Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A Response to 'Coach' Regarding My 'Worldview'

Coach wrote:

Professor Waller, I enjoyed your interview on the Atheist Hour. You showed your ability to reason under fire, which is a very tough thing to do. I was quite surprised to hear that you do not have a worldview. A worldview is a collection of beliefs that one holds as one's presuppositions. A person interprets all the evidence gathered through her senses in the light of her worldview. I would say that it is impossible, as a sentient being, to not have a worldview: "The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world. A collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or a group." ( How can someone not have a worldview.

My Reply:


Now, would you say this claim of yours (that it is not possible to not have a worldview) is a self-evident claim? Is it an a priori claim? Or, is it a predicament of language (I tend to think that the illusion language gives us that we are actually organizing the universe into definable catagories often misleads us into thinking we are making sense of things when in reality we are not making sense because there is no sense to be made)? I assume that you are too intelligent (I like your use of the indefinite pronoun, 'she' which implies that you are either a woman and thus a superior intellect, or a man who is sensitive to language) to say that your claim is biological (that way lay Hitler).

I'll tell you why I refuse to accept the idea that I must have a 'worldview', which I had hoped I'd implied strongly enough on the pastor's show, but of course, again, language often double crosses or at least fails us. I am PROFOUNDLY suspicious of this claim, in English, mind you, that I must have what you called "a collection of beliefs that one holds as one's presuppositions". First of all, why should I assume that they are MY presuppositions? Aren't they the presuppositions of the society and social sub group(s) to which I belong and which have conditioned my ideas, thoughts, values, and the like? In a sense, really, one cannot EVER have a worldview of one's own, since one's worldview is always that of some arbitrary social milieu.

Please don't imagine that I am just playing with language here, either, because I am quite serious. Logically, you will claim that having just said all I've said, I have in fact declared a worldview. Aha! See the slippery nature of language? How it defeats us? Linguistically, I cannot in fact claim to not have a worldview because the way in which grammar works will conspire to make me affirm the negative claim I make in the very act of making it. I will undo my own claim in uttering it. That's only a linguistic reality, however, I'd argue. And I'll take this idea even further: why should I not demand to be unmolested by the typically unsubtle English of "worldview"? What about the french, "approche globale", which translates as 'worldview' but notice how the French term eliminates the English-implied imperious gaze from above or without, in recline, and how the French language turns the phrase into an active rather than passive description--a 'global approach' not a 'view' as if from a rise or a remove. Then there is the wonderful Italian, "visione del mondo", which means something like 'vision of this world'. As is always the case with Italian, there is far more of a sense of poetry, imagination, and what Spanish speakers call "mente" (reflection, reflexivity) in this phrase.

You see, like so much else that happened between the pastor and me in our discussion, he compulsively tried to force, to superimpose his beliefs, his assumptions, his language, and HIS 'worldview' (concretized, fixed, and handed down from on high) onto me without my permission or even my own input. This is typical of contemporary American Christians of the Protestant type, I have found in my interactions with a wide range of people, including all sorts of Christians. Indeed, every religious group seems to have elements of this sort of force and domination at least at its edges or enscounced in its fundamentalists.

I don't have a worldview. I reject that idea, as is my right--I reject it's Anglophilic mentation and point of view, as well as the cultural smallness of its usage. Such is my right. The mere fact that I use language to communicate ideas does not make me language's bitch.


Professor Ray Waller


Regina said...

I am an atheist in the bitter, ex-Catholic, rabid-denier-of-a-god-presence tradition of atheism. I am passionately, devoutly atheist. At times I have doubted my lack of faith, but my return to atheism is aways inevitable because deep down I know I can depend on there being No One There.

Anonymous said...

Yay, Regina!!