Critical Thinking Tip #1: Make Explicit Your Weltanschauung (Worldview)

What’s your Weltanschauung—your worldview?

In other words, what do you think you know about the world (your metaphysics)? How do you think you know it (your epistemology)? What should you be doing and valuing as an individual (your ethical and aesthetic judgments)? And what should you be doing and valuing in league with others (your politics)?

Do you have answers to such questions? Have you checked your premises lately? How you answer these questions, and the premises you bring to them, is your Weltanschauung.

All claims arrive embedded, implicitly or explicitly, in a Weltanschauung. And so bringing into awareness one’s worldview (and the worldviews held by others) can help you evaluate claims. For example, let’s imagine that you have a friend who approaches you and says the following: I’m pregnant!

Perhaps your first response to her announcement is skepticism. Even though you are pretending to be happy for her, in the back of your mind you’re noting to yourself two curious things: (1) you know her to be religious and that she doesn’t approve of sleeping around, yet she’s happy about her situation; and (2) you know that, not only is she not married, she’s not in any sort of relationship at all. In fact, she told you only a month ago that she’s a virgin. But here she is, a month later, elated and announcing her pregnancy.

So you’re skeptical. And you should be. You politely ask your friend how she knows that she is pregnant and she makes this jaw-dropping announcement: An angel of the Lord visited me in the twilight of morning and told me so!

Okay, so now we’re in Virgin Mary territory. An extraordinary claim is being made. And with this piece of information, a worldview reveals itself behind the claim. It is one in which angels exist (a metaphysical assumption) and personal religious experience counts as knowledge (an epistemic assumption). If you think such a worldview containing these aspects is dubious, the plausibility of your friend’s pregnancy claim loses a good deal of steam with you.

For critical thinking tip #2, see here.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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One Response to Critical Thinking Tip #1: Make Explicit Your Weltanschauung (Worldview)

  1. Anonymous says:

    why all the time examples come from Christianity; what about other religions? why everyone would play and joke with Christianity, I do not understand!

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