Life is a journey which involves physical, mental and spiritual experiences. These experiences personify the human development/evolvement process which is indelible and universal – transcending time and cultural boundaries. The entire infrastructure of people’s culture is interwoven with personal impressions, ideas, emotions, and prejudices. Gender, age, creed, race, religion, etc affects how an individual perceives him or herself, others, and situations.
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Within this scheme of perception is personal worldviews or theories about the world at large. An array of definitions, worldviews in essence encompass a framework of ideas, attitudes and a comprehensive system of beliefs with a wide range of questions and answers surfacing. They include, naming a few – What are humans, why we are here, and what is our purpose in life? Does evil and good exists? Life should be or is simple? What is your view of a good life?
Multi-faceted, worldviews have a unique purpose in our lives. Diverse people and cultures constitute this world. The various worldviews permeating this world bring us in contact with such diversity. Every aspect of culture is affected by worldviews. Most importantly, society and worldviews are interrelated, for where a person comes from affects how they think.
Understanding the societal connection enhances better dialogue and understanding of the diversity. As Scottish writer and Professor, Roderick Ninian Smart states “since the study of man is in an important sense participatory—for one has to enter into men’s intentions, beliefs, myths, desires, in order to understand why they act as they do—it is fatal if cultures including our own are described merely externally, without entering into dialogue with them (Smart)”.
We come in contact with worldviews on a daily basis; to ignore their significance would be a detriment. Introspection (self, etc.) and challenges is what makes life meaningful and well rounded. Worldviews as by the aforementioned questions spark introspection; they serve as the eyeglasses or contact lenses for the inner self in terms of correction and improvement. They serve as the prescription for bringing sense and understanding to the world. In line with this premise, American Philosophy Professor Arthur F. Holmes asserts worldview’s purpose is fourfold – “the need to unify thought and life; the need to define the good life and find hope and meaning in life; the need to guide thought; the need to guide action (Holmes, 5).”
Where do my worldviews fit in the scheme of things? In regards to the premise/concept /ideology of good and evil, or good vs. evil, much has been hypothesized. The world is indicative of these opposing views ignited by the thoughts and actions of men. What did Luke the Evangelist espouse?
“A good man, out of the good treasure of his heart, bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man, out of the evil treasures of his heart, birngeth forth that which is evil; for the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh (Scofield).”
What is good? What is evil? I do not believe that these divergent forces exist. In their stead, is self-interests and selfishness. Self-interests govern human and animal behavior with when to eat and sleep as examples. It is a derivative of self determination and does require outside forces to make them occur. In essence it is what is always done for growth and betterment. Self-interest gravitates to selfishness or altruism with interaction with others.
From the Khemer Rouge and Darfur genocide to the unjustified U.S. invasion of Iraq, the Wall Street financial meltdown and The Peanut Corp. of America scandal (2009 salmonella outbreak in the U.S.) – for sure they are reflective of the tragic consequences of corrupt and selfish self interests with cataclysmic affects. ‘Greed is good’ and ‘Looking out for number one’ has replaced ‘I am my brother’s keeper’ and ‘Do onto other’s as you would have them do onto you’ as society’s current mottos. Even with altruism, the end result can or cannot be a benefit. The latter adages are reciprocal and only beneficial when the heart is pure and without ill content.
A good life and what constitutes it is an omnipresent ideal always bringing into the focus a key question – what is the meaning of life. It entails a standard of living one desires with the ultimate achievement of happiness as the impetus. Pioneering/prolific American psychologist, philosopher and medical doctor William James purported – “What is human life’s chief concern?…It is happiness.’ How to gain, how to keep, how to recover happiness, is in fact for most men at all times the secret motive of all they do, and of all they are willing to endure (The Varieties of Religious Experience).”
Destiny determines the value and importance of one’s life. Some concur that one’s destiny is predetermined or unchangeable. I believe in the context of good and evil/self-interests and selfishness, each person makes their own destiny based upon the choices they make and the paths they embark upon. What determines a good life is individualistic and varies with age. Life cycles (20’s, 30’s, 40’s, etc.) are characterized by distinguishable physiological and psychological changes which affect perceptions and outlooks. Circumstances and worldviews have a profound influence as well.
