worldviews consciousness cosmopolitanism de | eng
Foto Heidelberg: Thaddäus Zech







The term worldview describes a holistic understanding of the world - how the world is to be understood as a meaningful framework of human existence. Worldviews represents the totality of assumptions and values, the structural as well as contentual interpretation of the world: concepts like space and time, life and death, the self and its relationship to the social and natural environment, causality, the origin of the universe and evolution of life, the place of the world within the larger cosmos.


These categories represent fundamental socio-cultural concepts of the world, for the individual as well as society as a whole. They built a composite of believes, values and attitudes of a society or culture - as for example the role, function and responsibility of the individual - and therefore greatly influence our sense of self and our perceptions. What we perceive and observe, what we experience through our five senses, where we place our attention and awareness is not an objective, detailed reproduction process. It is a highly complex process where fragments are put together and complemented with probabilities – and these probabilities are based on our own previous life experiences, our social and cultural upbringing. Rationality and objectivity for example, which are valued so highly in Western culture, are not impartial transcendent virtues or meta-cultural truths but rather socially constructed and culturally narrated notions about ‘reality’. Our awareness and perception is highly influenced by our dominant worldview.

Worldviews and Orientation

Worldviews serve to give a sense of order, meaning and orientation in the space we live and move. They are ‘inescapable ontological frameworks’, so Charles Taylor. Arguably it is impossible for humans to live without frameworks, be that based on Christian, Buddhist, atheist, capitalist or other foundations. These frameworks within which we live and make sense of our life mostly include strong qualitative discriminations and provide the horizon within which a society or culture decides what is good and valuable, or wrong and unethical.

These cosmological systems form our consciousness: they condition our subjective experience as a human being and directly influence our behaviour. Our worldview is the background against which our life unfolds and makes sense. It is the horizon against which the cosmos constitutes itself as a meaningful whole and where we place ourselves within this whole. According to the philosopher Dilthey worldviews are connected to our heart blood and innermost self, determining our basic mood in life. Contrarily, Foucault saw worldviews as an internalized control instance within a social fabric or structure aiming to restrict our individual need for freedom.

Foucault, Taylor and Dilthey are discussing essential, if contradictory, attributions of worldviews and their impact on the individual. It is this tension between ‘heart blood’ and ‘internalized control mechanism’, which is of particular interest at the institute. A main area of investigation will be the dynamic relationship between worldviews and the individual and the consequences the former has on the individual’s experience of being-in-the-world. The focus is on processes aiming at awareness about our socio-cultural conditioning and consequently our way of being and acting in the world.


Foto Aborigine:
Landmark Media / interTOPICS