From Anthroposophy

A worldview is the set of beliefs about the world at large, that a person or society uses as the basis for its functioning and position in life and the cosmos, and which forms the foundation for decisions and actions. Because of this it therefore has a moral impact.

One can use the metaphor or compass or a gyroscope with a map, used for navigating life and helping to decide how to steer and where to go.

The worldview, that provides the cosmogeny and teleology for Man and society, is based on the state of thinking in science and philosophy, and how these (try to) provide answers on Man's most important questions about Man, life and the cosmos. See also Schema FMC00.275 below which details these fundamental questions to be answered. One of today's key 'battlefields' is the explanation of human consciousness. For a short description of cosmogeny and teleology, see also Discussion area on Meaning of life

In the 20th and 21st centuries, one could distinguish the following main worldviews:

  • the materialistic worldview, dominant worldwide, based on mineral science (incl. all the modern theoretical and applied sciences: physics, astronomy, medicine, etc)
  • the spiritual worldview, based on spiritual science (incl. anthroposophy, theosophy, hermetics, esoteric christinanity, etc)
  • the 'fundamentalistic' religious worldview (eg in islamitic or hindu countries where religion still has the upper hand influence on society over science, but also creatonism in the US could be suggested as an example)

The worldview question is very much interlinked to the question of belief and religion. For example: the materialistic worldview may lead or leads to atheism, but not all people adhering to this worldview are militant or convinced atheists (maybe on the contrary).

The difference in worldview and belief system is, of all ages, polarizing and historically underlying prosecution and wars - see worldview wars.

See also: There's a crack in everything and Top five problems with current science


Schema FMC00.275 is a comparative overview by the DL (author/editor of this site) of the key questions that a worldview must answer, based on Apostel's work on worldviews in 1994 (second column). These are related to the 'seven riddles' by du Bois - Raymond's speech in 1880 (often referenced by Rudolf Steiner), and more recently Rupert Sheldrake's challenge of the dogmas of science in 2012 (see TED movie and his books).

The right column adds five key issues with the 'mineral science worldview' (by myself in 2014, without knowing the three others then). The goal here was to try and point out in the most condensed way possible where mineral science goes in error versus the more holistic meta-representation offered by spiritual science (see also Goethean science).


Lecture coverage and references

Emil du Bois-Reymond (1818-1896) was a German physician and physiologist

The two lectures 1905-10-05-GA054 and 1920-09-27-GA232 refer to du Bois-Reymond’s talk


Worldview debate end 20th century

Examples of authors in the contemporary debate on worldviews are oa:

  • Daniel Dennett (1942-) & Richard Dawkins (1942-) - proponents of atheism as a militant spear point of the materialistic worldview
  • Thomas Nagel (1937-) offering a critique of the material reductionist accounts of the mind and the impact of the materialistic worldview for morality
  • Alvin Plantinga (1932-) .. an example of philosophical integrative positioning of religious belief and contemporary mineral science (god could have used darwinian processes, etc)

Related pages

References and further reading