There are thousands of languages in the world today. Of them, only a few are wide spread. These major languages spread across sovereign states and help in international communication. Their impact on world views is indisputable. People who can communicate in a certain language tend to share certain concepts.
In this way, there are certain concepts mainly found in the Western cultures. Differing concepts are found in the Middle East cultures, and still different concepts are found in the Far East. A major point on which these differences can be seen is religious beliefs. The Western culture is liberal, more or less. The Middle East adhere more to one religion- usually Islam. The Far East cultures have all sorts of religions within their structure. These glaring differences can be traced back to the three major languages to be found in the three regions: English, Arabic and Chinese (Doug 2000).
Just as the worldviews differ on the global scale along regional lines, so do they differ on an individual base. As the individual grows up, and accumulates experiences, aspirations and expectations also become conceptualized. These aspirations and expectations can be the individual’s strong point or undoing. Where the group culture’s demands don’t conflict with the individual culture, a very capable person develops. Such a person thrives within the society, and usually ends up becoming a huge success.
Terms like “cultured”, “prosperous”, “role model” etc come to refer to the person. However, where the wider society conflicts with an individual’s worldview, the individual ends up either breaking away from that society, or staying put and wasting away. Terms like “barbaric”, “failure”, “villain” etc may then best describe the final personality. But just as already mentioned, these terms are highly subjective, and are only coherent within a certain culture.
Natives and foreigners
The uniqueness of each culture and its worldview makes it easy to identify “natives” and “foreigners”. Natives in this sense are individuals who comfortably conform to all the rigors of a certain cultural system. The foreigners, on the other hand, are easy to spot. Even with concerted efforts to fit into a culture, foreigners will occasionally portray “social burps” that immediately differentiate them from the mainstream natives.
This distinction becomes important when a cultural system is trying to accommodate a newcomer. The natives need to be open-minded and appreciative of the cultural differences likely to be on display. Without such accommodation, interactions between different cultures would be virtually impossible. During the assimilation period, there is a phase of great understanding, whereby no judgment can be passed on perceived differences between the two cultures. With time, however, the newcomer is expected to slowly adapt and adopt the new values and principles of the culture, as he or she becomes a part of it. The process obviously affects his or her worldview – at the very least by broadening it (Hsp N.D.).
In conclusion, there is a strong, indisputable correlation between how people behave and their worldviews. And since these worldviews are part individual and part communally-shared, it’s not possible to predict with absolute certainty the complete worldview of an individual. Besides, since worldviews can change in an instance due to significant experiences, the effort to predict such may be ultimately pointless. Suffice it to say that worldviews do have a foundation on individual experience and exposure. Whether they build up or tear down the individual or the wider society depends on the individual’s interpretation of the experiences.
Doug Hewitt 2000 ‘A Clash of Worldviews: Experiences from Teaching Aboriginal Students’.Theory into practice Vol 2, Issue 39. Pgs. 113-116.
Dwight N. Brahe. 2004 Worldview: The evolution of a concept. Hillman Publishers, Maine. Pg. 124-127.
Hsp Worldviews in contact, conflict or cooperation? When Swedes and English interacted. Web.
Knowledge Today. Psycho-Social Dynamics Advanced by Group Identity Modeling. Web.
Senn, Frank C. 2000 New Creation: A Liturgical Worldview. Minneapolis, Minnesota: FortressPress,. Pg 95-98.
Strategy Leader What is worldview? Web.