06 July 2014

More Thinking About Worldview Thinking

Early in 2014 I posted a critique of the dangers of worldview thinking as ideology. You can read it here. I argued that notwithstanding the value of painstakingly discerning world-and-life views of important thinkers, the current truncated version popularized simply as "worldview" bypassed the hard work of actually knowing the object of analysis. In other words, the answers to a few quick worldview questions tells all we need to now about, say Ludwig Wittgenstein, so there's no need to bother reading his challenging works. (To read someone who has actually worked through Wittgenstein and found much of value read James K.A Smith,  Who's Afraid of Relativism: Community, Contingency, and Creaturehood (Baker Academic 2014)).

While worldview analysis can be misused to shortcut the hard work of philosophy, it's even less helpful when it comes to literature and other forms of art, so Peter Leithart is quoted here. In an answer to the question, "Is this [story-telling] dimension of Shakespeare in danger of being overlooked by a 'worldview-ism' approach to literary texts?" Leithart replies (rants?) as follows:
I’m ready to delete “worldview” from Christian vocabulary. It’s an especially clunky category for evaluating art. Drama and poetry can’t be reduced to clever ways of communicating ideas, which is what happens in “worldview” analysis. To get the worldview, you extract ideas about man, society, God, and nature from the plays and organize them into a system; you ignore the poetry and the plot and everything that makes the play a play or the poem a poem. You come to the plays with a preconceived framework that makes it impossible to learn anything from them, much less enjoy them. You produce students who are glib know-it-alls, who don’t need to read the plays carefully because they already know what they think.
Exactly. To be sure, all data is interpreted within a framework set by our answers to ultimate questions, and worldview can be a useful starting point for basic philosophy. And equally, Shakespeare had a worldview. But why should I care about Shakespeare's epistemology or metaphysics? Much contemporary worldview thinking founders or, even worse, leads folks astray when it is treated as the end of thorough analysis or when it is misapplied to inappropriate fields of human endeavor.

No comments:

Post a Comment