I was thinking about the concept of ‘worldview’ the other day. It’s a word that’s used a lot now, but I can’t help wonder if people mean different things by it.
For me, all human beings suffer from a kind of ‘locked in’ syndrome. We process information about the world (in particular, how we perceive and understand other people) through our societal, cultural and familial lenses. The social construction of our moral logic begins from the day we were born. It is through this discourse that we interpret the world.
It stands to reason, therefore, that all our perspectives are limited and partial. If this sounds a bit too post-modern, how about the verse in the bible that tells us that we all see through a glass (lens) darkly (1 Cor 13:12)?
I love the potential behind the concept of ‘worldview’. This is because it offers us a way of transcending the opaque glass of our understanding. One way of doing this, is simply by enquiring into the perspectives of others.
Gareth Morgan talks about this in his book Images of Organisation:
“The idea of psychic prison was first explored in Plato’s Republic in the famous allegory of the cave where Socrates addresses the relationship among between appearance, reality and knowledge. The allegory pictures an underground cave with its mouth open toward the light of a blazing fire. Within the cave are people chained so that they cannot move. They can see only the cave wall directly in front of them. This is illuminated by the light of the fire, which throws shadows of people and objects onto the wall. The cave dwellers equate the shadows with reality, naming them, talking about them, and even linking sounds from outside the cave with the movements on the wall. Truth and reality for the prisoners rest in this shadowy world, because they have no knowledge of any other.
However… if one of the inhabitants were allowed to leave the cave, he would realise that the shadows are but dark reflections of a more complex reality, and that the knowledge and perceptions of his fellow cave dwellers are distorted and flawed. If he were then to return to the cave, he would never be able to live in the old way again, since for him the world would be a very different place. …if he were to try and share this new knowledge with them, he would probably be ridiculed for his views. For the cave prisoners, the familiar images of the cave would be much more meaningful than any story about the world they had never seen.” Morgan 1986
In this sense, our worldview can be a kind of psychic prison.
Plato’s cave stands for our ‘worldview’ and the journey outside represents the potential to transcend our limited understanding of the world.
Accepting that our perspectives are partial – and developing a curiosity and appreciation about how others see the world – can begin to help us see beyond the limits of our own socialisation.