Inherent in life and living are values, ethics and morals – all principles of conduct or a system of beliefs which a person lives by or is governed accordingly. Intrinsic to a person’s character is their belief system coupled with motives, intentions, attitudes and disposition. They contribute to the distinguishable nature of our character. Adherence to one’s values/morals/ ethics requires discipline and accountability coupled with constant and persistent self assessment and introspection. Family, honesty and/or integrity, moderation and even ambition play a vital role as well.
These principles of human life are the primary focus of the popular philosophical volume – Six Myths about the Good Life: Thinking About What has Value – by Professor of Philosophy at the University of Connecticut, renowned Joel J. Kupperman. He agrees with the fundamental concept-tions that happiness, hedonism, reason, virtue, achievement serve as the tenets for a good life. They are generalizations however and do not delve into the diversity of life, only indicative of what Kupperman states “we would like to believe (Kupperman, ix).” They do not cause one to think further. As he states in the introduction,
“One assumption underlying this book is that everyone could benefit from thinking further, and in less simplisitic ways, about good lives. Another is that a useful first step is to summon up obvious and appealing generalizations and to see what is faulty about them (Kupperman, ix).”
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Utilizing Greek, Chinese, Chinese, Indian, and Roman sources/ideologies, Kupperman diverges to a path in which he feels what comprises a good life is focus on what has value and which values are most worth espousing. Essential to the philosophy of life are these premises Kupperman believes. To defend his hypothesis he provides an extensive expose on seven myths in chapter form regarding a good life – “Pursuing Comfort and Pleasure Will Lead to the Best Possible Life.” “The Desirable Life Equals the One That Is Most Happy,” “The Good Life Requires Reaching a Good Equilibrium, a Point at Which the Important Difficulties Are Resolved,” “Reason Rather Than Emotions Would Be the Best Indicator of What Would Be a Good Life,” “There Is No Real Connection, At Least in This Life, Between True Virtue and a Desirable Kind of Life,” “True Virtue is Impeccable,” and “How Can We Know What Has Value?”
Kupperman does not find fault with these myths but he does not believe they are absolutely true. His ultimate as he states in the Introduction is “loosening the hold of attractive and simple ideas that get in the way of our intelligence (Kupperman, ix).” Kupperman deduces that what constitutes a good life is not necessarily satisfaction. What role does value play in terms of a good life? For Kupperman, value means ” how rewarding or unrewarding something is (Kupperman, 1).” What is worthy of being desired is the key. When experienced, it will supersede other experiences.
Helping others and the world is large is commendable and part of a good life, but as Kupperman expounds “much that is important in life involves not only working on the world, but also working on ourselves (Kupperman, 63).” In essence, the foundation of good life is a strong inner self. Also essential to a valuable life is virtue. – “obvious message is that, even from the point of view of sheer self-interest, virtue is generally a good strategy in life (Kupperman, 109).”
Internalization is necessary for obtaining virtue. Virtue results from “shaping of the self, acquiring a second nature (Kupperman, 100).” “The virtuous person” states Kupperman “has a source of satisfaction that is “inner and personal, having to do with the kind of person into which someone has transformed him or herself (Kupperman, 89). “ An integral part of everyday life is learning – the acquirement of a particular or host of skills. Skills require and enhance productivity, innovation, motivation, and a host of life management/enrichment tools. Kupperman advocates that involvement in skilled activities brings value to life and enriches the self as well.
Many dynamics (background experiences, inherited characteristics, life situations, attitudes, values, developed habits, etc.) affect an individual’s worldview. They vary from one person to another and are indicative of a mental model of reality. Whether it is James, Holmes, Luke the Evangelist, Kupperman, or Smart – all share a commonality however, that is the simple expression of ideas/ thoughts/ philosophies – worldviews. All worldviews despite diversity in nature espouse and cause us to reflect and introspect on the fundamental tenets and questions of life – what is good, what is important, what is sacred, what is real. They encompass perceptions of time, space, happiness, and overall wellbeing. A pervading force, they become the pinnacle and concept of a culture’s reality. Worldviews are in essence a distinct culture within itself.
Work Cited Page
Holmes, Arthur F. Contours of a World View. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983.
Kupperman, Joel J. “Six Myths about the good Life: Thinking About What has Value” Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hacket Publishing Company, Inc., 2006.
James, William. The Varieties of Religious Experience. Web.
Scofield, C.I. Reverend, Editor. The Scofield Study Bible. Oxford University Press: New York, 1917.
Smart, Ninian. Worldviews:Cross-cultural Explorations of Human Beliefs. Third Edition. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2000.