«Annick Hedlund-de Witt Worldviews and the transformation to sustainable societies An exploration of the cultural and psychological dimensions of our ...»
Thus, because the spiritual dimension of the human relationship with nature may be an important determinant of environmental behavior, consistently and explicitly including this dimension in survey-research may turn out to be fruitful.
More generally speaking, survey-measures could therefore benefit from an approach that is more comprehensive—not only in the sense of its structure, thus whole. Necessarily, integration builds on differentiation. More complex levels of functioning or development therefore involve greater levels of (cognitive) differentiation and integration (Mc Adams, 1994) 40 Kahn has illustrated how children, through the tensions arising between anthropocentric and biocentric values at a concrete level, develop a more abstract and integrative ethical frame (Van den Born et al., 2001).
100 including more aspects of worldviews as argued above, but also in terms of its content, including a wider variety of understandings and valuations of life and reality, such as spiritual ones.41 3.4 Towards a new conceptual and methodological approach According to the literature review and meta-analysis, survey-research aiming to explore worldviews and their relationships to sustainable behaviors and lifestyles may benefit from an approach that is comprehensive (in both structure and content) and systematic, measures structural worldview-beliefs, and is able to account for human and cultural development and the cognitive possibility of integration, instead of working with a binary framework based on mutual exclusiveness or conflation of integrated with undifferentiated perspectives. In this section, a conceptual framework is provided that aims to lay the foundation for such a conceptually and methodologically innovative approach, combining insights from notably philosophy and developmental psychology.
As extensively described in chapter two, the philosophical literature on the concept of worldview dates back to Immanuel Kant, who coined the term Weltanschaaung in 1790. In this body of literature, there appears to be recurring attention for certain aspects of worldviews, such as ontology, epistemology, and axiology (see e.g. Brague, 2003; Naugle, 2002; Sire, 2004; C. Taylor, 1989;
Wolters, 1989). The Integrative Worldview Framework (IWF), proposed in chapter two, attempts to contribute to a systematic and comprehensive worldviewoperationalization that supports accurate construct-measurement through distinguishing and articulating different aspects of worldviews. Other disciplinary approaches have come up with comparable aspects (see notably K.
A. Johnson et al., 2011). Of the five proposed aspects, the first three of 41 I distinguish between structure and content of worldviews, referring to structure to point at the different aspects that worldviews consist of (i.e., worldviews consist of ontological assumptions, epistemological assumptions, et cetera), and referring to content to point at the subject matter of these different beliefs and assumptions (i.e., while one worldview assumes reality to be ultimately of a material nature, another worldview presupposes the nature of reality to be ultimately transcendent or spiritual). In a similar vein, however using a different terminology, Koltko-Rivera (2004) speaks of the distinction between dimensional (structural) and categorical (content-based) approaches to worldviews.
101 ontology, epistemology, and axiology—which also can be seen as dominant subject-areas of philosophy—seem to be the most common, thus suggesting a fair degree of interdisciplinary agreement and overlap (see table 2; this list is not exhaustive).
The first aspect, ontology, refers to fundamental assumptions concerning the nature, constitution, and structure of reality—including nature, the cosmos, and the divine. Ontology is a central concept in philosophy dealing with questions concerning what entities exist and can be said to exist—the ‘what is really there,’ or in the words of Sire (2004) ‘the really real.’ An ontology is often related to a cosmogony, that is, an origin story or study of how the universe came to be what it is (Brague, 2003). Different worldviews conceptualize the nature and origins of the world differently—for example, as the creation of a transcendent God; as a material, mechanistically steered cosmos; or as a living, divine being or “Gaia.” In the reviewed approaches, this aspect comes to expression particularly in the contrasting of intrinsic with instrumental values of nature, as these values explicate how nature is seen.
The second aspect, epistemology, is a perspective on what knowledge is and how knowledge can come about—for example through empirical science, art and poetry, intuition, nature experience, or divine revelation. Epistemology is thus concerned with the nature, scope, and limitations of knowledge. In the philosophical literature on the worldview-concept the aspect of epistemology is central, as the notion of worldview became widespread after Kant’s coinage of the term Weltanschauung, reflecting the epistemological revolution taking place at the onset of Modernity (Naugle, 2002; see also Tarnas, 1991; C. Taylor, 1989).
Reflecting on the reviewed research, it appears that the aspect of epistemology is generally not covered in these approaches, even though prominent worldviewtheorists and philosophers tend to hold that how we know is intrinsically intertwined with, and thus of importance to, what we know (and value). For example, whether we ascribe to empirical science or to divine revelation as a valid source of knowledge will profoundly impact and interact with our views on the nature of reality.
The third aspect, axiology, concerns ideas about what a good life looks like—that is, what is valued in life, both in moral terms (ethics) and in terms of quality of life (aesthetics). Also this aspect is key in the (general) philosophical 102 literature, and many philosophers tend to consider individual’s ethical and aesthetical standpoints to be definitive of who they are and how they view the world. According to Taylor (1989), “To know who you are is to be oriented in moral space, a space in which questions arise about what is good or bad, what is worth doing and what not, what has meaning and importance to you and what is trivial and secondary” (p. 28). In the reviewed research, this aspect is covered notably by the approaches building forth on Schwartz approach to values, as discussed in section 2.3.
The fourth aspect, anthropology, refers to assumptions about what kind of creature the human being is and what his role and purpose is in existence.
Although one could also consider this aspect a subset of ontology (the ontology of the human being), for purposes of measurement-development this more refined differentiation may be helpful, as it explicitly stimulates researchers to investigate conceptions of the human being and human nature (in addition to their investigations of conceptions of nature, cosmos, and divinity).42 In the philosophical evolution of the worldview-concept, the role of the human subject interpreting, enacting, and co-creating the world has gradually become more central (Naugle, 2002). Both the Connectivity with Nature Scales and the NEP seem to explore this aspect, as their statements articulate the relationship between the human being and his/her natural environment.
The fifth and last aspect, societal vision, refers to fundamental assumptions about how society should be organized and how societal problems should be addressed. Although one could potentially consider this aspect as a combination of axiology and anthropology, in the context of empirical research this further differentiation seems particularly helpful, as it supports researchers to investigate the societal dimensions and implications of worldviews, as well as perspectives on the appropriate relationship between individual and society. In the context of research concerned with environmental issues, the operationalization of this aspect may focus on views about how to respond to environmental problems specifically. In the reviewed approaches, this aspect 42 In the psychological literature, the notion of ‘human agency’ appears to resonate with elements of this aspect, while in the anthropological literature the ‘human nature orientation’ is emphasized (see Koltko-Rivera, 2004). Johnson et al. (2011) seem to include elements of this aspect in their aspect of ‘teleology,’ which refers to ultimate goals, beliefs about the afterlife, and consequences of actions.
103 comes notably to expression in the ‘environmental solutions,’ as they are based on different positions on how to solve environmental issues (e.g., through government or market, preservation or utilization).
In line with an understanding of worldviews as ‘overarching systems of meaning and meaning-making,’ these five aspects appear to be interrelated and interdependent. For example, an individual’s anthropology will tend to be intimately related to his/her societal vision. This means that neatly separating these aspects is not always possible. However, the function of employing these five aspects is that it is likely to support a (more) systematized, balanced, and encompassing operationalization of worldviews into Likert-type items,43 as well as a more structured data-analysis. See table 2 for an overview of this framework: the exemplary questions mentioned for each of the five aspects might function as a guideline for developing a comprehensive scale that measures structural worldview-beliefs. Systematically developing Likert-type items that reflect a diversity of positions in relation to each aspect will result in a generally (more) comprehensive investigation of worldviews, which also includes the spiritual dimension of the human-nature relationship. Take for example the questions as formulated for the aspect of ontology: What is the nature of reality? What is nature? How did the universe come about? If there is such thing as the divine—what or who is it, and how is it related to the universe? When developing different potential answers to these questions, the spiritual dimension of the human-nature relationship can readily be included.44 While the operationalization into five aspects illuminates the structure of worldviews, the five aspects do not shed light on the content of, and the variations between, different worldviews. As argued above, in terms of such content or categorization of worldviews, a binary framework may be suboptimal, as it is unable to account for the cognitive possibility of the integration of two 43 Likert-type items are the statements that participants are required to respond to in survey research, using a Likert-scale to structure participants’ responses, e.g. ranging from ‘completely agree’ to ‘completely disagree.’ 44 This could result in, for example, the following hypothetical Likert-type items: “God stands far above life on earth,” “It is pure coincidence that human life has developed on earth,” “I see the earth and humanity as part of an ensouled or spiritual reality.” In this way, the translation of each of the five aspects into Likert-type items illustrates an important way in which the IWF can be operationalized for conducting empirical research.
104 ‘opposite’ perspectives. Instead, one could use a worldview-theory based on a dialectical-developmental perspective, for example distinguishing between traditional, modern, and postmodern worldviews (see e.g. Inglehart & Welzel, 2005; O' Brien, 2009; Ray & Anderson, 2000). Although the usefulness of such a worldview-theory needs to be empirically validated and most likely will need to be adapted and refined, the construction of such ideal-typical worldviews can serve as a heuristic device—that is, a method of investigation that supports the researcher to learn about the real world by comparing a rationally and logically constructed ideal-type with reality (G. Marshall, 1998). These ideal-typical worldviews could then be used to develop Likert-type items that reflect a variety of worldview-positions for each of the five aspects.
Such an approach would enable a more refined and generally dynamic differentiation of worldviews, and seems validated on the basis of the results of, for example, the World Values Survey—the largest existing worldwide, crosscultural, longitudinal data-set on (changes in) cultural beliefs, values, and worldviews (Inglehart, 1997; Inglehart & Welzel, 2005). For example, individuals ascribing to a more traditional as well as individuals ascribing to a more postmodern epistemology will tend to believe that science is not the only valid form of knowing. However, while individuals ascribing to the more traditional epistemology will more likely adhere to ‘religious authority,’ individuals ascribing to the postmodern epistemology will tend to exhibit an ‘internalized authority’ (see e.g. Inglehart & Welzel, 2005). As one can see, then, inquiring into epistemological positions through a binary framework of proscience versus anti-science/science-critical appears to be somewhat limited in light of the nuances that, for example, a psychological-developmental perspective might shed. In a similar vein, one could argue that one should distinguish between a more traditionally religious understanding of the divine and a more postmodern or contemporary spiritual understanding, as in postindustrial society “a shift from institutionally fixed forms of dogmatic religion to individually flexible forms of spiritual religion” is observed (Inglehart & Welzel, 2005, p. 31).
A binary framework may thus not be sufficient in understanding the array of worldviews present in our complex and pluralistic society, therefore demanding a more dynamic perspective. Such a dialectical-developmental perspective would 105 thereby also serve a generally more comprehensive investigation in terms of the content of worldviews, as a wider variation of options tends to be explored.
3.5 Discussion and conclusion The conceptual and methodological advances proposed in this study will be empirically validated in chapter four. Based on a literature review and an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of current measures, I argue that the proposed framework has several benefits in terms of empirical research, in comparison with existing approaches.